Hurricane Katrina was the largest catastrophic natural disaster in United States history, and although it helped unite Americans in support of the victims, the media instantaneously turned this into a race issue as well. New Orleans is predominately black. Hence, those affected by the disaster were predominately black. There is no question that the local, state, and federal government’s response was poor, and they were obviously unprepared. The issue soon became that the conservative federal government was discriminating against blacks because they had a slow response. They argued if it were whites stranded, the federal government response would have been prompt with their recovery efforts. There is plenty of blame to go around, and the liberal local and state governments did much less than the federal government to help. The only thing that could make such a devastating catastrophe worse was to turn it into a black and white issue. It turned an already terrible situation into a worse situation. The media and the local, state, and federal governments played the blame game and polarized our country instead of trying to unite us. All levels of government failed, regardless of the color of a person’s skin. The Katrina problem arose from a set of coincidences that turned into the worst possible scenario. First, one of the strongest hurricanes hit U.S. soil; secondly, it hit a very large populated city; third, the city it hit had an average elevation that is under sea level; fourth, it hit a predominately black city. It took all of these coincidences to turn this tragedy into a race issue. This is a natural disaster. The government did not premeditate a local disaster in New Orleans to conspire to wipe out its black population. Two days prior, there was evidence that Katrina could hit New Orleans, and the results could be devastating. In fact, Bush had already declared New Orleans and the state of Louisiana a disaster area. Never in American history had a President declared a disaster area before one actually occurred. Therefore, this should have been the fastest federal response, but it was not. Instead, it demonstrated the flaws of the Homeland Security department. While all levels of the government were slow to put together a recovery plan, many citizens ignored mandatory evacuation. This does not sound like the government is one hundred percent to blame, since citizens did not listen to the warnings to evacuate. The government response would not have been better if New Orleans were a predominately white city, but it would not have made for as big a news story without the race spin. It would not have been as big a news story because race would have been eliminated from the equation. If the same number of whites failed to heed to the warnings to evacuate, Katrina would not have been a big news story. Race and perceived racism is what made Katrina a big story.
The most alarming issue about hurricane Katrina was why all those citizens remained when there was an evacuation warning. Hundreds of buses were left behind in Katrina’s wake that could have been used to evacuate people. The liberal local government failed to put together an evacuation plan, and so they should hold the highest responsibility for the poor response. It is their responsibility to be ready for a hurricane and have an evacuation plan. New Orleans has been hit by hurricanes in the past, so it was not a mystery that it would happen again.
The second alarming issue is how helpless the stranded were. They did absolutely nothing to help themselves. Anyone who lives or moves to an area of the United States should understand the risks of natural disasters happening in that area. I lived in Texas, and tornados are the biggest threat. If a tornado were to threaten my neighborhood, I already know what I would do to help mitigate the risk of being killed. A person that moves to California should be aware of what to do in an earthquake and so on. Ignorance is not an excuse for being helpless. Hurricanes should be the safest natural disasters because they generally have warnings several days in advance, while that is not true for tornados or earthquakes which can happen in a split second with very little warning. However, if you know a massive storm is coming, and no risk mitigation or survival plans have been formulated, the results can be deadly. The stranded victims from Katrina showed absolutely no survival skills. Baton Rouge and other cities are within fifty miles, and most people can walk that in under sixteen hours. The bottom line is that the stranded victims expected to be rescued and bailed out by the government. It makes sense because these people are the same people that rely on government welfare and other social programs for their survival. When our government policies promote laziness and the inability to exercise one’s brain, nobody should be surprised by the lack of ingenuity displayed by the stranded victims to help himself or herself. It is ironic that an argument can be made how government social programs helped fuel the Katrina race issue.
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