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barbara-bush

From time to time this blog will give out the Barbara Bush Award for Deluded Whiteness to worthy souls. No prize money, no gold medal. Just the mere honour. You do not have to be white to win – you just have to buy into the lies that white people tell themselves. You can add your nominations in the comments below.

The first winner is, of course, Barbara Bush herself.

On September 5th 2005 she visited the Houston Astrodome where 15,000 had fled Hurricane Katrina, having lost almost everything but their lives. Most were poor and most were black. She said this to an NPR reporter:

Almost everyone I’ve talked to says, “We’re going to move to Houston.” What I’m hearing, which is sort of scary, is they all want to stay in Texas. Everyone is so overwhelmed by the hospitality.

And so many of the people in the arena here, you know, were underprivileged anyway, so this, this is working very well for them.

Many compare this to the queen of France, Marie Antoinette, saying “Let them eat cake” when she was told that Paris had run out of bread to feed the poor.

But this is not a case of a rich and powerful person having no idea about how the other half lives. It is worse than that. It is a piece of racist excuse-making. The “sort of scary” tells you she is thinking of them as blacks, not as the cake-eating poor.

The better comparison is with statements that White Americans used to make about black slaves. Here is Robert E. Lee in 1856 on the good fortune of being a black slave:

The blacks are immeasurably better off here than in Africa, morally, socially & physically. The painful discipline they are undergoing, is necessary for their instruction as a race, & I hope will prepare & lead them to better things.

Here is the pattern (the unsaid parts in parentheses):

  1. (I know it looks bad but) blacks are better off here (America, the Houston Astrodome) than where they were (Africa, New Orleans).
  2. Things will get better.

This is also the pattern of those news stories on the state of Black America that you see on Martin Luther King Day.

It is an exercise in playing down black suffering. What makes it strange and unsettling is that no one who truly cared about such suffering would even think to talk like that. But whites do because they are driven more by their own sense of white guilt than other people’s suffering.

Katrina was hardly her fault, so why did Barbara Bush say this? It could just be habit, but more likely it was in answer to charges that her son, President George Bush, did not do enough to help poor blacks stuck in New Orleans during and right after Katrina. As Kanye West put it just three days before in one of the best pieces of television ever: “George Bush doesn’t care about black people.”

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algierspointIn the days after hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans in 2005 we heard stories of lawless black people running loose in the city. What we did not hear was that some of the lawless people running loose in the city were white men with guns who shot on blacks at will and even murdered some. They have never been brought to justice. The mainstream press and particularly the police are strikingly incurious.

Most people who died in the days after Katrina died in the waters. But in the Algiers Point part of New Orleans, which was above the water, most died from being shot.

At least 11 were shot and four killed in Algiers Point in the days after Katrina. A nearby doctor says he handled about nine shooting cases, three ending up dead. In all known cases those shot were black and those shooting, as far as we can tell, were white.

The coroner says more than ten were shot dead, but his records from that period are so incomplete that it is hard even to say which ones took place in Algiers Point.

People remember the body of one black man lying on Opelousas Avenue. On one side of Opelousas is Algiers Point: nice houses where mostly white people live. On the other side is the black ghetto of Algiers.

About 15 to 30 white men of Algiers Point banded together shooting on any black person they found in their neighbourhood who they did not know. They were afraid that blacks would come and break into their houses and take everything.

One black man was shot dead trying to break into Daigle’s Grocery. Another, who lived in Algiers Point itself, was told at gunpoint in front of his house to leave the neighbourhood. Three others were shot when they tried to cross Algiers Point to get to the buses going to Texas.

One of those three, Donnell Herrington, was shot in the neck. Blood coming down from his neck, he saw two white men drive by in a black pickup truck and said, “Help me, help me – I’m shot.” They said: “Get away from this truck, nigger. We’re not gonna help you. We’re liable to kill you ourselves.”

The police were no where to be seen in the week after Katrina hit. They told one guman: “If they’re breaking in your property do what you gotta do and leave them [the bodies] on the side of the road.”

The gunmen were seen as holding the neighbourhood together until the army arrived.

Not long afterwards one gunman said, “It was great! It was like pheasant season in South Dakota. If it moved, you shot it.” One woman said they learned what the n-word meant.

Another woman, whose uncle and two cousins were gunmen, said:

My uncle was very excited that it was a free-for-all – white against black – that he could participate in. For him, the opportunity to hunt black people was a joy.

The police have not looked into any of the murders.

See also:

Katrina's Hidden Race War

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