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Blacks and Superstorm Sandy vs. Hurricane Katrina


By Jay Thomas Willis

Senior Columnist and Political Analyst

Mid-South Tribune and Black Information Highway

Richton Park, IL - On Monday and Tuesday, October 29th and 30th, a 900 mile-wide superstorm bombarded the Eastern Seaboard. It was superstorm Sandy. It was the most devastating storm in the history of the region, and the worst destruction in New York City since 9/11. It shut down airlines—the largest disruption of airlines since 9/11—airlines looked to lose 900 million dollars to Sandy. Sandy flooded mass transits, flooded streets, brought the ocean to the doorsteps of seafront homes—flooded basements and tunnels, causing fires, brought down power lines and trees—leaving many cities in darkness, disrupted gasoline supplies, and pushed heavy structures around like they were toys. It even forced candidates off the campaign trail.

It cost at least $20 billion in property taxes, and $30 billion in lost business. At least 50 lives were lost. At least eighty houses in New York City burned. The recovery will take months, and in some cases even years.

            I don’t mean to make an inappropriate suggestion in these difficult times for the Eastern Seaboard: the suggestion that Blacks are treated any differently than any other groups in times of catastrophe. The situation was difficult for all concerned. But they say when other groups experience a recession, Blacks experience a depression. When other groups catch a cold, Blacks get pneumonia. You might also extend that to say when other groups get water, Blacks get drowned. If there is any possible way, the society finds a way to treat Blacks differently than other groups, even in times of crises. And Blacks often fare worst than other groups.

            Superstorm Sandy affected Blacks differently than Katrina. Blacks existed in areas totally separated from other groups in New Orleans. It was Blacks who lived in the most vulnerable areas in New Orleans. Also, Katrina covered a much smaller area. On the Eastern Seaboard Sandy affected a larger area, affected many more people, and a larger variety of ethnic and cultural groups were affected. So what affected Blacks affected other groups in a similar way. The media was careful not to separate Blacks out as a special group. If there was any difference in treatment one would never know it from the news coverage.

            In hurricane Katrina they showed Black bodies floating in the water, Black people standing on rooftops, hospitals that couldn’t accommodate people, individuals without food, and the horrific conditions in the Superdome. But they didn’t show the more distraught conditions of the people on the Eastern Seaboard, neither Black nor other groups. It seems the conditions of Blacks were overwhelmed by the entire situation of the whole area.

            As a matter of fact, I saw very few Blacks from the storm on CNN, CBS, or ABC. I did see what appeared to be one Black woman rescued from a flooded street, but they didn’t show her face. It seems they were careful not to show pictures of Blacks in the storm for some reason. I did also see one Black walking in flooded waters, and a Black walking in the background every now and then. A few Blacks were shown being rescued in Atlantic City who didn’t evacuate when they were supposed to. The conditions of Blacks were mostly kept out of sight and out of mind. Blacks and their living conditions were certainly not brought to the forefront in this superstorm. It seems that they wanted to keep the storm’s effect on people at a generic level, rather than focus on the personal toll the storm took on them.

            CNN, ABC, and CBS in their coverage mostly concentrated on structural damage more so than on the personal struggles of the individuals. We were only left to imagine if there were any Blacks who didn’t have food to eat, no ability to get care at hospitals, or didn’t have clean water to drink. We know that food and water was needed in general. The media could only say a lot of people were hurting. There was only talk of whether they had lost power, if they were flooded, if power lines were down, if trees were down, or how much snow was brought on by the storm. There was a lot of talk about the construction crane floating around high in the air, but not much talk about how the people were affected on a personal level.

            I suppose when we integrate we lose our separateness as Blacks, and just become members of the crowd. I suppose that’s one of the costs of integration. I’m not sure if this is good or bad.


 The above is on the Black Paper lane on the Black Information Highway and The Mid-South Tribune ONLINE. Mr. Willis is the author of twenty-three books, fifteen professional journal articles, a number of magazine articles, and over 300 newspaper articles. His books can be reviewed at www.jaythomaswillis.com .  Email him at jaytwillis@gmail.com  or MSTnews@prodigy.net or BlackInfoHwy@prodigy.net .




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