Katrina, the race card, and the welfare state

Larry Elder

9/8/2005 12:00:00 AM - Larry Elder

In the case of Hurricane Katrina, government failed to do its most essential job -- protecting people and property. Yes, state, local and federal officials failed to appreciate the severity and gravity of this storm and its aftermath, and failed to properly evacuate the citizens from New Orleans.  But how does this add up to racism?

 CNN's Jack Cafferty said, "Despite the many angles of this tragedy, and Lord knows there've been a lot of 'em in New Orleans, there is a great big elephant in the living room that the media seems content to ignore -- that would be, until now. . . . [We] in the media are ignoring the fact that almost all of the victims in New Orleans are black and poor."

 CNN's Wolf Blitzer replied, " . . . You simply get chills every time you see these poor individuals, as Jack Cafferty just pointed out, so tragically, so many of these people, almost all of them that we see, are so poor, and they are so black, and this is gonna raise lots of questions for people who are watching this story unfold."

 Fox's Shepard Smith described citizens of New Orleans stranded on an Interstate as possessing the face of an African-American man, woman, child or baby.

 News anchors, once again, demonstrate their willingness, indeed eagerness, to find racism. A few years ago, a Time-CNN poll found that 89 percent of black teens experienced little or no racism in their own lives. White teens, however, believed racism against minorities a bigger problem than black teens did.

 The so-called "black leaders," of course, led the race card parade. The Congressional Black Caucus's Rep. Diane Watson, D-Calif., described those suffering as "sons and daughters of slaves." NAACP attorney Damon Hewitt said, "If the majority of the folks left behind were white individuals, and most of the folks who were able to escape on their own were African Americans, then I wouldn't be sitting here right now. This is a racial story." Rapper Kanye West, at an NBC relief concert, screamed, "George Bush doesn't care about black people."

 CNN's Cafferty and so-called black leaders refuse to ask basic questions. Since 1978, for example, black mayors controlled the city of New Orleans, with many of the city's top officials also black. What about their responsibility? What about the damage done by the modern welfare state, helping to create poverty by financially rewarding irresponsible behavior? What about the damage to the black psyche by so-called civil rights leaders who demand not just equal rights, but equal results, helping to create a victicrat-entitlement mentality? Maybe someday one of the news anchors will ask one of the so-called civil rights leaders the following question: Doesn't the demand for race-based preferences, set-asides, private sector anti-discrimination laws, social welfare programs, and social "safety net" programs all conspire to say one thing -- "You are not responsible"?

 City Journal's Nicole Gelinas, a onetime New Orleans resident, said, "[T]he city's decline over the past three decades has left it impoverished and lacking the resources to build its economy from within. New Orleans can't take care of itself even when it is not 80 percent underwater; what is it going to do now, as waters continue to cripple it, and thousands of looters systematically destroy what Katrina left unscathed?" She also notes, "The city's government has long suffered from incompetence and corruption," and that the crime rate in New Orleans -- during normal times -- exceeds the national average by a factor of 10!

 News anchors and so-called black leaders ignore a far bigger factor than race or class -- culture.

 Consider the mid-1800s, and the plight of New York City's Irish underclass. According to William J. Stern, writing in The Wall Street Journal, "One hundred fifty years ago, Manhattan's tens of thousands of Irish seemed mired in poverty and ignorance, destroying themselves through drink, idleness, violence crime and illegitimacy. . . . An estimated 50,000 Irish prostitutes worked the city in 1850. . . . Illegitimacy soared, tens of thousands of abandoned Irish kids roamed the city's streets. Violent Irish gangs fought each other . . . but primarily they robbed houses and small businesses. More than half the people arrested in New York in the 1840s and 1850s were Irish. . . . "

 Disgusted by government "charity," Bishop John Joseph Hughes led movements to form non-government-aided Catholic schools and numerous self-help programs. He promoted abstinence and the belief that sex outside of marriage was a sin. His diocese's nuns served as an employment agency for Irish domestics and encouraged women to run boarding houses. What happened? Within two generations, "the Irish proportion of arrests for violent crime had dropped to less than 10 percent from 60 percent. Irish children were entering . . . the professions, politics, show business and commerce. In 1890, some 30 percent of the city's teachers were Irish women, and the Irish literacy rate exceeded 90 percent."

 Some demand a commission to investigate the failures and breakdowns in Hurricane Katrina. Fine. Let's hope they put together a commission to investigate another hurricane -- that wrought by the welfare state and the irresponsible use of the race card.