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Saturday, August 28, 2010

King, Beck, Katrina

So Glenn Beck and his minions are gathering at the site of MLK's most famous address, 47 years to the day of that speech, looking to "reclaim the Civil Rights Movement" or some such trash, and yet it's pure "coincidence" that he chose this date and site (on the national Mall, in front of the Lincoln Memorial). Yeah, right. Beck's (and Sara Palin's, et al) vitriol is, of course, 180 degrees from a genune concern with the civil rights of blacks and other people of color, and other oppressed and marginalized populations.

But perhaps the greater offense is not his conflict with commemorations of the 1963 March on Washington--after all, that is the 47th anniversary, not exactly one of those round, pretty numbers we make a big deal of. On the other hand, it comes just two days before the 5th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. (Five years ago today, Aug. 27, 2005, which also fell on a Saturday, is when the National Hurricane Center belatedly issued a hurricane watch for southeastern Louisiana, including the New Orleans area, less than 48 hours before landfall). The images are burned into my psyche--those stranded outside the Superdome and Convention Center, or on highway islands, overpasses, rooftops, etc.--the great majority black--and the inability/lack of will of our government to reach them with relief supplies and rescue vehicles for days on end, leaving people in inhumane, disgraceful conditions--severe heat, no sanitation, lack of food and water and medicine, etc. The devastation, much of it avoidable, that resulted was incalculabe and incomprehensible. The whole event was supposed to usher in a long-needed honest discussion of race and poverty in America. So was the 1992 LA riots and a dozen other incedents, before and after Katrina.

I remember hungry and thirsty blacks labled as "looters" while whites were only "looking for food and water" to survive. People criticized those who didn't evacuate the city when the order was given 24 hours before Katrina hit, never thinking that tens of thousands had no access to transportation of their own, and none was provided. The media exagerations of rapes, murders, sniping, etc. were fed by racial sterotypes that the public was only too ready to believe. And so, in memory of the many hundreds of lives lost, the tends of thousands who lost their homes and communities and livelihoods, may we never forget, and vow to continue to work to correct the ongoing injustices in our society. As for Glenn Beck--just shut up. That's all.

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