Monday, September 12, 2005

The Loyal Soldier Returns

In last week's interview with Barbara Walters, Colin Powell joined the chorus of apologists declaring that the sluggish federal response to Katrina was not based on the race of the victims.

Powell doesn't think race was a factor in the slow delivery of relief to the hurricane victims as some have suggested. "I don't think it's racism, I think it's economic," he told Walters.

"When you look at those who weren't able to get out, it should have been a blinding flash of the obvious to everybody that when you order a mandatory evacuation, you can't expect everybody to evacuate on their own. These are people who don't have credit cards; only one in 10 families at that economic level in New Orleans have a car. So it wasn't a racial thing — but poverty disproportionately affects African-Americans in this country. And it happened because they were poor," he said.

Look closely at what Powell does here (it's the same tactic that many of the apologists are using): rather than discuss the role the race of the victims played in the speed of the response after the hurricane hit, he speaks of the role that economics played in the ability of those victims to evacuate before it hit -- a completely separate issue. And anyway, in New Orleans, blackness and poverty are so linked that there is no meaningful difference in attributing the post-hurricane performance to race and attributing it to economics. The bottom line remains that the government didn't react with urgency because the victims were of the most-dispised and least politically valuable caste in the U.S.


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