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A Voice in the Wilderness

As nightfall does not come at once, neither does oppression. In both instances, there's a twilight where everything remains seemingly unchanged, and it is in such twilight that we must be aware of change in the air, however slight, lest we become unwitting victims of the darkness. -- William O. Douglas

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Racism in Reporting?

Black singer and rapper, Kanye West had some critical remarks for the media and harsh words for President Bush. During a one hour telethon broadcast live last Friday. The television special - free concert sponsored by NBC was seeking donations for victims of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans.

West deviated from the scripted dialogue with Mike Myers and said,

"I hate the way they portray us in the media. You see a black family, it says, 'They're looting.' You see a white family, it says, 'They're looking for food.' And, you know, it's been five days because most of the people are black. And even for me to complain about it, I would be a hypocrite because I've tried to turn away from the TV because it's too hard to watch. I've even been shopping before even giving a donation, so now I'm calling my business manager right now to see what is the biggest amount I can give, and just to imagine if I was down there, and those are my people down there. So anybody out there that wants to do anything that we can help - with the way America is set up to help the poor, the black people, the less well-off, as slow as possible. I mean, the Red Cross is doing everything they can. We already realize a lot of people that could help are at war right now, fighting another way - and they've given them permission to go down and shoot us!"

Mike Myers' response was pretty bland,
"And subtle, but in many ways even more profoundly devastating, is the lasting damage to the survivors' will to rebuild and remain in the area. The destruction of the spirit of the people of southern Louisiana and Mississippi may end up being the most tragic loss of all..."

He then turned to West who said,

"George Bush doesn't care about black people.''

Immediately after that remark, West's live speech was cut off and switched to comedian, Chris Tucker.

Matt Lauer later came on and stated,

"Tonight's telecast was a live television event wrought with emotion, emotions are running high."

The program was running live on the east-coast and West's words were edited out the west-coast's feed which had a several second time delay. Matt Lauer's words were not deleted.

You be the judge

Okay here is what West was getting worked up about. The following pictures have given rise to much dialogue in the blogosphere because of the captions that accompanied them. Here is what the agencies said about their pictures.

AP Associated Press AP – Tue Aug 30, 11:31 AM ET

“A young man walks through chest deep flood water after looting a grocery store in New Orleans on Tuesday, Aug. 30, 2005. Flood waters continue to rise in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina did extensive damage…”

Note: I have italized the words looting and finding for emphasis.

AFP Agencie France Press 3:47 AM ET

Two residents wade through chest-deep water after finding bread and soda from a local grocery store after Hurricane Katrina came through the area in New Orleans, Louisiana. (AFP/Getty Images/Chris Graythen)

AFP is a French news agency. I tried to find the actual postings but AFP has pulled their picture. However, from surfing, I found the two pictures juxtaposed to one another in two different places.

I copied the image and have posted them here for you to review.

I found this
while surfing at Booker Rising. You can double click on the image in order to enlarge it for reading.


At Mon Sep 05, 10:04:00 AM MDT, Blogger Paul said...

Were the pictures actually juxtaposed like that, or did they otherwise occur in close proximity? Or was it the same paper or journalist that put them out? That to me would indicate either racism or, at the very least, gross insensitivity - failing to grasp how racist that looks.

If the pictures occured in complete isolation from each other, I'd find it harder to draw conclusions.

At Mon Sep 05, 11:01:00 AM MDT, Blogger Alicia said...

I was so thrilled to see Kanye West step up. I think he's right - President Bush doesn't care about black people. He also does not care about poor white people either, or anyone who has nothing to offer him. Mike Myers continued to read from the TelePrompTer, and Kanye shot straight from the hip.

At Mon Sep 05, 11:13:00 AM MDT, Blogger The Voice said...


I was editing the post when you commented - The pictures were not actually juxtaposed when they originally came out. That image was put together by a blogger somewhere - I cannot figure out who originated it because it appears in several different blogs.

The reason I used it was because it has the original captions adjacent to the pictures. Having the two combined gives the reader a better chance of determining the credibility of the captions and the pictures they appeared next to when they were originally released.

I agree that juxtaposing the pictures next to each other sets up potential for a contextual injection from people on both sides of the issue. However, if anything is revealed to me is the starkness of the words and people's skin color.

Ronald Reagan once said, "One man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter."

I suppose that quote could be extended to these pictures. In this case, it is hard to ignore the word 'looter' is associated with a black person while the word, 'finder' is associated with a person who is not black. Is this merely coincidence? Do the French 'interpret' what they see differently?

Is 'looting' ever acceptable? Why were national Guard troops not ready to go into action immediately after the storm? Why were ships being dispatched to New Orleans after the storm?

In truth, I am not really surprised by the government's woefully inadequate and slow response to this tragedy because exit planning and crisis preparation evidently are not issues which vacationing presidents and those in power on the Washington beltway – Democrats asleep at the wheel included - are concerned with.

Its time for a third political party.

Thanks for your comment Paul,


At Mon Sep 05, 12:24:00 PM MDT, Blogger Liquidplastic said...

However this begin J, the regular Media on television have been putting the picture side by side, and making the same comments about looting & finding as it relates to skin color ... so it's doesn't matter who started this, French Media copy things the America Media say, especially about black folks, in view of the slow reaction by our government. The world is not blind to America's hatred of some of it citizens, only in America are do others close their eyes, because it easy.

Why, I would like to know, did the government turn away aid from other states within the United States ... like Chicago? And still doing it, why?

There are so many unanswered questions, and assumption that can and will be made because of how the people in New Orleans were treated, and the fact that they are black and poor. I have been reading many Blogs and some are blaming the poor black folks for not getting out ... like they had the means or the transportation.

We are so insensitive to others plight. Most act like the poor blacks don't pay taxes. They may not make as much money, because, once again, prejudices in the job market which have been proven over and over again, but WE pay taxes too! I do, and I am considered poor. Hell, I pay too much damn taxes. I am ashamed of our government, and actions speak louder then words.

Right about now, I am emotionally burned out on this subject and cried out too. I do what I can in my own way. On the other side of the coin I will not stereotype all white folks by my government in-action and prejudices towards the victims of Katrina. You must understand, all of those victims were not black, but the majority of them were. There were some poor white folks, and some very light skinned black folks looking white.

As for them cutting Kenya West speech ... well, your guess is as good as mines.

A couple of days ago I re-read the Declaration of Independence, and compared King George III to King George, Jr. and I was amazed to see that so much of it applies to King George, Jr. and his administration. Whatever you say about who is to blame and who is not to blame, King George, Jr. is the chief and the buck stops with him, no matter who is running the white house behind his back. After all, he signed on for the position and when no one gave it to him, he stole it twice, so the blame must be attributed to him. That’s my two cent, once again … and right about now after reading over two-hundred Blogs in the last week, I am tired of saying it.

At Mon Sep 05, 02:03:00 PM MDT, Blogger The Voice said...

Liquid Plastic,

I rarely watch TV and so my news comes from the internet. I am glad to know this topic is being covered by the media although I have my doubts anyone is doing it justice.

Regarding the blogs; I have noticed it is a pretty hot topic and i am behind the eight-ball on this - I actually wrote this post several days ago but it was just too heavy and then the West incident occurred. So, I felt like I had to re-write it. While I wish I hadn't waited, I am glad that the topic is being discussed.

All I can say is how I am tired of the blatant double-standards that exist in America. Opportunity should exist across the board. Moreover, anyone who argues that we should be equal and does not address the issue of how to include people in the process is merely being duplicitous. Such people are guilty of using a beautiful concept called, ‘democracy’ against itself and to serve their own selfish ends. Those who call for equality without inclusion are hypocrites and that is why the death toll is so high in New Orleans.

As far as I am concerned, the results we have witnessed in New Orleans speak volumes about a government that ignores the plight if it’s disaffected and disenfranchised – its poor people. The Hurricane Katrina incident has revealed just how sinister and disgustingly disconnected Washington DC is with its citizens who are poor. I say vote the entire bunch of selfish, lying elitist bast*rds – Democrats and Republicans alike - out of office.

I hope all the talk is not merely lip service about the dark reality that poor people face in this nation so blessed with wealth.

At Mon Sep 05, 06:42:00 PM MDT, Blogger Lew Scannon said...

Wait a minute! There was white people left in N'awlins? Every picture I've seen on the net, or on the Korporate media shows nuttin' but black folk! 'ceptin' the White Man from the National Guard bailing out those "welfare recipients" who were "too stupid" to leave town when the hurricane hit.
But, yes we need a second party actually, the Democrats aren't really a separate party at all, just a different wrapper on the same suppository.
I think what I'm going to do is the same thing I did when the Dixie Chicks had the cojones to speak out against Bush, I'm going to buy Kanye West's latest CD.

At Tue Sep 06, 01:00:00 AM MDT, Blogger M said...

Where I live, when we see the calamity victims on the TV news, we can't believe such a terrible thing is happening in a rich country such as the US. We do get the impression that Bush doesn't care about blacks.

At Tue Sep 06, 03:08:00 AM MDT, Blogger SaffronSaris said...

It would seem like a blatant case of racism linking "looting" with blacks and "finding" with whites.
Using different words to describe the same action can whitewash the truth. That is why a subjective mind must always be used when reporting and reading the news.
The main task now is the assist the victims. Squabbles about racist reporting can wait a while.
Get the people out of New Orleans fast is more important now.

At Tue Sep 06, 03:44:00 AM MDT, Blogger Silly Adventures said...

Hi there, i have been silent for a few days, but want to join the discussion again.

Regarding the pics, the captions and generally the information we are provided with. Even for someone who has access to loads of different sources and can dip into reports from different countries and in different languages, it seems almost impossible to get a clear idea of what is actually happening. I tried to find the AFP pics and see how they have been presented originally, but in vain. So no comment on the racism issue from me here. But for people interested in population density, ethnic backgrounds of people in different parts of N.O. and the areas flooded last week, you will find good maps on Always a good source for news from loads of different sources on the hot spots of this planet.

Regarding help from within the US and abroad, I was rather put off by CNN. First I saw them interviewing Jan Egeland. He is the one within the UN system being responsible for dealing with humanitarian desasters. He was asked, why the UN didn’t come to assist the US in these hard times. Egeland explained that the UN as well as individual memberstates listed the help they would be able to offer and that this list has been given to the US administration, but no answer has been coming back of what is needed. The CNN person kept on asking why the UN didn’t do more and if that could be related to US foreign policy. Egeland again explained that offers have been made, from big contributions down to smaller ones from countries like Sri Lanka etc. recently affected by the Tsunami but that at that time they haven’t had any reply from the US and so were still on standby. But the CNN person wasn’t satisfied.
Shortly afterwards the same game was played with Javier Solana, EU’s person for a common foreign policy (well, almost).
So I tried to find out what was actually behind the offers from other countries and if there was anything to it or if it was a lot of empty talk. I found that, for instance, Germany had a full plane load full of military food packages ready within a very short time and the plane was on standby, but again the US admin didn't call up on the offer. When more and more news of the situation came in, Germany decided to bypass diplomatic etiquette and the plane flew anyway, hoping that it would get permission to enter the US airspace and be allowed to land in Florida once it is on its way. Which was given and the assistance welcome. By now additional planes have been dispatched, now also with more experts (medical staff) on board and further ones on standby here. It looked similar for a lot of other countries, but there I dind’t follow the individual links up and check on details. It was enough to convince me that offers have been made, they have been specific and early into the desaster and they have been not reacted upon by the US government.
A side note: I found something else where I am not sure if it was/will be mentioned in the US mendia. I saw that Cuba offered to send mediacal personnel. That must have been very annoying for the Bush adminstration. I am not sure what happened with the offer. Iran offered condolences. I guess another one King George Jr. and his cronies dind’t like getting.

On another issue: I was wondering how the current sitution compares (that’s is not really the correct word, but English not being my mother tongue, I can’t find a better one) to the situation after the attacks on the Twin Towers. At that time the Bush adminstration managed to bring vast majorities behind it (at least that’s what it looks like from outside the US). Frictions within society were plastered over by turning everybody's eyes to the enemy showing up at the countries borders. Right or wrong, my country. The war on terror was among other things a good tool to ignore developments within the country otself. Among them also the issue of racism.
Now a new desaster has struck. Much bigger in scale. Much more home-made. First reactions equally incompetent. But instead of rallying behind the president and moving closer together to deal with the situation, this time the ‘attack’ on the US seems to work as a magnifying glass showing clearly many of the unhealthy developments of the last years. Within civil society as well as within the group around King George Jr. and the adminstration he has starved off funds and manned by his pals. Probably this time the impact on the daily life in the US will be a big as in 2001. But hopefully it will be of a much more positive nature in the long run.

At Tue Sep 06, 06:54:00 AM MDT, Blogger UARIDI said...

There was a time when watching the news, I was not sure if the pictures I was seeing were of "poverty striken Africans".

I am praying that this will be the beginning of openess and honesty in the USA about the poverty of African descendants living in the deep South.

At Tue Sep 06, 08:26:00 AM MDT, Blogger iamnasra said...

This the time we the president and the people be aside to side but it shows a differnt situation...The citezens at this time need the support and the existance of their leader ...and where i he ???

At Tue Sep 06, 09:05:00 AM MDT, Blogger Liquidplastic said...

Silly, that is what is blowing my mind ... even states within the United States is prepared to help more, but when they offer Bush Administration won't get back to them. One would wonder if the Bush Mafia is not suicidal, or are they that damn arrogant?

They keep talking and having photo op, but still the folks are suffering and dying. Houston Texas, where I live, is overflowing … and they can use the help. I really don’t know what else has to happen for America to wake up and read the writing on the wall, I know the rest of the world is reading it … and right now America is a disgraced country … still at war on foreign soil … and for what, some damn oil!

At Tue Sep 06, 01:52:00 PM MDT, Blogger Owen said...

Good lord...I didn't realize they were drawing distinctions between looting and "finding." That is disgusting and thank God that people are willing to speak out on the news like that. This drives me insane.

At Tue Sep 06, 09:43:00 PM MDT, Anonymous Shaunna said...

Bill Maher showed these two pictures (and captions) on his show Friday night - so at least it was on HBO.

At Wed Sep 07, 07:47:00 AM MDT, Blogger G said...

The saddest thing is that this is nothing new.

Remember O.J. Simpson and Time Magazine?

A supposedly neutral newsmagazine darkened his mugshot to make him look "blacker" - as if to imply his guilt in the murder case.

It's a shame to see the so-called Liberal Media failing to recognize a notion so fundamental as equality within the population, especially withing their own readers/viewers.

At Thu Sep 08, 06:22:00 PM MDT, Blogger Paul said...

I think the only kind of scandal that would surprise me coming out of the Bush administration would be a sex scandal!

Hmm... when you think about it, unless the photographer actually had knowledge of the people in the river - had interviewed them or actually seen them pick up the stuff - then "finder" vs. "looter" represents assumptions. So that does make the discrepancy in the assumptions telling...

At Thu Sep 08, 10:34:00 PM MDT, Blogger Liquidplastic said...

Paul you got a point.

Photographers don't write news copy, they just take photos.

At Wed Sep 14, 05:37:00 AM MDT, Blogger Tazeen Mohsin said...

I agree with "g". Its sad that this all prevails still after the fact ppl claim to be liberal. Personally, i feel proud of these ppl who step up to change things. Bush doesnt seem to care abt anything expect his own motives!!!!! Who elected him again anyways!!!!!!!!


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