Kanye West, Race and Hurricane Katrina

Kanye West, a rapper from Chicago, brought honour and distinction to the city and the nation when he said at a concert to assist the needy in the wake of the Hurricane Katrina devastation:

“George Bush does not care about black people.”
“I hate the way they portray us in the media. If you see a black family, it says they are looting. See a white family, it says they’re looking for food…They’ve given permission to go down and shoot us.”

That reminded me of Mayor Richard J. Daley’s shoot to kill order during the resistance on Chicago’s West Side after the assassination of Dr. King in 1968. It is rare that a constabulary is given shoot to kill orders against white folks during periods of civil unrest. I recognise that the victims are frequently minorities, and I am not insensitive to the need to protect the vulnerable from random violence. Yet I think Mr West, whose mother was chair of the English department at Chicago State University, is correct in suggesting strongly that African-Americans are treated differently than whites. The cumulative effect of the Reagan Revolution and beyond, is the sense that government should serve the white middle class and even in an event of unprecedented magnitude and destruction as the hurricane that struck the Gulf Coast, the social contract should not apply equally.

The issue is poverty and race. The Other America is ignored and rarely seen because the Democrats and the Republicans have removed poverty, adequate housing, public education reform, job training, equal justice under law as major policy agendas. The Other America is considered politically insignificant in advancing the power play objectives of the Democratic-Republican party. The Democrats are afraid of being accused of pursuing McGovernite class-divisions if they address the issue of race and poverty. This monstrous hydra-headed party is terrified that white voters will abandon them if they appear to be generous and tolerant of minorities and believe any significant policy proposal targeted to assist Americans of colour will lose them votes. That is the state of the country. Not one president in over twenty years has given a major address on the issue of poverty and race in this country. It has lost its political appeal. Well Hurricane Katrina exposed the issues of racism and poverty which had been covered up so deftly by the Democratic-Republican party.

One can hardly be surprised that a nation that is reviled appropriately throughout the world as an expansionist, ethnocentric imperium could summon up the compassion and integrity to assist even its own citizens when starving and dying in large numbers. A country that is so tied to the military and the ethos of a martial culture with its Air Force One, military monuments covering its capital city, marine helicopters ferrying the Commander-in-Chief, flags being worn on clothing to promote only American nationalism, has reached such a level of ethnocentric nationalism, that the principles of tolerance, compassion and advancing the public good are seriously compromised.

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