Thursday, September 01, 2005

The tragedy that continues to unfold in New Orleans has left me completely gobsmacked. I know I shouldn't be surprised but I still just can't believe it: the poor, the weak, and old of New Orleans were left behind to die. Looting is now considered a more important concern for the police of New Orleans than search and rescue. There are thousands and thousands of stressed and scared people who will go another day without clean water or food in an increasingly violent environment. And for another day, there's been no help for them.

I spent the last couple nights reading the latest issue of Harper's (Sept. 2005) and one particular article within it has put the whole Katrina crisis in a larger and more uncomfortable context for me. The article is called "Still Separate, Still Unequal: America's educational apartheid" by Jonathan Kozl. While the piece deals with the appalling conditions of urban schools in America, this particular passage keeps resonating with me while I take in the continuing coverage of the hurricane's aftermath:

"High school students whom I talk with in deeply segregated neighborhoods and public schools seem far less circumspect than their elders and far more open in their willingness to confront these issues. "It's more like being hidden," said a fifteen-year-old girl named Isabel I met some years ago in Harlem, in attempting to explain to me the ways in which she and her classmates understood the racial segregation of their neighbourhoods and schools...

I asked her if she thought America truely did not "have room" for her and other children of her race. "Think of it this way", said a sixteen-year-old girl sitting beside her. "If the people in New York woke up one day and learned that we were gone, that we had simply died or left for somewhere else, how would they feel?"

"How do you think they'd feel" I asked.

"I think they'd be relieved," this very solemn girl replied."

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