Thursday, September 01, 2005

Race, class and hurricanes

Slate editor Jack Shafer, a devastatingly incisive and take-no-prisoners media critic, offered up a sure-to-be-invidious article on Slate this morning about how Katrina disproportionately affected the black and poor.

Now, before my conservative brothers and sisters flip out (or at least during their convulsions), I want to put down some parameters for the discussion so we don't end up justifying the Iraq war. I'd like to point out that Shafer's point is NOT to indict white people. THIS is his point, and again, it has to do with the media:

"By ignoring race and class, [journalists, reporters and news anchors] boot[ed] the journalistic opportunity to bring attention to the disenfranchisement of a whole definable segment of the population."

His attack is on reporters for failing to do something that he seems to believe could help all of us understand out culture better. The most effective way to attack Shafer, then, is to say that he's wrong about one or both of two things: either they didn't miss an opportunity, or the Southern black and poor are not disenfranchised. Yes, he's playing the race card. We're going to go ahead and move past that to see if he's correct--not to see if he's liberal.


At 12:09 PM, Blogger Jackscolon said...

I don't think black has anything to do with it other than the greater statistical probability of being poor. I don't think people middle class or above are at a loss to transport themselves out of the way of a hurricane, and I would even go so far as to assume that greater wealth would entail a wider ranging span of connections giving them some place to go. Ex.. I was wealthy enough to go to college outside my hometown- so if a Katrina was to hit Florida, I could go to practically any state on the east coast and find somewhere to stay indefinately. Less likely if I was born and raised poor in downtown New Orleans fishing in the delta. Also, material possessions are probably more important to the poor due to their scarcity, and I doubt many decided to purchase flood insurance on top of their homeowner's (if they have homeowners) if for no other reason than premiums on flood insurance are going to be astronomical in a city six feet below sea level and at the bottom of the Mississippi basin.

Journalistic motivations aside, I think the argument is fairly common-sense.

At 12:21 PM, Blogger CharlesPeirce said...

So did journalists fail to bring this stuff up for a candid discussion?

At 3:01 PM, Blogger RedHurt said...

He's a liberal who's playing the race card! Our troops are liberating people!

At 3:14 PM, Blogger RedHurt said...

Shafer's absolutely right - anyone who linked race to any sort of unfortunate event would absolutely be called a racist immediaetly. I mean, imagine if someone asked, "Why is it that so many prisoners are black?" or, "Bob, why is it that black entertainers are always trying to kill each other?" It'd be over for that guy, instantly. Bill Cosby himself couldn't honestly talk about it without getting harassed by the media and implicated as a racist. If Cosby himself wasn't black, he surely would have, which is racism itself if I've ever seen it.

But what's the purpose? What's the benefit in discussing why black people are poor? If he's simply ecouraging us all to be a little less PC, I'm all for it, but it seems more likely that when race is discussed, it's about someone taking the blame. Shafer himself points that out, and I'm sick of arguing over who's to blame for the plight of black america. If we're going to talk about doing something to rectify the situation, fine, but that seems like a far and wild tangent for reporters "discussing" the katrina situation to explore.

At 7:34 PM, Blogger StandingOutInTheCold said...

I don't really understand what the reporters could have said. "Well, Bill, estimates are that the death toll is going to be in the thousands if not the tens of thousands or more. And most of the hurricane victims are poor and black. Yes, lots of poor black people lived in New Orleans and other coastal towns in the South. If they weren't so poor maybe they'd have been able to get out in time, so we should do something about poverty in the nation so something this catastrophic won't happen again. There are varying opinions among experts about whether things would've been different if these people weren't so black, but as of now the evidence is inconclusive. Back to you in the studio."

But seriously, what opportunity did they miss other than to point out the demographic that lives in that area of the country?

At 10:58 PM, Blogger Hans-Georg Gadamer said...

Redness - your second comment is right on. He is playing the race card by stating the obvious ("wow, you mean most of the poor are black?") and has nowhere to go with it. Classic liberal move: asses blame like there is no tomorrow but don't ever come up with a solution. Name calling is not a valid solution to the problem, and either was what we have been doing since the 60's in America for black families. In fact, we destroyed (we = liberals) them. If you want to bring up the race card, lets talk about it, but lets try and make something work. And raising taxes to give to dependant families is not part of the solution.

At 9:43 AM, Blogger CharlesPeirce said...

hans, a few comments.

1) There's no such thing as a "classic liberal move."

2) Liberals did not destroy black families.

3) Who said anything about raising taxes?

I think you sort of veered away from what I wanted to discuss. I'm not even sure I agree with Shafer--I haven't defended his argument yet. A hurricane might not be the best time to discuss race and class. Shafer might be wrong. I just don't know how that entails "Classic liberal move: assess blame like there is no tomorrow but don't ever come up with a solution."

For me it's like this. redhurt wrote:

"What's the benefit in discussing why black people are poor?"

Well, to get them to stop being poor--I absolutely think it's worth discussing. Either there are institutional factors blocking black success, or there aren't. If there are, we need to discuss them. If there aren't, then you should be saying "Look, Shafer, there are no reasons in 2005 American why black people can't be successful if they try."

At 11:52 AM, Blogger RedHurt said...

yeah - I agree. I guess I really meant, "what's the use of discussing race and being poor during hurricane coverage?"

There's definitely merit to it. I just don't see why a hurricane is any more appropriate a time than the many other race-correlated difficulties the news people cover.

"A black man was arrested yesterday...say bob, how come so many black people are poor?"

At 12:10 PM, Blogger CharlesPeirce said...

redhurt, good points. I agree.

At 12:55 PM, Blogger Hans-Georg Gadamer said...

Charles - I agree with your statement that my comments might have been off topic. I think I was taking it a step further. But in quick defense of the three comments:

1. Denying the "classic liberal move" seems kind of naive. I mean, everyone has a classic move (just hold down A and B while pushing the stick hard forward). Would you deny that there is a classic Christian move: "Jesus died for the sins of the world"? Or the classic conservative move: "Stop interfering with business and let free market capitalism rock your face off"? I guess not every person follows a particular profile, but I mean seriously, are you contending that there is nothing that makes liberals liberal, conservatives conservative, or Christians Christian? As far as the classic liberal move in Katrina, it would be my senators (Chuck and Hill) and Jacks amazing blog on Captain Planet.

2. This would be a prolonged discussion which would be way off topic, but the black family was destroyed by liberals in the guise of LBJ and the wellfare state. Check out this amazing article on the issue ( Side note: HTML tags? How do we do that?

3. Raising taxes would come under the "classic liberal move" (they are rerunning some of the greats on ESPN liberal classic this month. Check it out.), so see above.

In closing, whether Shafer is right or wrong does not directly entail "the move", so my comments are somewhat off topic (although I think he has an underlying agenda that only conservatives can see...). There we go.

At 1:49 PM, Blogger CharlesPeirce said...

1) We're not going to get anywhere with this. You know as well as I do that your "classic liberal move" was a CARICATURE, and not some sort of foundational tenet of liberalism.

"Assess blame like there is no tomorrow but don't ever come up with a solution"--vs. "Let the markets work." Which one sounds better?

2) I'm going to read your article, but I guarantee you that LBJ and his liberals did not destroy "the black family." I'll tell you what, though: government cannot fix the problems in black families today. Only they can. Government CAN provide functioning restrooms and air-conditioning in inner-city schools.

3) Read the post on this blog about taxation and get back to me.

At 2:06 PM, Blogger Hans-Georg Gadamer said...

Charles -
1. Absolute agreement. We can throw all the rhetoric around we want, but neither of us is going to move on this (although with the highest respect to you and your intellectual openess, I think you are more likely to move than I am).

2. Interestingly enough, Jacks actually cites the exact same article in his comment on your taxes post. Hmmm...I don't know whether that is good or bad. I guess I can't believe you can "guarantee" that LBJ didn't destroy black families, but I have to admit my rhetoric is way to harsh. Destroy might be toned down to "has not helped in a significant way", which I think you would agree with. Alan Keyes too, why can't he be president? Why is my senator going to be the next one?

3. On the tax issue, your post is very insightful, so I won't reherse any comments since they have already been made. My only point of note (which I am sure Jacks or Redness has made before) is that for every tax dollar you lose a dollar of pure "spendability." I think your infrastucture point is reasonable valid, but I still think (as a capitalist) that my one dollar being put into the free market machine is more valuable in economic growth (and therefore national growth therefore better national programs?) than my one tax dollar being divided up among various concerns, some good others useless. I am sure you have dealt with this comment before, so a simple "I have rocked this arguments face off before" would suffice since I was not engaged in the tax issue and so everyone already did this dance.

Thanks for the comments and apologies if my "far right" rhetoric caused confusion. q.e.d.?

At 2:19 PM, Blogger Jackscolon said...

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