Web Letters | The Nation

Web Letter

Why dont you write an article about people who did not evacuate who were going through neighborhoods and stealing TVs, electronics, jewelry, not food and water? Going to businesses and stealing drugs. You just see what you want to see. I evacuated and came back to a neighborhood that had many homes broken into. The refrigerator and food was intact. Most people in New Orleans don't listen because we have evacuated so many times that you just don't want to do it anymore. Go back and watch the news from that time. The people they caught on camera running around the city with TVs, and clothes, they were doing that all over the area. Metairie, West Bank, all over. They were not walking around neighborhoods looking for food. The people who were there protecting their area were afraid because they heard about the looting all over the place. Why don't you write about the person that shot at a helicopter that was transporting people to a safe area. Come live here for a few months. You'll own a shotgun in no time.

Lisa Williams

New Orleans, LA

Sep 3 2009 - 8:55pm

Web Letter

That police departments are corrupt is no surprise. That they are racist and profile citizens is common knowledge.

New Orleans has been corrupt for decades, and has been publicly addressed time and time again to no avail. The "Big Blue Wall" is in effect in every state in the US. The FBI is not going to do anything to correct the problem! They will make a good show but, again, the Big Blue Wall pops up like a roadblock on Saturday night down the road from the most popular bar in town! No wonder people are buying and collecting guns!

In Oklahoma, the police regularly confiscate money and guns and never return them to the proper owner! The guns go to the personal collection of policemen. In Stringtown, Oklahoma, the police confiscated $8,000 from a young Mexican couple for no reason other than that they could, and the people were Mexican!

When the couple got back to Chicago, they put all the paperwork together to prove that the money was derived from the sale of property in Mexico. They sent the proper paperwork to the Stringtown Police Department's court clerk, only to be informed that their money had been stolen. Someone took it right out of the Police Department's locked up safe inside the locked-up Police Department!

The District Attorney of the county has been notified only about fifteen or sixteen times. A letter has been sent to the attorney general of Oklahoma more than once. The governer has been notified more than once. The Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigations has been asked to intervene by the mayor of Stringtown on numerous occasions to no avail.

The really tragic and obviously incriminating evidence is that the chief of police remodled his home six months after the fact, spending $7,600.

Some one with just one scintilla of ethics (obviously out of Oklahoma), do something! This type of tyrannical behavior is happening all over Oklahoma with impunity! The local, county, state authorties are all police people! Who will investigate this dastardly act? Who is honest? Certainly not the authorties in Ok. Maybe we should call in the "gendarmerie!"

After all it is the state of Inhoff and Coburn.

W.A. Marley

Stringtown, OK

Aug 18 2009 - 4:12pm

Web Letter

Read this article with interest and must comment as a participant!

This article is a one-sided account of a culmination of too much "laissez les bon temps roulez." The writers of the web letters have not a clue, seeming to base their reality on Anderson Cooper etc. We lived in Gentilly (a white/black area near the lake), evacuated a day earlier and ended up wiped out, losing everything. A few days after Katrina, at a hospital in Houma where we were waiting to see a doctor for a dog bite, the deputy writing the report (all dog bites are reported to law enforcement) said we should be glad we are not back in NO. To quote the deputy, "There's gang-bangers jumping off the roofs slashing the throats of the guys with boats... guys coming to save those people."

Driving to Lafayetter, we were passed by a dozen white extended Ford vans with Arkansas plates. The drivers and passengers looked like SWAT teams heading toward NO.

None of this was reported by CNN or the other media. I shot my own film interviewing people, white and black, who stayed or were living outside of NO. The level of fear and lawlessness cannot easily be imagined by all the do-gooders who came later to write about the aftermath or shoot their films.

There was no way to know what was fact and what was fiction. Newspapers and the radio were supplying information based on reports from reporters... comfortably in their CBD (downtown) hotels.

Police were stealing caddies and driving to Houston, there was a shortage of antibiotics, curfews--even down in Houma. I have friends in Algiers who corroborated much of what was in this story. In the twenty years we've been visiting Algiers, we have not felt threatened--even when driving by the projects. Whites and blacks did deal with each other in a civiized manner.

When one reads reports of what goes on during a war--WWII, for instance--one is not surprised what happened after Katrina. This is not to excuse the racism; these guys had every right to protect their lives and property, white or black. This is what rational men do when society breaks down. Much of the bad that happened is what happens to a society that lives with entitlements and poor education. It is the culmination of the failed social experiments from the '60s. If we want change, and the Obama Nation claims we do, let's get back to personal responsibility for our lives and our actions, hold the politicoes accountable when they steal from the citizens. Develop charter schools that have a responsibility to education an, my pet peeve--call on the celebs to actually do something besides photo ops.

Atlas Brown

Houma, LA

May 17 2009 - 10:47pm

Web Letter

I feel sick after reading about the horrors that have taken place in that town. All I can say is, I hope justice is served, and every one of those men who took it upon themselves to shoot get what they deserve. I don't care if the black men were looting, that doesn't equal death. They just lost all of their possessions, and probably didn't have savings, or much to begin with. Why? Because of our systematic oppression, and the fact they don't get the same rights and opportunities as white people. So God forbid they take food, when they are starving, FEMA is slow to respond, and no one is doing a goddamn thing to help.

Usually tragedies bring people together, and can give people great pride in their country. Clearly, Katrina did nothing but tear us apart and make evident the racism living on in America. It is so sad that this opportunity to help those less fortunate turned into a race war bringing out the ugliest side of the white man.

It is hard to believe this could even happen in 2005... and still today.

And for the letters I read defending that town, shame on you. If you knew it was happening, and did nothing, you're just as guilty, in my mind. Great, I'm so glad your population is 30 percent black... real diverse. I don't care what the percentage is, it's how you treat your neighbors, and act together as a community. It's not just a couple of racist idiots who are guilty, it's the many who turned their heads and allowed it to happen. I can't wait for the day those guilty of these heinous crimes get taken down.

Andrea Kurth

New Berlin, WI

Feb 16 2009 - 12:28pm

Web Letter

I had the pleasure of seeing Katrina vanden Hauvel on the Today show commenting on President Obama's selection of his cabinet. There were a couple of her comments that resonated with me. Change does not take place in a day, and citizens need to reclaim their power. On the Nation website I discovered this article on the hidden race war. I have been delivering diversity training in the corporate (private) and public sectors for over thirty years. I delivered some of the first diversity sessions in the USA with Digital Equipment Corporation. That was before they were popular. I also was involved in the forerunner programs of diversity training called encounter sessions. Those were usually conducted by a social studies college professor or a community activist minister and held in a basement of a church or in the dorm of a campus. You would be invited to participate with a diverse group of community folks. The session would convene on a Friday evening and it would end early Sunday morning. We would emerge from the session battered and bruised but with our awareness of cultural differences significantly increased.

Thus is my view on the hidden race war: It is alive and well but different from that of the past is due to political correctness and social and cultural awareness. The term that I am using in my sessions is shadow racism and shadow ignorance. We as a nation have taken a few meaningful steps forward, but most people (of all races and ethnicities) don't know why or even how it happened. Instead of backing off and giving one another a break, we should increase our push for diversity consciousness. I am calling that societal integrity. Societal integrity will address both of the issues vanden Heuvel discussed on Today, "citizens' need to reclaim their power" and the hidden race war.

As citizens of a social system, each of us has an obligation to do our part to ensure the health, safety and the welfare of the social system. This is a systems-thinking issue, not necessarily a people issue. For too long we have focused on the wrong things--race, gender, age and sexual orientation, to name a few. Not that all of those aren't important, but the issue is bigger.

We are confronted with a societal integrity issue. My interest is to get this program/concept out to as many people as possible, as soon as possible. This is a paradigm shift for both cultural thought and diversity consciousness.

James A. White Sr.

Performance Consulting Services<br />Columbus, OH

Feb 4 2009 - 10:02am

Web Letter

No major American city has ever had a complete and utter breakdown of civil services on this scale. Of course those crimes weren’t going to be prosecuted. How in the hell were the police and the DA office supposed to get that done? There were racist police officers that did not want to take reports? I’m shocked, simply shocked. Of course that would never happen in Chicago, New York or Boston!

Parts of New Orleans culture are endemic with racism. This obviously isn’t excusing criminal, abhorrent, ugly, racial behavior and vigilantism. But it was a total breakdown of civil society. This could just as easily have happened in any major American city, if the demographics and situation were similar to Algiers, in which an uneasy coexistence had been the norm and then everything went to hell when a virtual breakdown of city services ensued.

New Orleans should not be judged by this article.

Paul Ansell

Chicago, IL

Jan 16 2009 - 12:21pm

Web Letter

It is evident that, given the charisma and charm of the new US president, Barack Obama, he will be very popular and we will wish him godspeed and a long and successful presidency in a country unfortunately renowned for its low regard for black citizens and for its awful assassinations. And given the fact that he will be the first American black president, security will be rigid. Given the technical facilities open to them, his bodyguards will no doubt be undergoing special intensive training.

My mind registers concern about the Ku Klux Klan, the secret domestic militant organization that, in the past, has advocated white supremacy, acting as terrorists while hidden behind conical hats, masks and white robes, with a record of lynching to intimidate, murder and oppress specifically African-Americans and Jews

And of course there will be many others who will oppose the change. To what extent does the seed of white supremacy still reign in the US? It is remarkable, given their historic condemnation of the black population, and perhaps a credit to US citizens, that Barack Obama made it to president-elect in the first place, and this must surely reflect a change for the better in that land.

And yet I still shudder to think--given the atrocious neglect of the black communities in New Orleans after the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina--that the resentment is still there.

As much as has been said and documented regarding the treatment of the poor, including pensioners, the disabled, children and the black community, there is much more that has not been publicized. Horrific accounts and pictures of armed guards holding back the evacuating hoards fit into this category. Inaccurate reports of looting, pilfering, rape and crime--giving rise to the use of the guards--when the truth was, there was hardly any crime on that scale, because most were anxious to get the hell out of there.

The sheer lack of consideration for these groups and the initial government failure to respond to the disaster was reported in The Economist as "The shaming of America." Two white paramedics, Bradshaw and Slonsky brought the truth out, telling of their experiences in trying to escape from the flooding in New Orleans across a bridge connecting the mainly black area of New Orleans City to the largely white suburbs.

They were stopped by the National Guard along with the aforementioned groups from the city's primary shelter and another, and when they asked what was the alternative to save themselves, the guards said it was their problem, and even refused to give them water. This was just the start of their numerous encounters with "callous and hostile "law enforcement." In protest, a group formed in front of the police command post--the incentive being to force the police to give way to their requests, fearing the embarrassment of media coverage--and seemingly it worked. The police commander addressed the group, telling them he had arranged for buses to dispatch them from the other side of the New Orleans bridge. With a cheer they quickly marched to the bridge with hope, but soon learned that the commander's statement was a hoax, just to be rid of them. Armed sheriffs formed a line across the foot of the bridge and shot over their heads, sending the crowd fleeing.

Such accounts have been highlighted on the web-based alternative media, accounts that many would like to be kept hidden away from the once largely cosseted American public, but thanks to these and the TV documentary When the Levees Broke, produced in 2006 by the African-American film director Spike Lee, the real truth is out--which proves how many of the hierarchy still put down those least able to help themselves and, yes, the poorer colored communities to boot.

The new president will, given future national emergencies be sure to put this to rights once and for all--that all races and creeds be given equal treatment--but what about the consequences of all that? He is bound to upset many of those, like the Klan members, who still want white supremacy We can only hope and pray all will go smoothly for him.

Today, it is estimated there may be more than 150 Klan chapters with 5,000-8,000 members nationwide. The US government classifies them as hate groups, with operations in separated small local units.

But it is a relief to hear the White Christian Supremacist group has endorsed Barack Obama to be the next President of the United States of America. In Kentucky, Imperial Wizard Ronald Edwards has stated that "anything is better than that 'crazy ass bitch' Hillary Clinton." This is the first time in Klan history that any member of the KKK has ever publicly supported an African- American candidate for the presidency.

But I can't help thinking how it is, given record of their staunch hatred towards black Americans, have they really changed?

peter carroll

Paignton, Devon, England

Jan 12 2009 - 8:30am

Web Letter

The ordeal described in "Katrina's Hidden Race War" is horrifying. I am so sad and angry that this happened to Donnell Herrington and I hope your piece launches an investigation. That is what it was written to do, I assume.

I am a resident of Algiers Point, and while I identify with your activist impulses, I am upset by the inaccuracies, subjective statements and wide-sweeping generalizations you make about my neighborhood. I hope that your readers detect those aspects of the article.

To call Algiers Point a "white enclave" as Lance Hill did is irresponsible and inaccurate. Just as it is of you to describe Malik Rahim as "one of a handful of African-Americans who live in Algiers Point." According to 2000 U.S. Census data (focusing on all of Census Tract 1, Orleans Parish, Louisiana, plus Census Tract 4, Orleans Parish, Louisiana: blocks 1004, 1022, 1020, 1019, 1017, 1002, 1016, 1021, 1005, 1015, 1023) nearly 30 percent of residents in historical Algiers Point are African-American. I would proudly compare the diversity of my neighborhood to other neighborhoods in America.

It would be more accurate for you to say there are a handful of idiots and racists living in Algiers Point.

I wonder what number of white people did Lance Hill psychologically profile to determine a widespread "siege mentality"? Those numbers, like census numbers, would have demonstrated something concrete to your readers.

Finally, Mr. Thomas, any time a journalist uses the phrase "could have," it signifies a departure from impartial journalism, such as at this moment: "Facing an influx of refugees, the residents of Algiers Point could have pulled together food, water and medical supplies for the flood victims."

How many of the approximately 1,250 households in Algiers Point remained behind to do good deeds, or for that matter, to participate in these vigilante militias? You could have canvassed to find out. There was a mandatory evacuation, and many good, able people had followed it. And while we are talking about "could haves," and should haves and would haves, God Almighty, is there anything any of us across America would not have done differently? What a tragedy, all around.

Kathryn Hobgood

New Orleans, LA

Dec 24 2008 - 11:26am

Web Letter

Once again the darker-colored members of our country have been abused and murdered and no one will be brought to justice. The only reason no one responding to this article calls any claims complete lies in our history. America has a history of abusing its "ethnic" members. Americans are knowledgeable of the fact that ethnic members of society have suffered and continue to suffer since this country gained its independence. The battle for equality is constant and unending. It is a battle to find justice for those abused by the racist members of our country. Racism is an American tradition. In the South it is an unspoken understanding of people keeping within their boundaries or suffering for stepping out of line. My grandfather used to sing a song called "Jump Back and Let the White Man Pass"! He had to carry guns and a change of clothes in his trunk just in case the white people in town began to attack African-Americans, for whatever the reason may have been at that time. America needs to understand that its "ethnic" members understand and are not confused about the racism they face daily. African-Americans are not surprised at the abuse brought against them time and time again in American history. What would be a surprise would be for someone to bring those who committed these crimes to justice and make that the beginning of a true effort to treat each other equally instead of continuing down this road of abuse and oppression.

seward k. rogne jr.

Miami, FL

Dec 23 2008 - 9:01am

Web Letter

While A.C. Thompson's reporting on the topic of Fortress Algiers is sound, for those of us who live in New Orleans it is not surprising. For months after the storm, the race war tales were wide spread, common knowledge and of the type that no one needed to investigate, because we all assumed they were true. Our fellow citizens committed murders, many murders, after the hurricane. Also, our police, various other government agencies and, I'm willing to bet, several visitors as well.

Above the entrance to the Orleans Parish courthouse is written: "We are a nation of laws, not of men." It is important for readers to understand how deeply order had collapsed in New Orleans in 2005, and how deeply racial distrust affects our citizens. I admire the call for justice, but justice is an extension of civil society, and can only be supported by government. After Katrina made landfall, government collapsed and citizens were left to fend for themselves. That many of these citizens are deeply racist is not surprising. We live in a deeply racist city: though we co-mingle, the city remains deeply divided. Our population is the most violent, most murderous in the nation. Our public institutions are among the nation's worst. Since the storm, one police chief resigned, his assistant blew his brains out, the DA & the FBI chief have been forced to resign, a judge has been removed, our Congressman was indicted, and the list goes on...

The population of Orleans parish was contained by authorities from neighboring Jefferson Parish during the post-K days. The city of Gretna saw a real danger and illegally stopped (and fired "warning" shots at) our citizens attempting to flee. Other exits were blocked as well. On the North Shore, many very regular suburbanites were locked and loaded, ready to turn back our teeming hordes. In Baton Rouge, Lafayette, Alexandria and Shreveport the gun-store parking lots were packed for weeks. Why? Because all our fellow Louisianians were scared shitless.

In the absence of central authority, feigning astonishment at guerilla-justice atrocities seems a bit half-assed. Horrible, horrible things happened in New Orleans (and not just in Algiers Point; murders occurred Uptown, in the East, Gentilly, all over the place). More importantly, murders continue to occur all over the place. We are a murder city, and pressing for justice for the Katrina-era murder victims, while noble, ignores the reality that we live in every day.

We have endured a great many atrocities in post-Katrina New Orleans, few of which have been resolved. That people in Algiers murdered fellow New Orleanians is, unfortunately, old news. But this is what happens in colonial cities when the government collapses: ethnic groupings and clans fill the void. The actions of any vigilantism must be viewed in the absence of any governmental order, which is the responsibility of the State.

The truth and reconciliation commission on Katrina's report is in: the process of gentrification continues unabated. Huge amounts of the city's black underclass (and, unfortunately, middle class as well) have been forcibly relocated, in part in order to dilute the same racial tensions that erupted in post-K New Orleans. But quasi-sanctioned militias presage state-sponsored ethnic cleansing all over the world, all the time. This is the reality of our progress; "The Battle of Algiers" occurred in a failed state and is in the past; over 175 people have been murdered this year, three years after the failed state, in a city half its pre-K size.

J. Lofstead

New Orleans, LA

Dec 22 2008 - 9:50am