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Race and class matter

How do the folks that think race and class don’t matter in this horrorshow in New Orleans explain this:

At one point, the evacuation was interrupted briefly when school buses rolled up so some 700 guests and employees from the Hyatt Hotel could move to the head of the evacuation line — much to the amazement of those who had been crammed in the stinking Superdome since Sunday.

“How does this work? They (are) clean, they are dry, they get out ahead of us?” exclaimed Howard Blue, 22, who tried to get in their line. The National Guard blocked him as other guardsmen helped the well-dressed guests with their luggage.

The 700 had been trapped in the hotel, next to the Superdome, but conditions were considerably cleaner, even without running water, than the unsanitary crush inside the dome. The Hyatt was severely damaged by the storm. Every pane of glass on the riverside wall was blown out.

Mayor Ray Nagin has used the hotel as a base since it is across the street from city hall, and there were reports the hotel was cleared with priority to make room for police, firefighters and other officials.

National Guard Capt. John Pollard called the decision to move the Hyatt people to the head of the line “very poor.”

I think the issue of class, as I’ve said before, is being downplayed by pairing it so closely with race. In New Orleans the two go hand-in-hand because of the composition of the city (almost 70% black) and a high poverty rate. I tend to believe that if these folks were all “trailer trash,” the government response would have been equally inadequate. The poor do not matter. That’s why you can have a city with a black mayor, city government and police department and still have this kind of disaster. Class, in many respects, trumps race.

What is different though, because so many of the survivors are black, is that bias when it comes to the crime and violence committed in NOLA easily spills from the mouths and keyboards of the right wing. The conditioning we all receive that young black men = hoodlum is powerful. The fact that the vast majority of those left behind are not criminals — but are certainly being victimized by those criminals among them — seems to be lost on these bigots.

They’d prefer that the whole lot of them be washed away.

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding