The looting hasn't even begun

I'll admit - I was one of the people who, in the beginning, wondered out loud why the poor in New Orleans didn't get out sooner. I was displaying my ignorance, it turns out. Errol Louis exposes the ugly truth, and while I certainly think there is a limit to how much you can blame history for the poverty of African Americans, the bottom line is that this rings true:

To the casual viewer, the situation is an incomprehensible mess that raises questions about the intelligence, sanity and moral worth of those trapped in the city. Why didn't those people evacuate before the hurricane? Why don't they just walk out of town now? And why should anyone care about people who are stealing and fighting the police?

That hard, unsympathetic view is the traditional American response to the poverty, ignorance and rage that afflict many of us whose great-great-grandparents once made up the captive African slave labor pool. In far too many cities, including New Orleans, the marching orders on the front lines of American race relations are to control and contain the very poor in ghettos as cheaply as possible; ignore them completely if possible; and call in the troops if the brutes get out of line.

By almost every statistical measure, New Orleans is a bad place to be poor. Half the city's households make less than $28,000 a year, and 28% of the population lives in poverty.

And now for the kicker:

Ten billion dollars are about to pass into the sticky hands of politicians in the No. 1 and No. 3 most corrupt states in America. Worried about looting? You ain't seen nothing yet.

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Written on Sunday, September 04, 2005