Katrina: Democracy Now!’s Annual Blaxploitation
By: Bob Parks
I am not a glutton for punishment. I watch portions of Free Speech TV’s Democracy Now! because it’s a part of my daily employment duties. You know, make sure it properly airs so the local libs don’t go off in a conspiracy theory tirade. They know I work where I work, and are always suspicious I may be up to some funny business.
But as a Black man, I am also disgusted on an almost daily basis by the parade of Black victims trotted out by hostess Amy Goodman. It’s as if she considers herself this Great White Hope; the only chance these poor people have to get the justice only her show’s exposure can assure. She is their lone, caring voice in this insensitive, corporate, racist world we live in.
During the August 30th episodic, Miss Amy was in New Orleans commemorating the second anniversary of the disaster that was Hurricane Katrina. Goodman was, of course, reporting from the hood.
AMY GOODMAN: Iâ€™m here in the Lower Ninth Ward. Behind me is the Industrial Canal levee that broke two years ago between Lake Pontchartrain and the Mississippi River. At 9:38 a.m. local time on Wednesday, a moment of silence was held across New Orleans to mark the moment the levees were breached two years ago.
Hurricane Katrina flooded about 80% of New Orleans and killed well over 1,600 people, displacing another one-and-a-half million people from the Gulf Coast. Only two-thirds of the regionâ€™s population has returned home.
Few areas in New Orleans were as hard hit by Hurricane Katrina as the Lower Ninth Ward, where weâ€™re broadcasting from today. This predominantly African American working-class neighborhood remains largely in ruins two years later.
Of course, Amy Goodman would never ask Mayor Ray Nagin why the Lower Ninth Ward is still a mess. A disaster of that magnitude was something no one could really imagine happening. One could never blame someone for not evacuating an entire city. Such has never really happened before.
Well, I guess you could blame President Bush, and many on her show have in the two years since.
Goodman then replayed her broadcast of two years ago where she interviewed Malik Rahim, cofounder of the Common Ground Collective.
AMY GOODMAN: As our video cameras followed him, Malik showed us how corpses still remained in the street.
MALIK RAHIM: Now, his body been here for almost two weeks. Two weeks tomorrow, alright, that this man’s body been laying here. And there’s no reason for it. Look where we at. I mean, it’s not flooded. There’s no reason for them to be â€“ left that body right here like this. I mean, thatâ€™s just totally disrespect. You know? And, I mean, two weeks. Every day, we ask them about coming and pick it up. And they refuse to come and pick it up. And you could see, it’s literally decomposing right here,
right out in the sun. Every day we sit up and we ask them about it, because, I mean, this is close as you could get to tropical climate in America. And they won’t do anything with it.
AMY GOODMAN: Malik, do you know who this person is?
MALIK RAHIM: No. But regardless of who it is, I wouldn’t care if it’s Saddam Hussein or bin Laden, nobody deserve to be left here. And the kids pass by here, and theyâ€™re seeing it. I mean, the elderly, this is whatâ€™s frightening a lot of people into leaving. We don’t know if he’s a victim of vigilantes or what. But that’s all we know is that his body had been allowed to remain out here for over two weeks.
I remember watching that broadcast. Goodman asked those who passed by if they were going to pick up that body and give him the dignity he deserved. Amidst the chaos that was the Katrina aftermath, every law enforcement, city, and military person Goodman asked didn’t know what to do with this body, or who was responsible for the pick up.
She ultimately blamed the lack of common human decency on the military.
But in the end, not even Amy Goodman would offer that body the dignity he deserved. Amy Goodman left that body floating in the street as well.
Had SHE have picked that body up and brought it to the authorities, it surely would have made for good television and may have garnered her some humanitarian award down the road. But in the end, giving a Black person dignity was something she couldn’t find it within herself to do.
On a brief side note, many on Democracy Now! since the hurricane have repeated their assertion that the Bush Administration did virtually nothing to help get the people out of New Orleans before Katrina hit. Many of us have responded by reminding them that such an evacuation was the call of state and local officials.
According to the New York Times’ Tuesday, August 28th edition, “Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco was summoned to a courtroom on Tuesday to testify in a homicide case over Hurricane Katrinaâ€™s single biggest loss of life, and she refused to take blame for the deaths of 35 patients who drowned at a nursing home.”
“The largest target in that strategy was Ms. Blanco. Rock-bottom in public opinion polls partly because of her handling of the hurricane disaster effort, the governor, a Democrat, announced months ago that she would not seek re-election this year.
â€œYou, Governor, never issued an order of mandatory evacuation,â€ a lawyer for the Manganos, John Reed, said.
“Suggesting, as she did all morning, that local officials were properly at the forefront, Ms. Blanco responded, â€œI did not issue that order, because all of the local governments were deeply engaged in getting people out and helping them to evacuate.â€
â€œDid you have the authority to order a mandatory evacuation at 9 oâ€™clock on Saturday?â€ some 30 hours before the storm hit, another lawyer, James Cobb, asked.
â€œItâ€™s not exactly â€” the procedures that behave that way,â€ Ms. Blanco said. â€˜â€˜The governor allows local officials to do that, because local citizens follow local officials.â€
So, it wasn’t the Bush Administration’s responsibility to get the people of New Orleans to higher ground. It was Blanco’s and Mayor Ray Nagin’s job, and they both dropped the ball and blamed Bush. Something Democracy Now! has since failed to report.
Later, Goodman had on Nat LaCour, secretary-treasurer of the American Federation of Teachersâ€¦.
AMY GOODMAN: How is it for you to be here in the Lower Ninth Ward?
NAT LaCOUR: Itâ€™s really depressing. Obviously, we are dissatisfied with the rate of progress in rebuilding the city. And, of course, the Lower Ninth Ward was the hardest hit.
AMY GOODMAN: Talk about the situation with the teachers. I don’t think most people in this country understand the hurricane that swept through the schools after the natural hurricane.
NAT LaCOUR: Well, that is correct. Itâ€™s not Katrina that did the damage. Itâ€™s many of the elected officials in this state and in this local community, that on the heels of the storm they terminated almost all of the school employees â€” and so, it wasn’t just teachers â€” teachers, paraprofessionals, cooks, bus drivers, principals. They fired 7,500 people. Now, the tragedy of â€”
AMY GOODMAN: They fired everyone?
NAT LaCOUR: Yes. The tragedy of that is that many of these individuals had been impacted by the storm, lost their property, only to discover that there were people who were conspiring to take their jobs. And when you took their job, you also took their insurance. Even for the people who were retired and was participating in the local healthcare plan, the premiums went up so much â€” they tripled â€” that many people had to drop their insurance, even if they were staying here. So you had a really
bad situation, not well thought out, but people attempting to seize the opportunity to create charter schools and to take control of the school system.
Of course, we all know the success that is the public school system, especially in the Black community. Also, as a frequent consumer of Democracy Now!, it’s apparent that The Man has forced out these teachers in an attempt to screw young Black children out of the meaningful education they previously received.
This smacks of racism and Amy Goodman is on the case.
However, it would appear that many are not so enraged by this change. In a Tuesday, August 28th column in BlackAmericaWeb.com, there may be a problem with Mr. LaCour’s claim that “all” the teachers have been fired.
Reopened MLK Charter School a Guidepost for New Orleansâ€™ Post-Katrina Education Model
Date: Tuesday, August 28, 2007
By: Sherrel Wheeler Stewart and Michelle J. Nealy, BlackAmericaWeb.com
Standing firmly amid the Lower Ninth Wardâ€™s abandoned lots, vacant homes and shuddered buildings, lies an oasis of hope for a community still largely in exile.
At the corner of Caffin and North Claiborne Streets, sits the newly renovated Martin Luther King, Jr. Charter School for Science and Technology, the first school in the Lower Ninth Ward to reopen.
According to recent reports, less than 60 percent of the Lower Ninthâ€™s pre-Katrina population has returned to the neighborhood. However, 70 percent of Kingâ€™s students and 90 percent of the staff have returned.
Two years after the Aug. 29, 2005 storm, the school is open once again, with a spruced-up name, brightly painted columns and shiny floors. King students, parents and teachers recently celebrated the schoolâ€™s fresh, new facilities and brand new equipment, a stark contrast from the 10 feet of water that engulfed the school two years before.
I could be wrong, but “everyone” would include teachers.
Charter schools have a far better reputation of teaching children than do traditional public schools. IF kids learn and the word gets out, could this reduce any kind of leverage LaCour’s teachers union has in the future? Probably. How do you counter this? Go on a willing Amy Goodman program and imply racism.
That’s what Amy Goodman is good at.
Exploiting Black people for partisan, liberal advantage. Amy Goodman is an exception to the rulers. Some may believe she means well. I’m not one of them. Democracy Now! packages itself as a “news” program that exposes injustice where the corporate media will not. Democracy Now! exploits anyone, especially minorities, and those who live and breathe by each word that comes out of Goodman’s mouth are no better than her.
Instead of bringing on Black people (outside of tenured, liberal academics) who can share the recipe for success in America, Amy Goodman and Democracy Now! will annually exploit the death and misery that was the Katrina aftermath to use propaganda in an attempt to secure power for people who ultimately keep Blacks thinking they’re victims.
I’m not saying Goodman is a racist, but if a conservative were exploiting Black people in the same manner, what would Democracy Now! be calling that conservativeâ€¦?
New Media Alliance Television (www.nmatv.com)
Bob Parks is a staff writer for the New Media Alliance, Inc. (www.thenma.org). The New Media Alliance is a non-profit (501c3) national coalition of writers, journalists and grass-roots media outlets.