What If They Were White?

Angela Perkins drops to her knees begging for help among thousands of people gathered at the New Orleans Convention Center waiting for help in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina Thursday, Sept. 1, 2005.
AP/The Houston Chronicle

The fact that many of those suffering most in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina are poor, and black, has outraged a lot of people. Justifiably so, in the opinion of CBS News Sunday Morning Contributor Nancy Giles. Here is her commentary from Sept. 4, 2005:

After meeting with Louisiana officials last week, Rev. Jesse Jackson said: "Many black people feel that their race, their property conditions and their voting patterns have been a factor in the response." He continued: "I'm not saying that myself."

Then I'll say it.

If the majority of the hardest hit victims of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans were white people, they would not have gone for days without food and water, forcing many to steal for mere survival.

Their bodies would not have been left to float in putrid water.

They would have been rescued and relocated a hell of a lot faster than this. Period.

I mean, reporters and crews are getting to stranded people, and government and military agencies can't? Why doesn't CNN run FEMA?

When I saw pictures of black people taking things from stores, my first thought was: "How are those Air Jordans necessary for your survival?"

Then it hit me: People needed shoes and clothing. Some escaped the floods with just the clothing on their backs

We have American citizens, not "refugees" from an underdeveloped country, still waiting for shelter.



You leave children, pregnant women, the elderly, even the able-bodied, in a city destroyed with no help, no food, no water, no electricity for three, four, five days? What would you do if your family was starving, and you saw people dying in the street?

And why didn't the stores in the disaster areas simply make their goods available to these desperate folks? Surely, they've got insurance.

Love thy neighbor. Didn't I read that somewhere?

The real war is not in Iraq, but right here in America. It's the War on Poverty, and it's a war that's been ignored and lost. An estimated 37 million Americans are living in poverty. New Orleans is one of the poorest cities in the country, with 40 percent of its children living in poverty. Mississippi has the highest poverty rate of any state. We've repeatedly given tax cuts to the wealthiest, and left our most vulnerable American citizens to basically fend for themselves.

The whole world is watching. And once again, a day late and a dollar short, words of wisdom from our president: "This is a huge task that we're dealing with." "These are tough times." "Give cash."

Once again, he finds the photo op: Some black folks to hug, some white men in Mississippi to bond with. He flies over the messy parts of New Orleans, waves and leaves.

The president has put himself at risk by visiting the troops in Iraq, but didn't venture anywhere near the Superdome or the Convention Center, where thousands of victims, mostly black and poor, needed to see that he gave a damn.