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Friday, August 27, 2010


Rewriting history in New Orleans

I don't know whether to blame the New York Times or the U.S. Justice Department, but the latest news report from New Orleans was, to me, bizarre. The Times reports:
In the days after Hurricane Katrina left much of New Orleans in flooded ruins, the city was awash in tales of violence and bloodshed.

The narrative of those early, chaotic days — built largely on rumors and half-baked anecdotes — quickly hardened into a kind of ugly consensus: poor blacks and looters were murdering innocents and terrorizing whoever crossed their path in the dark, unprotected city.
Really? I certainly remember "looters" dominating the news, even when most of them were not "real" looters but simply people scrounging food and water in order to stay alive. "Murdering innocents and terrorizing whoever crossed their path"? Feel free to refresh my memory, but I remember no such thing.

On the other side of the coin, there's this:

Today, a clearer picture is emerging, and it is an equally ugly one, including white vigilante violence, police killings, official cover-ups and a suffering population far more brutalized than many were willing to believe. Several police officers and a white civilian accused of racially motivated violence have recently been indicted in various cases, and more incidents are coming to light as the Justice Department has started several investigations into civil rights violations after the storm.

“The environment that was produced by the storm brought out what was dormant in people here — the anger and the contempt they felt against African-Americans in the community,” said John Penny, a criminologist at Southern University of New Orleans. “We might not ever know how many people were shot, killed, or whose bodies will never be found.”
Now that is what I remember. And it is hardly a picture that is "emerging," other than perhaps in the pages of the New York Times and the rest of the corporate media. Anyone listening to or reading progressive news sources like Democracy Now! was well aware of all those facts, years ago. How nice of the government to finally get around to investigate and the media to report, five years later. I guess they've been too busy reporting on right-wingers calling Obama and Shirley Sherrod "racist" to report on the real racism that was on display in New Orleans in 2005, every bit as much as it has been on display in Arizona and Manhattan in 2010.

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