New Orleans: "looting" in perspective


class=img_thumbleft> The wire dispatches this morning are full of reports of "lawlessness" in the streets of New Orleans. Well, no shit: Local law enforcement personnel who remain there face much the same plight as the citizens forced to forage in the streets--no food or water apart from what they can grab, no access to phones or information, no idea how or when they might get out or whether any assistance would arrive in the meantime. This morning the live WWL-TV feed included a phone call with Jarrod Mayberry, a New Orleans cop who was absolutely embittered at the way everyone left in NO, including police, were left to their own devices. He meant to get out and take his family to Texas, he said.

On TV, the newsreaders have been painting a portrait of a city roamed by armed gangs ransacking everything in sight. Yet every bit of video they can muster seems to depict people with armloads of food and clothing. Talk radio had a field day with reports of young black men carrying shoes out of a Foot Locker store, as if dry--or at least intact--shoes were a luxury in a flood zone.

Jeff St. Clair at Counterpunch passed along this anonymous note from a listserv run by writer and sociology prof Nelson Valdes:

"I have refrained from any political commentary thus far, but i will say this:... The poorest 20% (you can argue with the number -- 10%? 18%? no one knows) of the city was left behind to drown. Period. And this was the plan.

"Forget the sanctimonious bullshit about the bullheaded people who wouldn't leave. The evacuation plan was strictly laissez-faire. it depended on privately owned vehicles, and on having ready cash to fund an evacuation. The planners knew full well that the poor, who in New Orleans are overwhelmingly black, wouldn't be able to get out. The resources--meaning, the political will--weren't there to get them out.

"White per capita income in Orleans parish, 2000 census: $31,971 Black per capita: $11,332"

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