I got home from a trip to DC today, picked up the new Economist, and read a load of malarkey about the racist attitudes of Texans and how they are bound to complicate the attempt to help victims of Katrina (I guess with lynchings and cross-burnings). With all due respect, I don't think the Economist understands the American South at all.
I used to live in Baton Rouge, having grown up in the Northeast, and I discovered when I lived there that Southern racism wasn't quite as simple as I'd thought it was. If you look really carefully at some of the 'lifestyle' reportage about Katrina's aftermath, you can see the complexity of the relationship between the races in the south lurking.
I read an article the other day about a couple of families that survived Hurricane Katrina together. They were in the ICU in one of the flooded hospitals, with very sick relatives awaiting transplants. When the fire department came to get them out, they told the families that they had orders to bring out the patients most likely to survive first, putting the transplant patients at the bottom of the list. The wife of one transplant patient and the mother of the other stuck by the patients, and the rescue efforts went on without them.
Later, the (Indian, by the way) doctor and a couple of his staff members apparently commandeered a boat, siphoned some gas, and went back to get the patients out. The wife and mother had managed to keep them alive by themselves (the wife by ventilating her husband by hand). Both patients survived, although the daughter has not been able to find a liver and is continuing to sicken.
There was a photo of the wife and mother who stuck it out, hugging each other. The mother looked deeply sad; the wife looked relieved, since her husband was improving. The families were visible in the background. The mother and her ill daughter were black; the other couple was mixed-race and the wife was white.
This is so typical of what I saw while I lived in Louisiana; the races live together. They are in the same hospitals, the same colleges, the same coffee shops, and they marry each other. Whether or not they particularly like or trust the other race, they are real people to each other. It's not like that in the northeast where I grew up. All too often, the blacks live off by themselves; they don't have middle class jobs and the races don't encounter each other in the course of living. There is a lot more fear there .
I'm not saying the south has no racism problem; it's just not as cut and dried as northerners think it is. However "white Republican Texans" feel about black southerners, when they help the poorest victims of Katrina, they are helping their own people, and they know it.
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