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New Orleans Unmasks "Apartheid, American Style"

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What is the recipe for a toxic sludge potent enough to destroy a heavily populated city and inflict infection with a mere splash? Start with a force of nature powerful beyond belief. Mix in an ample supply of sewage, garbage, brackish water from Lake Ponchatrain, floating corpses of humans and animals, and various and sundry noxious chemicals. Blend well with a system of seriously inadequate levees resulting from cuts in federal funding. Of course this concoction would not be complete without heaping portions of racism, spiritual emptiness, and avarice fueling slow and inadequate federal relief efforts.

Heart of darkness revealed

The New Orleans debacle exposed America's "heart of darkness" to the world as its leaders allowed their own tens of thousands of Americans to suffer or die. Many throughout the world were aware of the damage the US government was capable of inflicting upon people of other nations, but Hurricane Katrina showed what America’s decision-makers were willing to do to their own. The twin evils of raw capitalism and imperialism were on full display as the human race watched the events unfold on the Gulf Coast. As Mother Nature unleashed her ferocity, Americans witnessed the destruction of a jewel of a city and the pleasant fiction of the “American Dream” in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

With the eyes of the world upon its sole remaining superpower, President Bush, who fancies himself to be a monarch, remained on vacation, strummed his guitar, and led a federal response to the disaster which moved with the speed of a wounded snail. Several days into the aftermath, the "Queen Mum" surveyed the conditions under which the survivors were living and remarked how things were "working very well" for the "underprivileged". As the lies unraveled and the truth was revealed, the people learned that the Bush administration had significantly reduced funding for fortification of the levees protecting New Orleans. They realized that FEMA, whose purpose is to provide federal aid in the event of natural disasters, had been absorbed by Homeland Security and the military industrial complex. As humankind watched the nauseating events in New Orleans unfold, they realized that George Bush cared so little about the welfare of his people that he would appoint a grossly incompetent crony to head the federal organization upon which people counted to save them in the event of a disaster. American citizens have been in denial about the cruelty of their government’s foreign policy for years, but now that their leaders have imposed that truculence upon fellow Americans, it will be difficult to evade the painful reality of the depth of the corruption and malevolence of the United States government.

Who do they think they are fooling?

Even the typically compliant mainstream media made strong note of the skin color and socio-economic status of most of the hurricane survivors, whom the federal government left to fend for themselves for several days. Stranded on roof-tops, taking refuge on islands formed by broken slabs of highway, hiding in attics, or clinging to survival inside the miserable, dangerous squalor of the “Super” Dome, tens of thousands of poor black Americans exposed a truth they have known for years. To the soulless plutocrats, aristocrats, white patriarchs, and "captains of industry" who rule the United States, black people are expendable, particularly if they are poor. The power-brokers in the US federal government only provided assistance for two reasons. One was to prevent civil unrest amongst the Proletariat. Secondly, they needed to provide window dressing in their desperate attempt to maintain their facade as champions of "freedom and democracy" so they could continue to justify their ongoing quest for global domination.

It staggers the imagination to think that The Big Easy (the home to Mardi Gras and the birthplace of jazz) has essentially been reduced to memories. The perverse emphasis on property, power, and wealth over humanity by a government “of the wealthy, by the wealthy, and for the wealthy” caused the demise of New Orleans. Under this twisted paradigm, the city was doomed when the hurricane struck. 68% of the population was black. Less than half owned their homes. Almost 30% lived below the poverty line. An estimated 134,000 residents did not have cars or other viable means to evacuate. The demographics virtually ensured that the Bush administration would render aid slowly and ineffectively, resulting in suffering and death on a scale usually associated with third world nations.

Hurricane Katrina's devastation and the US government's anemic response revealed the malevolent and wicked face which lurks beneath the mask of “freedom and liberty”. Touting America’s systems of capitalism and democracy as models for the rest of the world, the leaders of the United States have carried out an agenda of imperialism since our nation’s inception. Sorry, Mr. Rove (and your staff of cunning Orwellian propagandists), but a true republic would not maintain a perpetual system of apartheid (which in Afrikaans means "separateness"). Certainly many laws have been passed to enhance the civil rights of blacks in the United States, but racism, bigotry, and separatism are still very much alive, both overtly and covertly. New Orleans provides a grim reminder that "Apartheid, American Style" is thriving in this nation.

In an address to Howard University in June 1965, President Lyndon Johnson stated:

"You cannot take a man who has been in chains for 300 years, remove the chains, take him to the starting line and tell him to run the race, and think that you are being fair."

Three months later, he signed an Executive Order requiring affirmative action by federal government contractors. Johnson understood that the journey toward equality for blacks in the United States had been a long and tortuous one, and even two hundred years after the Civil War, their struggle was far from over.

America’s wealthy, predominately white power-brokers dominate the US government by utilizing their money to win elections, buying elected officials through campaign finance, applying expensive lobbying efforts to sway votes and decisions, and exerting influence through powerful corporations. When will they take responsibility for the plight of black citizens in the United States and rectify the gross injustices of US Apartheid?

Shameful history exposes the true nature of the beast

In 1619, the first slaves arrived at the British colony of Jamestown, thus starting the future United States of America down a path of moral repugnance and turpitude. By 1850, there were 2.5 million enslaved Africans in the United States. The agrarian economy in many southern states was so dependent upon slavery that they were willing to secede from the Union and to initiate the Civil War to ensure the perpetuation of an evil institution which had enabled them to build a thriving economy with the blood, sweat and tears human beings. White slave owners, a small minority of the population in whose hands rested most of the Confederacy’s wealth, were able to convince poor, ignorant Southern whites that preserving slavery was critical for them as well. So compelling was the slave-owners’ argument that poor white Southerners died by the tens of thousands defending the "great institution" of slavery.

In 1865, the Union triumphed and the Thirteenth Amendment made chattel slavery unconstitutional. Despite these events, the lot of black Americans, particularly in the South, improved little. "Mr. Jim Crow" saw to their continued suffering. In 1830, a white minstrel show performer named Thomas "Daddy" Rice blackened his face and danced an absurd jig to the song "Jump Jim Crow" as he mimicked a crippled, elderly black man singing and dancing. Jim Crow became a popular character in American culture and grew to represent "black inferiority". Faced with the Constitutional mandate to abolish slavery, vanquished states in the post-bellum South began to pass laws to ensure government-mandated suppression of the civil rights of black Americans. Jim Crow laws became common in most southern states starting in 1890.

Ironically, the US Supreme Court opened the door for Jim Crow segregation laws. In 1883 it ruled that the Civil Rights Act of 1875 was unconstitutional. The gist of the ruling was that the Fourteenth Amendment did not prevent individuals or private businesses from discriminating against black people. In 1896 the highest court of the “Bastion of Freedom” upheld a lower court ruling in Plessy vs. Ferguson, which affirmed Louisiana's law mandating that blacks ride in separate railroad cars. The ultimate arbiters in the "Land of the Free" made a ruling in Cummings vs. Richmond County Board of Education in 1899 which enabled local governments to maintain "whites only" schools and close schools for blacks based on claims of financial hardship.

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Jason Miller, Senior Editor and Founder of TPC, is a tenacious forty something vegan straight edge activist who lives in Kansas and who has a boundless passion for animal liberation and anti-capitalism. Addicted to reading and learning, he is mostly (more...)
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