We break our exhausted silence for this public service announcement:
When you see clean, coiffed national "news" anchors contorting their makeup-heavy faces into expressions of horror and disgust at all "those looters" in areas ravaged by Hurricane Katrina, pause a moment before you let them get your gut all churned up into self-righteous anger at those bad bad looters.
Pause and think about it for a split second.
From Boing Boing:
The poorest 20% (you can argue with the number -- 10%? 18%? no one knows) of the city was left behind to drown. This was the plan. Forget the sanctimonious bullshit about the bullheaded people who wouldn't leave. The evacuation plan was strictly laissez-faire. It depended on privately owned vehicles, and on having ready cash to fund an evacuation. The planners knew full well that the poor, who in new orleans are overwhelmingly black, wouldn't be able to get out. The resources -- meaning, the political will -- weren't there to get them out.From Making Light:
White per capita income in Orleans parish, 2000 census: $31,971. Black per capita: $11,332. Median *household* income in B.W. Cooper (Calliope) Housing Projects, 2000: $13,263.
First, I believe it was St. Thomas Aquinas who said that if a man’s family is going hungry, it’s no sin for him to steal a loaf of bread.Really, read all the comments at Making Light, too. I know I keep sending you over there to read what other people have to say, but hey--when smart people have already made the points I was fumbling at inside my brain, why not save some time listening to me stammer and just see what they've said already?
Second, anything salvageable the kid finds in a grocery store is something that won’t have to be cleaned up later. Besides, where’s the store where he can make legitimate purchases?
Third, yes, I absolutely agree that looting has to be suppressed. Some people will loot any time they think they can get away with it. Others will loot if they see those first people getting away with it. It’s a behavior that’s guaranteed to snowball (which is why I still say we were at fault for allowing the large-scale looting of Iraq to get started and perpetuate itself, right after the first wave of the invasion). Civil order is important.
Fourth, I have yet to hear one mention, one murmur of a hurricane evacuation plan, that didn’t consist of “everybody gets in their cars and drives somewhere else.” This, in a city which was guaranteed to sooner or later need evacuating, and which had something on the order of 100,000 citizens who didn’t drive cars.
New Orleans kept its light rail system during that period when other cities were going over to an all-highway system. It has streetcars. It’s a walkable city. That’s a mercy to the poor: you can live a poor but decent life, get to your job, do your shopping, without having to support a car. Until, of course, the day comes when any prudent person would get out of town.
I heard the city officials, before the storm hit, explaining that the Superdome would be a shelter for people with medical problems, people with special needs, who weren’t prepared to evacuate the city. Malarkey. It was, as they knew all along, the first last and only refuge for tens of thousands of New Orleans citizens who had no way to leave the city.
Not all of them are in the Superdome, or the other refugee centers; but no matter where they are, the majority of New Orleans’ beleaguered and flooded-out residents who’ve remained are the city’s poor.
That’s not looting. That’s plain old survival.
**EDITED TO ADD: Somebody else who gets it.