In the days since hurricane Katrina slammed the nation’s gulf coast, we have been riveted by images of destruction, suffering and chaos in the Big Easy. Almost before the rains and wind had subsided, these images have prompted angry denunciations of official bungling and outright indifference as the federal and state governments have scrambled to respond to this tragedy.
As the chorus of criticism has mounted, one focus has been the race and class of those left behind to face the violence of the hurricane itself, the collapse of the city and the struggle to survive while waiting indefinitely to be evacuated. Many have suggested that the sluggishness of the government response was motivated, at least in part, by lack of concern for this already marginalized segment of our society.
Did the race and economic status of the victims of hurricane Katrina play a role in the nature of the government response? Have the images and labels used by the media worked to perpetuate a racist lens through which we are forced to understand this event? Is this really an issue of class and not at all about race?
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