Posted on September 16, 2005

The Racism Charges Won’t Wash

Heather Mac Donald, City Journal, Sept. 14

If the government’s failure to get help instantly to Katrina victims reflects American racism, why have the images of thousands of poor, displaced blacks triggered the greatest outpouring of charity in American history?

As the poisonous racial demagoguery in Katrina’s wake continues unabated, Americans are daily disproving its central claim. Carol Moseley Braun, the scandal-plagued former senator from Illinois, has delivered one of the latest entries in the racism-made-them-not-do-it field. Writing in the International Herald Tribune, Braun compares the government’s Katrina response to anti-black lynching riots during Reconstruction. “Those who survive [Katrina] will have stories no less chilling than the stories passed down the generations from survivors who fled the night riders in the late 1800s”—in other words, New Orleans blacks waiting for evacuation were subjected to malicious massacre by the authorities. To be sure, there was horrific violence in the flood’s aftermath, but it wasn’t perpetrated by public officials or relief workers.

News outlets and pundits the world over—from the Washington Post to Al Jazeera—have gleefully portrayed the Katrina suffering as the product of what Braun calls “America’s original sin—racism.” Yet for racial sinners, Americans are sure behaving strangely. As of September 11, they had donated at least $788 million to Katrina charities, according to the Chronicle of Philanthropy—an unprecedented pace of giving, easily topping the post-9/11 and tsunami giving. “It’s overwhelming,” Sarah Marchetti, a spokeswoman for the Red Cross, told the Chronicle. “People are just pouring their hearts out, and making a donation is an expression of that.” The gifts are coming in from every part of the country, from corporations, radio stations, foundations, churches, blogs, and hospitals.