quote:Distorting Katrina Statistics
- Salve to Ease Guilty Conscience of "Conservatives"?
The government's less-than-admirable handling of Hurricane Katrina relief efforts, which was noticed around the world, apparently has led some to grasp at any straw, no matter how small and insignificant, in attempts to ease the apparent feelings of guilt and shame they are plagued with.
Nathan Burchfiel, a reporter for Cybercast News Service authored a piece entitled "Statistics Suggest Race Not a Factor in Katrina Deaths," which stated that a recently released report from the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals (LDHH) indicated "fewer than half of the victims" of Katrina were Black and that Whites "died at the highest rate of all races in New Orleans."
That report [dated 12-13-05], however, only addressed the number of bodies that had been recovered - 1094 - and an ethnicity breakdown of the 500 released to their families. Of that group, 49% were Black; 47% White, and 4% were either Asian, Hispanic or Native American.
Burchfiel went on to cite census statistics which showed that Whites made up 28% of the city's pre-hurricane population; Blacks, more than 67%, and other non-White populations, 5%. The inference, which may be correct based on current numbers, is made that the number of White deaths is disproportionately high in comparison to their representation in the population, therefore, race was not a factor in Katrina deaths.
Furthermore, he asserts that the "liberals" who suggested that the government was too slow to respond because the majority of those affected were non-White, were out of line. He specifically named Nation of Islam leader, Minister Louis Farrakhan and Damu Smith of the National Black Environmental Justice Network.
His conscience-easing piece has been picked up by other internet outlets, including Rush Limbaugh's website, and clearly a number of individuals who label themselves as "conservative" and "pro-Bush" find Burchfiel's words to be a salve that does away with a number of things they would rather not deal with. For instance, what, exactly, does the LDHH report prove about the status and treatment of the hundreds of thousands of victims - who are still living? How is it possible that Burchfiel found it logical that less than half of the victims in New Orleans were Black when he admits they made up the majority of that city's population? How is it possible that he and his supporters fail to view the hundreds of thousands who were displaced, as victims? Did he research to find out statistics on the racial breakdown of the many survivors - or "victims" - who lost everything they had, were put on airplanes and flown to unfamiliar destinations to start over? Are they not victims too or do they not count, as they appeared not to count in August and September when some were left stranded on rooftops, some overlooked by "rescue" helicopters, and still others were reportedly turned away from entering certain parishes for refuge while Whites were allowed in? It seems that the living victims of Katrina matter less now, to people like Burchfiel, than they did when the government was slow to deliver aid and relief weeks ago.
As the saying goes, the article was a "nice try," but the author and those clinging to his words as though they disprove the assertion that the masses in New Orleans were treated differently because they were not White, are clearly grasping at a tiny straw. Burchfiel and his supporters should consider that he may only have been attempting to ease the collective guilty-conscience that some who subscribe to the term "conservative" are struggling with.
On the other hand, LDHH statistics do show that the number of White New Orleans residents who died as a result of the disaster is unusually high in comparison to their numbers in the city, and that race did not play a role in the Katrina deaths currently reported, but what does that have to do with the bigger picture?
If only writers could be as eager to research whether or not the levees were purposefully neglected, or actually tampered with and blown up. If only editors, publishers and writers had the same zeal to look at the similarities between events surrounding New Orleans' Hurricane Katrina and those surrounding the levee breaks during Princeville, North Carolina's Hurricane Floyd in 1999, and Mississippi's Great Flood of 1927. What will statistics show about who died, who was saved, who was displaced, who replaced the displaced, who lost, and who gained in each of these tragedies? When taking these things into consideration, it should be clear that race WAS a factor and IS a factor still today in the aftermath of Katrina.
- Adeeba Folami -