Dismayed by the Economist today

Saturday, September 17, 2005
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.

5 comments:

Rick Ballard said...

I have a son living near Columbus, GA whom I visit occasionally. While I cannot deny that racism exists in the South, I have noticed that blacks and whites are, as you note, much more comfortable around each other than they are in say, Oakland, CA. Separation in Columbus is much more along economic lines than race. The cost of the pathologies exhibited by the dependent class are such that the dependent to be segregated even in a relatively small city such as Columbus. I tend to think that anyone - black or white - would enjoy life a bit more in Columbus than in Oakland. Except for the damned humidity, of course.

It's sad to see the Economist adopt the MSM meme for a day form of reporting. I stopped subscribing in about '95 due to the drift toward non objective BBC type reporting on political and cultural issues.

I hope some TX sociologist gets a grant for a longitudinal study of those who choose to remain versus those who return to NO. There are reports that as many as 40% of those who left LA have no intention of going back. I wonder how the Economist would report that, if true. "Texans Refuse to Permit Blacks to Return Home" would be the headline, I imagine.

SneakyFeet said...

I've loved the Economist for years. I thought it had gone downhill in recent years, esp in the science and technology department, and tried unsubscribing, but I missed it and so we signed up again.

But this last article about the "Shame of America" looks like it was written by a Martian. It's as though, I don't know, Newsweek took over the place and is holding the real Economist staff hostage in the office.

David Thomson said...

“I'm not saying the south has no racism problem; it's just not as cut and dried as northerners think it is.”

I live in Houston and can adamantly assert that we have less racial tensions to deal with than Detroit, the hometown of my youth. Thankfully, we do not have any major Democratic race hustlers who deliberately encourage blacks to “get back at whitey.” The Al Sharptons and Jesse Jacksons seem to be a blue state phenomenon. White racism is virtually nonexistent. I cannot remember the last time that I’ve witnessed such behavior. The Economist view of Texans is at least thirty years out of date. There is no excuse for this sort of stupidity. The editors should be ashamed of themselves.

Knucklehead said...

The idea that problems or issues are "cut and dried" is a common theme among the elitists who comment about such things. Racism is just one example. Poverty is another. I call it Root Cause Syndrome.

In their moments of most complex thought they will, of course, find links between things. There is some link between racism and poverty for example, but yet fail to see that some portion of "racism" is, perhaps, more properly identified as negative attitudes about "poor people".

But eliminating racism will not eliminate poverty any more than eliminating poverty will eliminate racism.

David Thomson said...

The Ku Klux Klan is not the most effective racist organization in the United States. Unintentionally, that honor belongs to the Democratic Party. Its members will not admit this to themselves, but it is in their interest to encourage racial hostility. The Democrats rely on the black vote, and to keep this voting bloc loyal they encourage Afro-Americans to embrace a sense of entitlement and victimhood. You show me an area of the country where racial tensions are high---and almost certainly the Democrats will dominate the political agenda. Republicans will be vastly outnumbered and marginalized.