This is the anniversary week of Hurricane Katrina that devastated the Gulf Coast in 2005. I was a sophomore in high school when it happened. I remember going to Robyn’s room after school and we would talk about it. Talk about the horror and devastation. Talk about the biased media coverage and the ineffectiveness of FEMA. Talk about the suffering of the poor and people of color in New Orleans.
I remember talking about how the media said that white folks were trying to find food but people of color were looting. I remember, as I looked at the news coverage, the disproportionate amount of people of color in the shelters and on the roofs of homes and on the streets. I remember seeing white folks come back after the evacuation, devastated that their homes were destroyed. I remember seeing people of color devastated that their homes were destroyed, the horror in their eyes, the knowledge that of what they had seen first hand.
And I can’t help but be struck by the fact that Hurricane Irene ripped through the east coast, albeit with much less devastation, around the anniversary of Katrina and that there was once again instances of people being left behind. Specifically those prisoners left on Riker’s Island in New York City.
Six years later we are still leaving behind the under served, the disfranchised and the dispossessed. We are still operating in a system that is exclusionary and that ends up with untimely and unfair deaths. Six years later, we are still making the same mistakes. And do you know what the worst part is?
People still don’t care.
Don’t get me wrong, there are many many people who advocated for their evacuation and were appalled that they were being left behind but the vast majority either didn’t care or worse, thought that they deserved it. Moreover, those in power did nothing. To a certain extent, it was Katrina all over again.
And it affirmed for me the importance of the work that I do. It reemphasized why social justice is so important. It showed me once again why I work long hours, spend my days struggling, and face almost insurmountable odds. It showed me why I am so motivated and passionate. It showed me why I do this.