By Kevin ‘Rashid’ Johnson, Minister of Defense New Afrikan Black Panther Party – Prison Chapter
Hurricane Katrina brought the twisted illogic of capitalist imperialism to the surface; exposing that corporate profits take precedence over environmental and human needs. Disregard for and exploitation of the poor and people of color by the government at every level, the big corporations and even the wealthy minority “Uncle Toms” in their response to (and lack of response in) this crisis, and the suffering of the poor Black and white people left to fend for themselves, played out in front of a shocked nation and world.
On August 28, 2005, the National Weather Service warned that vast structural damage would be inflicted to the Gulf Coast region by Hurricane Katrina, and that many homes and other buildings would be destroyed. Three days earlier, the Governor of Louisiana gave emergency warnings. But no provisions were made to evacuate the poor of New Orleans. When the hurricane hit on August 29th, these people suffered devastation that those in power knew would occur. They knew that the levies could not withstand a level three, let alone a level five, storm, and that the city, being below sea level, would be flooded.
Typically, the masses of poor people in Amerika are ignored by the media and hidden from sight. If they are shown it is to heap blame and ridicule on them for being poor, such as in 1996, when Bill Clinton was pushing through the welfare “reform” laws. Welfare recipients were portrayed as driving Cadillacs and exploiting the system. But the flooding of New Orleans showed the extent of real poverty in Amerika. In fact the main reason so many poor Black wimyn and children died in New Orleans was because they had no cars or money to flee the city on their own.
In a pretence of offering the unevacuated citizens “hurricane relief,” the city government told them to go to the Convention Center and the Superdome. Thousands of mostly Black residents walked or waded to these locations from miles away expecting to find help, food, water and medical care. What they found instead was cruel indifference, unpreparedness and chaos. Surrounded by disease contaminated water, there was nothing to drink and no food as they were jammed into these darkened arenas without sanitary toilet facilities.
When, the desperate, abandoned people began to obtain basic necessities from abandoned stores, (certainly doing no worse than the Cadillac-stealing police), orders came down to “shoot to kill looters.” The mainstream media blatantly described whites and police as ”finding” food and water from abandoned stores and Blacks as “looting” these things. Martial law was declared, and the actual relief and rescue operations being organized by the people were shut down by armed mercenaries (hired by FEMA) and the military and police.
Brigadier General Gary Jones, commander of the Louisiana National Guard Joint Task Force, compared the operation to the U.S. invasion of Somalia in 1993. According to reports aired on Democracy Now!, private mercenaries admitted to shooting up a group of young Blacks on a New Orleans overpass. The media reported it as a group of “snipers” killed by the military who they had fired upon. A Miami Herald article on July 5, 1987, reported that former FEMA director Louis Guiffrida’s deputy, John Brinkerhoff, handled the martial law planning of FEMA, and that it was similar to a plan Guiffida had developed earlier at the Army War College to confine “at least 21 million American negroes [in] assembly centers or relocation camps.”
FEMA has built and staffs such camps spread out all over the U.S., and it is now part of the Department of Homeland Security. From the moment FEMA appeared on the scene in New Orleans, it made matters worse not better. FEMA cut civilian communication lines to the outside, flew in the infamous Blackwater mercenaries from Iraq, blocked and delayed assistance corning from other cities and countries (including Cuba) from reaching the hurricane victims, and it channelled massive amounts of funding donated to help the Katrina victims to right-wing Christian groups like Pat Robertson’s Operation Second Blessing, to mention just a few of the outrageous things it did.
While Robertson was getting windfall subsidy from FEMA, he used his TV ministry show to degrade the Black hurricane victims and depicted items left behind in the city as “voodoo” paraphernalia. Operation Second Blessing had previously been exposed for exploiting Black people in the Congo, where it turned out that Robertson invested the funds collected for disaster relief in a Congo diamond mine. Robertson was exonerated by former VA Attorney General Mark Earley, whom Robertson had gifted with a $30,000 campaign contribution. Previously, Robertson pulled a similar scam in Liberia, where he invested in a gold mine.
I could go on and on about the dirt that has come to the surface already regarding this disaster and the lies told by the government, many of which will be exposed in this issue. The lesson we must learn from all this is the need to organize ourselves to deal with our security and welfare issues and to create people’s power in our communities. The government won’t help us, and we shouldn’t waste our time trying to get it to. It’s not our government! It belongs to the rich white ruling class of Amerika who got rich by exploiting us. We need to rely on ourselves.