September 19, 2005

Newsweek's cover story reflects the rapidly-congealing Conventional Wisdom

The headline on the cover reads:

"Poverty, Race & Katrina: Lessons of a National Shame" by Jonathan Alter

And on the inside:

The Other America
An Enduring Shame: Katrina reminded us, but the problem is not new. Why a rising tide of people live in poverty, who they are—and what we can do about it.

Sept. 19, 2005 issue - It takes a hurricane. It takes a catastrophe like Katrina to strip away the old evasions, hypocrisies and not-so-benign neglect. It takes the sight of the United States with a big black eye—visible around the world—to help the rest of us begin to see again. For the moment, at least, Americans are ready to fix their restless gaze on enduring problems of poverty, race and class that have escaped their attention. Does this mean a new war on poverty? No, especially with Katrina's gargantuan price tag. But this disaster may offer a chance to start a skirmish, or at least make Washington think harder about why part of the richest country on earth looks like the Third World.

"I hope we realize that the people of New Orleans weren't just abandoned during the hurricane," Sen. Barack Obama said last week on the floor of the Senate. "They were abandoned long ago—to murder and mayhem in the streets, to substandard schools, to dilapidated housing, to inadequate health care, to a pervasive sense of hopelessness."

The question now is whether the floodwaters can create a sea change in public perceptions. "Americans tend to think of poor people as being responsible for their own economic woes," says sociologist Andrew Cherlin of Johns Hopkins University. "But this was a case where the poor were clearly not at fault."

Right. The snipers who shot at rescue workers and the gangs who took over the Convention Center were "clearly not at fault." Who ya gonna believe, us media folk or your lying eyes?

Seriously, if the press wants to help poor blacks, which I profoundly doubt (since ostentatiously refusing to notice poor blacks' bad behavior is a sign of their moral superiority over other whites), the last thing it should be doing is manufacturing excuses for the New Orleans Nightmare. Instead, it should find some small town in, say, Mississippi where the poor black populace cooperated with each other to save lives and property (hopefully, at least one exists), then repeatedly contrast the good behavior of those blacks to the shameful behavior in New Orleans.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

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