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Sunday, September 4th 2005

The Plight of African-Americans

At the processing center in San Antonio for newly arriving victims of Katrina 90+% of the refugees are black.

This isn’t a surprise. New Orleans has over 350,000 African-Americans, making up perhaps more than 70% of its population. The fact that they’re over-represented amongst the refugee population is to be expected, as blacks in New Orleans, and throughout the country, make up a disproportionate percentage of the lowest socioeconomic class.

The rich made it out of New Orleans and the poor didn’t. There’s nothing unexpected about that or unethical really. If you had a car and you were smart you got out. If you didn’t have a car, you didn’t get out.

What is troubling however are claims by black leaders and icons like Kanye West that the “sluggish” relief effort can be tied to the fact that so many of the ‘refugees’ or ‘American citizens,’ as some black leaders insist they be called, were African-American.

The claim reeks of the culture of paranoia and victimhood that perpetrates a large sect of African-American culture. According to this theory, and there is no hyperbole in this claim, ‘Racism exists in America extending all the way to the top of the federal government, and almost all hardships which befall the black people have such as a causality.’

I hope you’re scratching your head. The poor socioeconomic condition of African-Americans in this country, which has everything to do with the fact that such a large number of African-Americans failed to get out of New Orleans in the first place, has more to do with this culture of victimhood than any racism in this country.

As long as the black community looks for external sources to their hardships, instead of declaring themselves capable of making their way without their welfare checks (some hyperbole there), they will always be the refugees.

I will never know or understand racism as a an African-American does. I will never understand the social and historical implications of slavery as a black person does. But there are ethnic, racial, and religious groups who have faced plights of similar magnitude. How can I read through European papers and not find nearly as many Jewish hardships blamed on anti-semitism, as I do black hardships (such as the failure of Katrina relief) blamed on racism? For that matter how is the socioeconomic condition of the Jewish community in Europe so much better than the African-American community in America? These people had literally nothing fifty years ago.

There’s really an argument that German reparations and amendments have single-handedly brought the Jewish people off their financial and social knees? There’s really an argument racism in this country is so much larger than anti-semitism in Europe?

It’s not an incredibly strong analogy, I understand, but it is there.

I think it’s paranoid and self-serving, in ways, to imagine that either a) the President set down all the multitude of people who made high level decisions concerning the relief of New Orleans and instructed them to slow down because there were black people in the city or b) a large number of these decision makers unconsciously didn’t work as hard as they could’ve because they saw there were only black people on the news.

How absolutely ridiculous does that sound? I know, from the subjective position of many African-Americans it isn’t so ridiculous. Well, until many African-American leaders start seeing the situation more objectively, they’ll continue to contribute to their community’s own self-fulfilling prophecy.