- What is the recipe for a toxic sludge potent enough to
destroy a heavily populated city and inflict infection with a mere splash?
Start with a force of nature powerful beyond belief. Mix in an ample supply
of sewage, garbage, brackish water from Lake Ponchatrain, floating corpses
of humans and animals, and various and sundry noxious chemicals. Blend
well with a system of seriously inadequate levees resulting from cuts in
federal funding. Of course this concoction would not be complete without
heaping portions of racism, spiritual emptiness, and avarice fueling slow
and inadequate federal relief efforts.
- Heart of darkness revealed
- The New Orleans debacle exposed America's "heart
of darkness" to the world as its leaders allowed their own tens of
thousands of Americans to suffer or die. Many throughout the world were
aware of the damage the US government was capable of inflicting upon people
of other nations, but Hurricane Katrina showed what America's decision-makers
were willing to do to their own. The twin evils of raw capitalism and imperialism
were on full display as the human race watched the events unfold on the
Gulf Coast. As Mother Nature unleashed her ferocity, Americans witnessed
the destruction of a jewel of a city and the pleasant fiction of the "American
Dream" in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.
- With the eyes of the world upon its sole remaining superpower,
President Bush, who fancies himself to be a monarch, remained on vacation,
strummed his guitar, and led a federal response to the disaster which moved
with the speed of a wounded snail. Several days into the aftermath, the
"Queen Mum" surveyed the conditions under which the survivors
were living and remarked how things were "working very well"
for the "underprivileged". As the lies unraveled and the truth
was revealed, the people learned that the Bush administration had significantly
reduced funding for fortification of the levees protecting New Orleans.
They realized that FEMA, whose purpose is to provide federal aid in the
event of natural disasters, had been absorbed by Homeland Security and
the military industrial complex. As humankind watched the nauseating events
in New Orleans unfold, they realized that George Bush cared so little about
the welfare of his people that he would appoint a grossly incompetent crony
to head the federal organization upon which people counted to save them
in the event of a disaster. American citizens have been in denial about
the cruelty of their government's foreign policy for years, but now that
their leaders have imposed that truculence upon fellow Americans, it will
be difficult to evade the painful reality of the depth of the corruption
and malevolence of the United States government.
- Who do they think they are fooling?
- Even the typically compliant mainstream media made strong
note of the skin color and socio-economic status of most of the hurricane
survivors, whom the federal government left to fend for themselves for
several days. Stranded on roof-tops, taking refuge on islands formed by
broken slabs of highway, hiding in attics, or clinging to survival inside
the miserable, dangerous squalor of the "Super" Dome, tens of
thousands of poor black Americans exposed a truth they have known for years.
To the soulless plutocrats, aristocrats, white patriarchs, and "captains
of industry" who rule the United States, black people are expendable,
particularly if they are poor. The power-brokers in the US federal government
only provided assistance for two reasons. One was to prevent civil unrest
amongst the Proletariat. Secondly, they needed to provide window dressing
in their desperate attempt to maintain their facade as champions of "freedom
and democracy" so they could continue to justify their ongoing quest
for global domination.
- It staggers the imagination to think that The Big Easy
(the home to Mardi Gras and the birthplace of jazz) has essentially been
reduced to memories. The perverse emphasis on property, power, and wealth
over humanity by a government "of the wealthy, by the wealthy, and
for the wealthy" caused the demise of New Orleans. Under this twisted
paradigm, the city was doomed when the hurricane struck. 68% of the population
was black. Less than half owned their homes. Almost 30% lived below the
poverty line. An estimated 134,000 residents did not have cars or other
viable means to evacuate. The demographics virtually ensured that the Bush
administration would render aid slowly and ineffectively, resulting in
suffering and death on a scale usually associated with third world nations.
- Hurricane Katrina's devastation and the US government's
anemic response revealed the malevolent and wicked face which lurks beneath
the mask of "freedom and liberty". Touting America's systems
of capitalism and democracy as models for the rest of the world, the leaders
of the United States have carried out an agenda of imperialism since our
nation's inception. Sorry, Mr. Rove (and your staff of cunning Orwellian
propagandists), but a true republic would not maintain a perpetual system
of apartheid (which in Afrikaans means "separateness"). Certainly
many laws have been passed to enhance the civil rights of blacks in the
United States, but racism, bigotry, and separatism are still very much
alive, both overtly and covertly. New Orleans provides a grim reminder
that "Apartheid, American Style" is thriving in this nation.
- In an address to Howard University in June 1965, President
Lyndon Johnson stated:
- "You cannot take a man who has been in chains for
300 years, remove the chains, take him to the starting line and tell him
to run the race, and think that you are being fair."
- Three months later, he signed an Executive Order requiring
affirmative action by federal government contractors. Johnson understood
that the journey toward equality for blacks in the United States had been
a long and tortuous one, and even two hundred years after the Civil War,
their struggle was far from over.
- America's wealthy, predominately white power-brokers
dominate the US government by utilizing their money to win elections, buying
elected officials through campaign finance, applying expensive lobbying
efforts to sway votes and decisions, and exerting influence through powerful
corporations. When will they take responsibility for the plight of black
citizens in the United States and rectify the gross injustices of US Apartheid?
- Shameful history belies the nature of the beast
- In 1619, the first slaves arrived at the British colony
of Jamestown, thus starting the future United States of America down a
path of moral repugnance and turpitude. By 1850, there were 2.5 million
enslaved Africans in the United States. The agrarian economy in many southern
states was so dependent upon slavery that they were willing to secede from
the Union and to initiate the Civil War to ensure the perpetuation of an
evil institution which had enabled them to build a thriving economy with
the blood, sweat and tears human beings. White slave owners, a small minority
of the population in whose hands rested most of the Confederacy's wealth,
were able to convince poor, ignorant Southern whites that preserving slavery
was critical for them as well. So compelling was the slave-owners, argument
that poor white Southerners died by the tens of thousands defending the
"great institution" of slavery.
- In 1865, the Union triumphed and the Thirteenth Amendment
made chattel slavery unconstitutional. Despite these events, the lot of
black Americans, particularly in the South, improved little. "Mr.
Jim Crow" saw to their continued suffering. In 1830, a white minstrel
show performer named Thomas "Daddy" Rice blackened his face and
danced an absurd jig to the song "Jump Jim Crow" as he mimicked
a crippled, elderly black man singing and dancing. Jim Crow became a popular
character in American culture and grew to represent "black inferiority".
Faced with the Constitutional mandate to abolish slavery, vanquished states
in the post-bellum South began to pass laws to ensure government-mandated
suppression of the civil rights of black Americans. Jim Crow laws became
common in most southern states starting in 1890.
- Ironically, the US Supreme Court opened the door for
Jim Crow segregation laws. In 1883 it ruled that the Civil Rights Act of
1875 was unconstitutional. The gist of the ruling was that the Fourteenth
Amendment did not prevent individuals or private businesses from discriminating
against black people. In 1896 the highest court of the "Bastion of
Freedom" upheld a lower court ruling in Plessy vs. Ferguson, which
affirmed Louisiana's law mandating that blacks ride in separate railroad
cars. The ultimate arbiters in the "Land of the Free" made a
ruling in Cummings vs. Richmond County Board of Education in 1899 which
enabled local governments to maintain "whites only" schools and
close schools for blacks based on claims of financial hardship.
- Throughout the Jim Crow era, blacks faced many hardships.
They were denied access to public areas and accommodations, like hotels
and restaurants. Public restrooms and water fountains were designated for
"Whites Only" and "Coloreds". White and black workers
were separated. Schools were segregated. Gerrymandering, voter intimidation,
fraud, manipulation by white landlords, literacy tests and poll taxes prevented
many blacks from exercising their right to vote. Crop lien laws, which
allowed creditors to charge outrageous interest, and the system of sharecropping
reduced black farmers to little more than indentured servants as their
debt perpetually exceeded their income. Debts were enforced by local police,
creating a system of debt peonage. Stiff penalties for minor crimes often
committed by itinerant blacks (i.e. five year prison sentences for stealing
a pig) stocked the penal system in the South with slave labor. Prison farms
and chain gangs became the order of the day, with black convicts returned
to enslavement under unimaginable living conditions.
- Vigilante groups like the Ku Klux Klan did their part
to suppress the black race and guarantee they suffered. Nearly 5,000 blacks
were lynched between 1890 and 1968. Virtually all of these atrocities occurred
in former Confederate states. Many more than just the perpetrators were
complicit in these murders. Railroads sold tickets for the express purpose
of attending these executions committed by mobs. Many of the killings involved
brutal torture prior to actual death. White families brought their children
to watch lynchings. After the murders, participants and onlookers bought
and sold body parts of the victims as "souvenirs".
- Progress toward equality at last
- Slowly and steadily through the course of the Twentieth
Century, black Americans made progress toward equality and civil rights.
In a significant blow to the "separate but equal" doctrine, in
1954 the Supreme Court ruled in Brown vs. the Board of Education that racial
segregation in public schools was unconstitutional. Tireless, courageous
efforts by people such as Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm
X, and Medger Evers applied tremendous pressure on the federal government
to protect the civil rights of black Americans. The Civil Rights Act of
1964 outlawed Jim Crow laws, prohibited employment discrimination, and
enhanced the voting rights of blacks. The Voting Rights Act of 1965 went
further in protecting the rights of blacks to vote by abolishing literacy
tests. To this day, the right to vote remains state-granted, but the Voting
Rights Act and three Constitutional amendments prevent states from discriminating
in granting the right. The push for a Constitutional amendment granting
the right to vote to all Americans continues.
- Renaissance of inhumanity
- Sadly, despite these strides, black Americans still lag
far behind their white counter-parts. Under the brutal "trickle down"
economic policies which started in the Reagan era, the rich have enjoyed
a succession of generous tax cuts and businesses are operating in an increasingly
deregulated environment. Black Americans have simultaneously experienced
a serious decline in their situation. Chanting the mantra that less government
is better, US policy-makers have diligently worked to diminish domestic
spending and decrease taxes on the wealthy (progressive taxes). Despite
the subterfuge, their true objective has been to line the pockets of the
wealthy by diverting federal money previously spent toward humanitarian
ends (like education and health) to military and defense, which benefits
the many affluent who have heavy stakes invested in the military industrial
complex. The end result has been an increase in regressive taxes to make
up for revenue lost on tax cuts for the rich, obscene federal deficits,
and a serious decline in funds available for education, health care, assistance
to the poor, and emergency preparedness.
- Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once said:
- "There is nothing new about poverty. What is new
is that we now have the techniques and the resources to get rid of poverty.
The real question is whether we have the will."
- Since Reagan, the US government has consistently employed
policies demonstrating a lack of will to eliminate poverty. Who has born
the brunt of the obsession with greed and power which has been such a detriment
- For a concrete example, look no further than the disaster
in New Orleans (bear in mind that 68% of the population was black), the
360 deaths verified as of 9/10, the government's emphasis on containing
looters over rescuing victims, and the countless people who have been rendered
homeless and jobless. Appropriate funding to strengthen the levees and
a quick and appropriate federal response to the hurricane could have alleviated
much of this suffering.
- For statistical evidence, consider the 2004 US Census
figures. While the overall poverty rate in the United States stood at 12.7%,
the poverty rate for blacks was 24.7% compared with 10.8% for whites. Only
11.3% of white Americans did not have health insurance while 19.7% of blacks
lacked coverage. At $30,134, the black median household income came in
at the bottom of the ladder compared to other race groups.
- As of August 2005, white unemployment came in at 4.2%
while blacks were jobless at a rate of 9.6%. Black infants are more than
2.5 times as likely to die before age one as white infants. In 2001, the
average net worth of a white household was $468,200.00, while blacks rang
in at a mere $75,700.00. The disparities are indeed staggering.
- Separate and unequal
- A "separate and unequal" educational system
continues to exist in the US. How can this be, you ask, after the federal
government ordered school desegregation? "White flight" to the
suburbs and inequitable distribution of education dollars are the principal
reasons. Using their higher economic means, many whites have fled deteriorating
urban cores for the haven of the suburbs. A 2004 report by the Harvard
Civil Rights Project found that in the Midwest, 46% of black children attend
schools in urban areas which are 90 to 100% black. Of these children, 88%
are from poor families. The HCRP report found that nationwide, America's
schools spend an average of $1500.00 less per black student than they do
on white students. Poor black students attending under-funded schools face
decrepit buildings, archaic classroom materials, under-qualified teachers,
over-crowding, and simplistic curriculum which emphasizes rote memory over
the development of critical thinking skills. The end result statistically?
While 91.8% of white students graduate from high school, blacks graduate
at a rate of 83.7%. Of those black males who do drop out of high school,
over half do prison time. Perhaps even more damning is the fact that only
17% of blacks have college degrees versus 30% of whites.
- Challenge us and see what happens to you
- The Civil Rights Movement represented a serious threat
to the dominance of the wealthy, white patriarchy dominating the federal
government. Naturally, they responded by imprisoning those challenging
their stranglehold on power. In doing so, they employed the typical guile
of the US government. In 1971, the US prison population was 200,000. Today
it is 2.1 million. Half of the US prison population is black. While having
only 5% of the world's overall population, the United States now harbors
25% of the incarcerated population of the world. 13% of prisoners worldwide
are black Americans. 30% of black American men experience incarceration
during their lifetime. The most rapid growth in prison populations began
during the Reagan era, with blacks leading the way. Federal sentencing
laws passed in the 1980's virtually guaranteed that black Americans would
swell the ranks of the incarcerated. These laws enacted federal sentencing
guidelines for the distribution of crack cocaine (used predominately in
poor black neighborhoods) 100 times more harsh than those for distributing
white cocaine powder (often the "drug of choice" for more affluent
whites). Contrary to the hysteria often created by the mainstream media
(i.e. the over-blown reports of rampant looting, raping and shooting in
New Orleans), a majority of the nation's prison population is serving time
for non-violent crimes.
- Legacies were meant to be continued, weren't they?
- Building upon the Reagan legacy, Bush II has continued
to chip away at the federal disbursements to the poor, elderly and disabled,
shrinking a safety net which the world's wealthiest nation has a moral
obligation to provide for its less fortunate citizens. While bankrupting
the United States to fund a grossly bloated military budget (the US accounts
for 50% of world military spending to "protect" 5% of the world's
population), Bush continues to chop domestic spending (i.e. funds to strengthen
the levees in New Orleans). If you doubt that Bush's axe-swinging is disproportionately
affecting the black population, consider that the poverty rate for blacks
is 25% while the black population of New Orleans used to be 68%.
- One way the merciless decision-makers in the United States
justify their push to significantly diminish the social welfare system,
including Medicaid, AFDC, and Social Security, in favor of private charity
is to utilize the mainstream media, their instrument of propaganda, to
re-enforce common myths about welfare. Contrary to the lies, poor women
on AFDC (federal financial aid to single mothers) generally do not bear
more children to garner more benefits. The average family receiving AFDC
has 2 children. Many media "pundits" claim that the US has spent
$5 trillion on welfare since the 1960's and it has "not worked".
To put this into perspective, consider that spending on AFDC from 1964
to 1994 was $500 billion, less than 5% of defense spending during the same
period. Most of the $5 trillion of which the media puppets speak went to
the disabled, the elderly, and the uninsured (via Medicaid). Another common
misconception perpetuated by the mainstream media is that of the "black
welfare queen". The truth is that a majority of those receiving benefits
from federal entitlement programs are white, and many are elderly or are
- "Velvet" revolution unfolding
- If perverse individuals like George Bush, who is devoid
of empathy and compassion, continue to impose their sick will upon America
by diminishing domestic spending and increasing defense spending to seek
global dominance, black Americans will continue to suffer. They will see
significant declines in federal programs which aid them in their quest
to reach a level playing field. The quality of their education will further
deteriorate. Aid available to the 25% of black Americans living in poverty
will continue to vanish. More will find themselves in prisons. Many black
mothers will find themselves grieving for the loss of sons lured by slick
recruiters (and a dearth of opportunities) to fight in America's latest
imperial conquest. Urban cores will further decay, encouraging more "white
flight". Despite the promises of Reagan and his successors, the money
is not "trickling down" to black America. How many more travesties
have to occur, and how many more cities must America lose before spiritually
evolved Americans demand an end to "Apartheid, American Style"?
- The illegal occupation in Iraq and the American Apartheid
revealed by events in New Orleans provide ample evidence that it is time
that "We the People" oust the scoundrels who are "leading"
our nation. It is incumbent upon the poor and the working class, the true
majority in the United States, to exercise our social consciences and wrest
the power from the unworthy hands of the wealthy minority who now hold
that power. They have proven their moral bankruptcy and ineptitude as leaders.
A non-violent, "velvet" revolution is evolving and gaining momentum.
If you have not done so already, I hope you join.
- Jason Miller is a 38 year old activist writer with a
degree in liberal arts. He works in the transportation industry, and is
a husband and a father to three boys. His affiliations include Amnesty
International, the ACLU and the Americans United for Separation of Church
and State. He welcomes responses at firstname.lastname@example.org or comments
on his blog at http://civillibertarian.blogspot.com/.