Over 40 years have elapsed since the victories of the civil rights movement and over 50 years since Rosa Park’s refusal to give up her seat to a white man. But race remains to be the most critical social issue in today’s society. Jarvis Tyner, executive vice-chair of the Communist Party USA gave a speech in which he said: “The battle of racism is even more critical at present. Nothing is more significant on the schedule of the progressive forces across the globe except the struggle to eradicate the plague of racism from our world.
” (Jarvis Tyner) HURRICANE KATRINA, THE EYE OPENER Racism has been known to deny educational, economical and social rights to the black people. But it was a fresh reminder and an eye opener for the Americans when Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans America. Katrina brought back the conscience of the Americans as they saw on their TV the gruesome images of the black victims of the hurricane. They saw blacks trapped on roof tops screaming for help, the bodies floating on the water and lying in the streets.
They saw the children and the elderly both distressed. What they saw was the reality of structural racism in America. What they saw made them question the administration’s policies. Did the administration really fail to provide for the thousand of black flood victims? Or was it just Racism? PRESS CLIPPINGS CONTRASTED The press was not going to be left behind. Two separate newspaper clippings were soon the subject of everyone’s discussion. The first clipping was the image of black boy walking through flood water carrying a trash bag and a soda case.
The caption described the young man walking through flood water after ‘looting’ a grocery store. The other image was of two white residents swimming through flood water and they according to the caption ‘found’ bread and soda from the local grocery store. WAS IT REALLY RACISM UNDERLYING THE CAPTION? Now, was it just two different photographers expressing two different opinions in two different newspapers is hard to tell. Black people ‘loot’ and white people ‘find’. Was it a mere choice of words or was it more than that? This was the question everyone around the globe was asking.
It was really not clear whether the choice of words was intentional, still, everyone continued to debate over the contrast between the two captions. But what both pictures have in common is that the people in them are working towards self preservation. When the Hurricane Katrina destroyed the city it was pretty much justifiable that people would go out and seek for survival items and if they found them floating on the water they will pretty much hang on to them. No ones advocating looting or any other illegal behavior but when disaster strikes such actions are considered justifiable.
It was not like the young black man was carrying big screen televisions, movies and other materialistic goods so saying that he was ‘looting’ was a politically incorrect use of verbiage. And we cannot change the definition and implication of the term ‘looting’ by saying that it is a slang term used in some societies. Neither can we justify the usage of the term by saying that the writer wrote this caption not because he was a subconscious racist but because he had a deadline pressure and instead of making an effort to cover the story, stressed and sleepless he winded up with such a caption that created such a huge buzz.
WHAT’S AT STAKE? Let’s not reach any conclusions for what we see is TV is not even half the story. As they say, what we hear we should believe none and what we see we should only believe half. So let’s consider what’s at stake for people Seeing Eye to eye and thinking parallel to either side of the controversy. Holding prejudices and stereotyping solely on the base of skin color is Racism and racism which countless disadvantages. Racism has led to nothing but destruction. It has led to the death of millions of people as in the case of Nazi Germany and Rwanda. The evil of racism prevents an equal and free society.
Stereotyping black people and staying away from them would deprive one of the opportunities to know black people and to develop a relationship with them which could prove to be rewarding. I will state here the case of my brother who was looking for roommates for his apartment in Malaysia. He was told that black people give too much trouble and people don’t prefer to live with them. However, when he let a room in his apartment to a young man from Botswana who was black he was surprised to find that the fixed ideas developed about black people did not quite apply to all.
In fact, he was paying him quite a handsome amount for the room which made him very happy. Racists are ignorant and racism has been proved to breed ignorance. In a study to determine whether prejudiced individuals suffer from cognitive disadvantages, it was shown that participants who perpetuated negative stereotypes scored lower on math and general knowledge tests. (Sabeer) CONCLUSION Black people ‘loot’ and white people ‘find’ is just one example of the many racist remarks we may have heard.
But jumping to conclusions that it was the underlying racism that brought out the remark rather than a difference of opinion would be too harsh. Agreeing with the phrase ‘black people loot’ would make one prejudiced which has disadvantages. Rather than wasting time dwelling upon which side is right we should look at the larger picture. We should ask ourselves as to what is at stake. As the debate went on and people aligned themselves to a side of the controversy dead bodies were floating in the streets of New Orleans. Ask yourselves, Is that what we wanted?
What we must make sure is that such a thing might never happen again. That when disaster strikes, men and women, blacks and whites, dogs and cats must all be rescued. WORKS CITED Michael Seeber “Racism breeds Ignorance” 1 September 2001 < http://www. psychologytoday. com/articles/200109/racism-breeds-ignorance> Jarvis Tyner “The struggle for African American freedom” October 2006 < http://www. politicalaffairs. net/article/articleview/4858/1/241/> Sports shooter “Finding VS Looting” < http://www. sportsshooter. com/message_display. html? tid=17204>