The environmental and human devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina was immense. In the storm's aftermath, many critics of George W. Bush reflexively charged that the President's administration was slow to mobilize rescue efforts for Gulf-area residents who had been rendered homeless by the flood waters. These critics attributed that lack of haste, in large measure, to racism, alleging that the federal government was unconcerned about the victims because they were disproportionately black.
Congressional Black Caucus member Elijah Cummings (D-Maryland) stated: “We cannot allow it to be said that the difference between those who lived and those who died in this great storm and flood of 2005 was nothing more than poverty, age or skin color.... To the president of the United States, I simply say that God cannot be pleased with our response.”
Popular rap singer Kanye West charged that “George Bush does not care about black people.” The federal government, West added, had “given [National Guardsmen] permission to go down and shoot us [blacks].”
Professor Cornel West agreed: “When Kanye West said the President does not care about black people, he was right.”
Jesse Jackson lamented that post-Katrina New Orleans, with so many black victims stranded amid the flood waters, looked like “the hull of a slave ship.” After meeting with Louisiana officials, Jackson said, “Many black people feel that their race, their property conditions and their voting patterns have been a factor in the response.” Jackson also asserted that in America, “there is a historical indifference to the pain of poor people, and black people.”
CBS Sunday Morning contributor Nancy Giles said: “If the majority of the hardest-hit victims of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans were white people, they would not have gone for days without food and water, forcing many to steal for mere survival. Their bodies would not have been left to float in putrid water.... We’ve repeatedly given tax cuts to the wealthiest and left our most vulnerable American citizens to basically fend for themselves.... The President has put himself at risk by visiting the troops in Iraq, but didn’t venture anywhere near the Superdome or the convention center, where thousands of victims, mostly black and poor, needed to see that he gave a damn.”
On Access Hollywood, actor Colin Farrell said: “If it was a bunch on white people on roofs in the Hamptons, I don’t have any f---ing doubt there would have been every single helicopter, every plane, every single means that the government has to help these people.”
Democratic Congressman Charles Rangel of New York told cheering Congressional Black Caucus conventioneers on September 22: “George Bush is our Bull Connor [a reference to Alabama’s former segregationist police commissioner who had notoriously used attacks dogs and fire hoses to disrupt civil rights marches in 1963]. If you’re black in this country, and you’re poor in this country, it’s not an inconvenience. It’s a death sentence.”
“This is worse than Bull Connor,” said Rep. Major Owens (D-New York) in a similar vein. “Bull Connor didn’t even pretend that he cared about African Americans. You have to give it [credit] to George Bush for being even more diabolical.”
New York City Councilman Charles Barron, a former Black Panther, agreed: “George Bush is worse” than Bull Connor “because he has more power and he’s more destructive to our people than Bull Connor will ever be.... A KKK without power is not as bad as a George Bush with power.”
Al Sharpton said, “If there is a person that is a symbol that many blacks organize around and organize against in this generation, it would be Bush.” “We’ve gone from fire hoses to levees,” he added.
Randall Robinson, an architect of the anti-apartheid movement of the 1980s and a proponent of reparations for slavery, wrote: “It is reported that black hurricane victims in New Orleans have begun eating corpses to survive. Four days after the storm, thousands of blacks in New Orleans are dying like dogs. No-one has come to help them. I am a sixty-four year old African-American. New Orleans marks the end of the America I strove for. I am hopeless. I am sad. I am angry against my country for doing nothing when it mattered.... [I] have finally come to see my country for what it really is. A monstrous fraud.”
Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan reported that “a very reliable source” had told him that “a 25-foot-deep crater under the levee breach” indicated that the levee “may have been blown up to destroy the black part of town and keep the white part dry.”
Film director Spike Lee did not disagree: “If they can rig an election, they can do anything!”
Rep. Cynthia McKinney (D-Georgia) said: “As I saw the African-Americans, mostly African-American families ripped apart, I could only think about slavery, families ripped apart, herded into what looked like concentration camps.
In an official press release, racial separatist Malik Zulu Shabazz, head of the New Black Panther Party, described New Orleans as a city where “[w]holesale police brutality is being waged against the victims of this natural disaster,” and where “[t]he police ... are using tactics to provoke attacks by Black residents as to substantiate their reasons of opening fire on groups of black males randomly and indiscriminately.” According to Shabazz, “this is more of a racist occupation of subjugation rather than a relief effort” – part and parcel of an arrangement designed “to keep non-white people in state of subjugation on all levels and they are viewed as expendable in order to protect the interest of the system.”
A few months after Katrina — at the February 2006 funeral of Coretta Scott King — former President Jimmy Carter said: “We only have to recall the color of the faces of those in Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi, those who were most devastated by Katrina, to know that there are not yet equal opportunities for all Americans.”
Notwithstanding the many claims that blacks had been hit hardest by Katrina, in fact it was whites who were disproportionately affected by the disaster. Four of the five parishes worst hit by flooding in New Orleans -- Jefferson, Plaquemines, St. Bernard, and St. Tammany -- were majority-white (with whites accounting for aywhere from 67% to 88% of the respective populations). Of the five, only Orleans Parish was majority-black (67%). In Mississippi, the three counties that were hardest hit — Hancock, Harrison, and Jackson – were among the whitest counties in the state. While the population of Mississippi as a whole was 36 percent black and just over 60 percent white, the cumulative population of these three particular counties was 80 percent white.
With regard to deaths caused by Katrina, Michelle Malkin reports:
"According to vital statistics released just months after the storm by the primary morgue that processed the bodies of the deceased, 48 percent of those who died in the natural disaster were black, 41 percent were white, with another 8 percent unknown and 2 percent Hispanic. Little-noted follow-up analysis confirmed those preliminary results and also debunked the myth that the poor were disproportionately affected by the storm."