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 It is astonishing to me that so many Americans seem shocked by the existence

 of such concentrated poverty and social neglect in their own country.

 

 

Viewpoint 

New Orleans crisis shames US

By Matt Wells
BBC News, Los Angeles

 

At the end of an unforgettable week, one broadcaster on Friday bitterly encapsulated the sense of burning shame and anger that many American citizens are feeling. The only difference between the chaos of New Orleans and a Third World disaster operation, he said, was that a foreign dictator would have responded better. It has been a profoundly shocking experience for many across this vast country who, for the large part, believe the home-spun myth about the invulnerability of the American Dream.

The party in power in Washington is always happy to convey the impression of 50 states moving forward together in social and economic harmony towards a bigger and better America. That is what presidential campaigning is all about.  But what the devastating consequences of Katrina have shown – along with the response to it – is that for too long now, the fabric of this complex and overstretched country, especially in states like Louisiana and Mississippi, has been neglected and ignored.

Borrowed time

The fitting metaphors relating to the New Orleans debacle are almost too numerous to mention. First there was an extraordinary complacency, mixed together with what seemed like over-reaction, before the storm. A genuinely heroic mayor orders a total evacuation of the city the day before Katrina arrives, knowing that for decades now, New Orleans has been living on borrowed time. The National Guard and federal emergency personnel stay tucked up at home.

The havoc of Katrina had been predicted countless times on a local and federal level - even to the point where it was acknowledged that tens of thousands of the poorest residents would not be able to leave the city in advance.  No official plan was ever put in place for them.

Abandoned to the elements

The famous levees that were breached could have been strengthened and raised at what now seems like a trifling cost of a few million dollars. The Bush administration, together with Congress, cut the budgets for flood protection and army engineers, while local politicians failed to generate any enthusiasm for local tax increases. Too often in the so-called "New South", they still look positively 19th Century.

New Orleans partied-on just hoping for the best, abandoned by anyone in national authority who could have put the money into really protecting the city. Meanwhile, the poorest were similarly abandoned, as the horrifying images and stories from the Superdome and Convention Center prove. The truth was simple and apparent to all. If journalists were there with cameras beaming the suffering live across America, where were the officers and troops? The neglect that meant it took five days to get water, food, and medical care to thousands of mainly orderly African-American citizens desperately sheltering in huge downtown buildings of their native city, has been going on historically, for as long as the inadequate levees have been there.

Divided city

I should make a confession at this point: I have been to New Orleans on assignment three times in as many years, and I was smitten by the Big Easy, with its unique charms and temperament. But behind the elegant intoxicants of the French Quarter, it was clearly a city grotesquely divided on several levels. It has twice the national average poverty rate. The government approach to such deprivation looked more like thoughtless containment than anything else.

The nightly shootings and drugs-related homicides of recent years pointed to a small but vicious culture of largely black-on-black crime that everyone knew existed, but no-one seemed to have any real answers for.  Again, no-one wanted to pick up the bill or deal with the realities of race relations in the 21st Century. "Shoot the looters" is good rhetoric, but no lasting solution.

Uneasy paradox

It is astonishing to me that so many Americans seem shocked by the existence of such concentrated poverty and social neglect in their own country.  In the workout room of the condo where I am currently staying in the affluent LA neighbourhood of Santa Monica, an executive and his personal trainer ignored the anguished television reports blaring above their heads on Friday evening.

Either they did not care, or it was somehow too painful to discuss.

When President Bush told "Good Morning America" on Thursday morning that nobody could have "anticipated" the breach of the New Orleans levees, it pointed to not only a remote leader in denial, but a whole political class. The uneasy paradox which so many live with in this country - of being first-and-foremost rugged individuals, out to plunder what they can and paying as little tax as they can get away with, while at the same time believing that America is a robust, model society - has reached a crisis point this week. Will there be real investment, or just more buck-passing between federal agencies and states?  The country has to choose whether it wants to rebuild the levees and destroyed communities, with no expense spared for the future - or once again brush off that responsibility, and blame the other guy.

Do you agree or disagree

It disgusts me to think that my 'brother and sisters' in New Orleans have been ignored and discarded by the US government like so much trash that no line the streets of this once beautiful city. I am embarrassed it took so long to get help to people only eight hours away.Lara Tosh, Nashville, Tennessee

This article is so wrong-headed, it is hard to even begin to criticize it in a short space, other than to say it is written by an anti-Bush foreigner who has little understanding of America. Bush was right: no-one could have predicted when this devastating storm would hit. I don't blame anyone for the tragedies of nature.David Augustine, Mendham, NJ

I completely agree with the article. What has been going through my mind this past week is that the crisis did seem political, racial, and I am disgusted. It's unconscionable that after an entire coastline was just destroyed, while New Orleans began to drown, the President was making fundraising speeches in California on Tuesday. As president, elected to serve the people of this country, why didn't he stop everything and call out the help those people needed immediately? Lori Thoma, Reno, Nevada

My sympathy to fellow Americans sufferings from this natural disaster. The most advanced nation on earth and unable to response soon. A political disaster too. Mr Bush: time to wake up and cut red tape. More action and less talk.D Sharma, Antwerp, Belgium

Shame on anyone that makes this tragedy political, socio-economic or racial. The US Government, both Federal and local; and individuals, failed both before and after the storm to react in a timely organised manner. We need to fix it and we need to help the survivors, but we are not going to build a wall around coastal US to prevent a category five storm surge from causing damage. And in the land of opportunity and personal responsibility the individual is ultimately accountable. Robert Buckley, Decatur, USA

I am ashamed to be an American. This disaster did not have to happen. Years of environmental damage to the gulf coast and building a city below sea level surrounded by water was a disaster waiting to happen. Now the clean up will cost untold amounts of money and the toxic stew of chemicals will pollute the gulf even more destroying precious fishing areas which were in trouble to begin with. The pictures tell the story bad planning, lack of vision and the fact that racism is still alive and doing well in America.Howard Goldsmith, Staten Island, New York, USA

I agree the article, but what most people from other countries don't realise about America is that for all the great things we do we do some really horrendous ones too. Most Americans don't realize that we have a lower class, despite it being so blatantly obvious. The tragedy of this Gulf State disaster is that it is has exposed just how poor those states are and how much they've needed help for decades.Riley Gelwicks, Gainesville (Florida), USA

As a proud southern American your article is so far from the truth I don't even now where to begin. What I read is a liberal, European, elitist view of this absolute tragedy. Americans will help each other regardless of colour or social level. As for aid from other nations, I for one say leave it. We can and will rebuild the ravaged areas ourselves.Tracie Dixon, Sand Springs, Oklahoma

The people of New Orleans deserve much better - but the responsibility begins with who they choose as their local representatives. Representatives that can get things done - not just blame others for a lack of progress. Local emergency planning is the responsibility of local authorities. Their job does not end with making sure the bars are open for the tourists.Kendall Walsh, Port Washington, NY

I agree with all the comments made in the above article. I wonder what the response would have been if a similar problem had happened in "Miami Beach" America should be ashamed.Enid Jewell, Ontario.Canada

I think one should not only blame G W Bush for having neglected so dramatically some States of the South, but also all former Presidents of the US. But as was said many years ago by a famous American economist: it's hard to try to produce at the same time guns and butter.Robert Deossart, Wervicq Sud, France

I fully agree with this article. For the self proclaimed "most advanced nation on earth" to build a city below sea level, in an area subject to hurricane activity, and not make absolutely certain that the levees would not fail is massively irresponsible.Roger Gamwell, Dubai, UAE

I think now America and Americans in general will learn to appreciate the problems of the 'developing world' they so easily dismiss disparagingly. Even so-called weak nations like Sri Lanka and India manage to routinely respond to natural calamities of similar and greater intensity. It is time America shook off its complacency and check how strong are its credentials as a free, equitable and prosperous country.Haripriya, Delhi, India

 

Story from BBC NEWS: 

posted 4 September 2005

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AALBC.com's 25 Best Selling Books

For July 1st through August 31st 2011
 

Fiction

#1 - Justify My Thug by Wahida Clark
#2 - Flyy Girl by Omar Tyree
#3 - Head Bangers: An APF Sexcapade by Zane
#4 - Life Is Short But Wide by J. California Cooper
#5 - Stackin' Paper 2 Genesis' Payback by Joy King
#6 - Thug Lovin' (Thug 4) by Wahida Clark
#7 - When I Get Where I'm Going by Cheryl Robinson
#8 - Casting the First Stone by Kimberla Lawson Roby
#9 - The Sex Chronicles: Shattering the Myth by Zane

#10 - Covenant: A Thriller  by Brandon Massey

#11 - Diary Of A Street Diva  by Ashley and JaQuavis

#12 - Don't Ever Tell  by Brandon Massey

#13 - For colored girls who have considered suicide  by Ntozake Shange

#14 - For the Love of Money : A Novel by Omar Tyree

#15 - Homemade Loves  by J. California Cooper

#16 - The Future Has a Past: Stories by J. California Cooper

#17 - Player Haters by Carl Weber

#18 - Purple Panties: An Eroticanoir.com Anthology by Sidney Molare

#19 - Stackin' Paper by Joy King

#20 - Children of the Street: An Inspector Darko Dawson Mystery by Kwei Quartey

#21 - The Upper Room by Mary Monroe

#22 – Thug Matrimony  by Wahida Clark

#23 - Thugs And The Women Who Love Them by Wahida Clark

#24 - Married Men by Carl Weber

#25 - I Dreamt I Was in Heaven - The Rampage of the Rufus Buck Gang by Leonce Gaiter

Non-fiction

#1 - Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention by Manning Marable
#2 - Confessions of a Video Vixen by Karrine Steffans
#3 - Dear G-Spot: Straight Talk About Sex and Love by Zane
#4 - Letters to a Young Brother: MANifest Your Destiny by Hill Harper
#5 - Peace from Broken Pieces: How to Get Through What You're Going Through by Iyanla Vanzant
#6 - Selected Writings and Speeches of Marcus Garvey by Marcus Garvey
#7 - The Ebony Cookbook: A Date with a Dish by Freda DeKnight
#8 - The Isis Papers: The Keys to the Colors by Frances Cress Welsing
#9 - The Mis-Education of the Negro by Carter Godwin Woodson

#10 - John Henrik Clarke and the Power of Africana History  by Ahati N. N. Toure

#11 - Fail Up: 20 Lessons on Building Success from Failure by Tavis Smiley

#12 -The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander

#13 - The Black Male Handbook: A Blueprint for Life by Kevin Powell

#14 - The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates by Wes Moore

#15 - Why Men Fear Marriage: The Surprising Truth Behind Why So Many Men Can't Commit  by RM Johnson

#16 - Black Titan: A.G. Gaston and the Making of a Black American Millionaire by Carol Jenkins

#17 - Brainwashed: Challenging the Myth of Black Inferiority by Tom Burrell

#18 - A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life's Purpose by Eckhart Tolle

#19 - John Oliver Killens: A Life of Black Literary Activism by Keith Gilyard

#20 - Alain L. Locke: The Biography of a Philosopher by Leonard Harris

#21 - Age Ain't Nothing but a Number: Black Women Explore Midlife by Carleen Brice

#22 - 2012 Guide to Literary Agents by Chuck Sambuchino
#23 - Chicken Soup for the Prisoner's Soul by Tom Lagana
#24 - 101 Things Every Boy/Young Man of Color Should Know by LaMarr Darnell Shields

#25 - Beyond the Black Lady: Sexuality and the New African American Middle Class  by Lisa B. Thompson

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Sister Citizen: Shame, Stereotypes, and Black Women in America

By Melissa V. Harris-Perry

According to the author, this society has historically exerted considerable pressure on black females to fit into one of a handful of stereotypes, primarily, the Mammy, the Matriarch or the Jezebel.  The selfless Mammy’s behavior is marked by a slavish devotion to white folks’ domestic concerns, often at the expense of those of her own family’s needs. By contrast, the relatively-hedonistic Jezebel is a sexually-insatiable temptress. And the Matriarch is generally thought of as an emasculating figure who denigrates black men, ala the characters Sapphire and Aunt Esther on the television shows Amos and Andy and Sanford and Son, respectively.     

Professor Perry points out how the propagation of these harmful myths have served the mainstream culture well. For instance, the Mammy suggests that it is almost second nature for black females to feel a maternal instinct towards Caucasian babies.

As for the source of the Jezebel, black women had no control over their own bodies during slavery given that they were being auctioned off and bred to maximize profits. Nonetheless, it was in the interest of plantation owners to propagate the lie that sisters were sluts inclined to mate indiscriminately.

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Sex at the Margins

Migration, Labour Markets and the Rescue Industry

By Laura María Agustín

This book explodes several myths: that selling sex is completely different from any other kind of work, that migrants who sell sex are passive victims and that the multitude of people out to save them are without self-interest. Laura Agustín makes a passionate case against these stereotypes, arguing that the label 'trafficked' does not accurately describe migrants' lives and that the 'rescue industry' serves to disempower them. Based on extensive research amongst both migrants who sell sex and social helpers, Sex at the Margins provides a radically different analysis. Frequently, says Agustin, migrants make rational choices to travel and work in the sex industry, and although they are treated like a marginalised group they form part of the dynamic global economy. Both powerful and controversial, this book is essential reading for all those who want to understand the increasingly important relationship between sex markets, migration and the desire for social justice. "Sex at the Margins rips apart distinctions between migrants, service work and sexual labour and reveals the utter complexity of the contemporary sex industry. This book is set to be a trailblazer in the study of sexuality."—Lisa Adkins, University of London

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The Warmth of Other Suns

The Epic Story of America's Great Migration

By Isabel Wilkerson

Ida Mae Brandon Gladney, a sharecropper's wife, left Mississippi for Milwaukee in 1937, after her cousin was falsely accused of stealing a white man's turkeys and was almost beaten to death. In 1945, George Swanson Starling, a citrus picker, fled Florida for Harlem after learning of the grove owners' plans to give him a "necktie party" (a lynching). Robert Joseph Pershing Foster made his trek from Louisiana to California in 1953, embittered by "the absurdity that he was doing surgery for the United States Army and couldn't operate in his own home town." Anchored to these three stories is Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist Wilkerson's magnificent, extensively researched study of the "great migration," the exodus of six million black Southerners out of the terror of Jim Crow to an "uncertain existence" in the North and Midwest. Wilkerson deftly incorporates sociological and historical studies into the novelistic narratives of Gladney, Starling, and Pershing settling in new lands, building anew, and often finding that they have not left racism behind. The drama, poignancy, and romance of a classic immigrant saga pervade this book, hold the reader in its grasp, and resonate long after the reading is done.

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The White Masters of the World

From The World and Africa, 1965

By W. E. B. Du Bois

W. E. B. Du Bois’ Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization (Fletcher)

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Ancient African Nations

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The Death of Emmett Till by Bob Dylan  The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll  Only a Pawn in Their Game

Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson Thanks America for Slavery / George Jackson  / Hurricane Carter

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The Journal of Negro History issues at Project Gutenberg

The Haitian Declaration of Independence 1804  / January 1, 1804 -- The Founding of Haiti 

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update 15 February 2012

 

 

 

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Related files: The People of the Dome   Losing New Orleans   Notes from Inside New Orleans  Press dismay at Katrina chaos  Cataclysmic Katrina   Bush seen as doing too little, too late  How the Free Market Killed New Orleans