Thursday, May 15, 2008

Human Rights in New Orleans -- Post-Katrina


As anyone who reads our blog knows, we love our blogs (all three of them!) -- and the whole premise of social marketing. Why? Because of the honest exchange of ideas and deep conversations that can occur through this medium.

Well, in case you're wondering about the topic of our post today, BlogCatalog is sponsoring a Blogger's Unite initiative today, May 15th. The purpose? Quite simply to use the power and passion of the blogging community to call attention to something more important than how to acquire your next customer or create your next e-marketing campaign -- Human Rights.

Today, as you're perusing your favorite blogs, you'll see a virtual plethora of posts about Human Rights globally. We've chosen to post on a city that is near and dear to our hearts -- New Orleans -- who suffered a great catastrophe in 2005. What we want to call attention to today, is that although Hurricane Katrina happened almost 3 years ago, New Orleans has not yet recovered. And, what happened there and continues even today, was blatant disregard for basic Human rights after an unbelievable natural disaster.

We all saw the devastation on television when Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast. To refresh your memory, Wikipedia provides the facts:
Hurricane Katrina was the costliest and one of the five deadliest in the history of the United States. It was the sixth-strongest ever recorded and the third-strongest hurricane on record that made landfall in the United States. Katrina formed on during the 2005 Atlantic hurricane season and caused devastation along much of the north-central Gulf Coast. The most severe loss of life and property damage occurred in New Orleans Louisiana, which flooded as the levee system catastrophically failed, in many cases hours after the storm had moved inland.
The aftermath was simply astounding -- and sickening. As a country, we weren't prepared and didn't react quickly enough to save many -- 1,464 people lost their lives. And, as we look back on the tragedy of Katrina almost three years later, it is a good example of how Human Rights in our own country were alarmingly overlooked.

In preparing to write this post, I came across NESRI -- the National Economic and Social Rights Initiative. According to their site, NESRI "promotes a human rights vision for the United States that ensures dignity and access to the basic resources needed for human development and civic participation."

Their view is that in the aftermath of Katrina, what occurred is a microcosm of the state of Human Rights here in the US. And, worse still, the issue is very clear that human rights violations occur much more frequently to Blacks (and other people of color) than Whites. When you look at the aftermath of Katrina and read what actually occurred -- where the poor and elderly did not or could not leave the city even after the evacuation notices, this disturbing message is corroborated.

On the news, we saw the looting and rioting that went on in the city -- pitting police against citizens. Then -- shockingly -- we saw the horrific images of the "displaced and dehydrated survivors who attempted to escape from New Orleans by walking over the Crescent City Connection bridge over the Mississippi River only to be turned back at gunpoint by City of Gretna Police, along with Crescent City Connection Police and Jefferson Parish Sheriff's deputies, who set up a roadblock on the bridge in the days following the hurricane. According to eyewitnesses, some of these officers threatened to shoot New Orleans residents and tourists as they attempted to cross into Gretna on foot."

As NESRI reports, these sorts of human rights violations would never have occurred to the White and wealthy. In fact,when reading the article from NESRI on the aftermath, this point is driven home:
Those left behind to die without food and water in New Orleans were the poorest households without access to transportation and primarily Black. The general public’s initial reaction was that no one deserved to be left in those circumstances, and for a brief moment a conversation about race and poverty in the U.S. appeared to be evolving. Yet, those not being welcomed back, as public schools remained closed and undamaged public housing units are not being made available, are also the poorest and primarily Black. As the reconstruction conversation moves on, the same community is being left behind once again, but this time there are no stark and painful images to prick the conscience of America.
So on this day of reflection about Human Rights, let's not forget about our neighbors here in the US. Let's reflect on what we want -- and need to demand -- our politicians focus on as priorities as this election looms closer. We need to have the honest conversation about Human Rights in this country and how it is impacted by race. We need to be unafraid to discuss this -- and finally solve this problem. What happened and is happening in New Orleans is absolutely unacceptable from such a powerful nation. We need to live up to and practice the basic tenets of our constitution, and provide the same basic human rights to each and every one of our citizens -- regardless of race or how much money a person has. I fully believe that it is up to each and every citizen of the US to accomplish this.

And, let's not let what happened in New Orleans EVER happen again.

1 comment:

winner said...
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