It was a disarming thought, and one that several pundits were quick to seize upon. Jesse Jackson told CNN that “The I-10 causeway. . .looked like . . .the hull of a slave ship." DNC Chairman Howard Dean, pronounced that "we must . . . come to grips with the ugly truth that skin color. . .played a deadly role in who survived and who did not." The New York Times ran a news article that began, "The white people got out. Most of them, anyway. If television newspaper images can be deemed a statistical sample, it was mostly black people who were left behind." Rapper Kanye West was even more blunt, veering from the script during NBC's hurricane relief telethon and blurting out, “George Bush doesn't care about black people." Many Americans agree. A poll by the Pew Research Center reveals that two-thirds of American blacks believe that the federal government was slow to respond to this crisis because the majority of the victims were black.
On this point, I want to be clear. This notion that race was a factor in the relief effort is not only dishonest, it is reprehensible. The reason why most of those stranded in the Superdome were black is because two-thirds of the city’s residents are black. In fact, much of the city’s local representatives are black. New Orleans has a black city Council. They have black elected representatives. They have black judges. All of whom failed to send any buses to evacuate New Orleans’ residents before the hurricane hit. Are the black Democrat elected representatives in New Orleans also racist because they utterly failed to coordinate a timely rescue effort? Of course not.
It is true that the majority of people trapped in New Orleans during the storm were black. But so were the majority of people who escaped. The key factor distinguishing the two groups was that the majority of those left behind were poor. They lacked transportation. Both the local and federal government failed to develop evacuation procedures for people without cars. The people who couldn’t afford transportation were left behind.