The only thing that may be more popular than turning the hurricane aftermath into a political event is turning the aftermath into a racist event.
Scores of victims, civil rights leaders and others were making the claims that the response to the city of New Orleans smacked of racism. "If it were white people, Bush would have come quicker," they said.
Anyone who spoke against the rampant looting was immediately decried as a racist. Then it seems they had the evidence to prove their racism charges. Two photos came out around the same time. One photo showed a white couple carrying items in chest deep water with a caption that described them as "finding" supplies. A second photo showed a black man in a similar circumstance, while the caption described him as "looting."
The racism card was played continuously across the blogosphere, but it has largely grown silent at least when it concerns this example and here is why:
Snopes tracks down the back story.
For starters the photos were taken by different photographers for different news organizations, which could automatically lead to different captions depending on the word usage rules of both the AP and the AFP (the two news services responsible for the photos.)
To get even more specific, it turns out the seperate word usage was correct. The photographer who used the word "looting" to describe the black man in the water, actually saw the man in his photograph go into a grocery store and take the things he was photographed carrying.
Jack Stokes, AP’s director of media relations, confirmed today that [photographer Dave] Martin says he witnessed the people in his images looting a grocery store. "He saw the person go into the shop and take the goods," Stokes said, "and that’s why he wrote ‘looting’ in the caption."
It turns out the white couple actual did "find" the items they were shown with.
I wrote the caption about the two people who ‘found’ the items. I believed in my opinion, that they did simply find them, and not ‘looted’ them in the definition of the word. The people were swimming in chest deep water, and there were other people in the water, both white and black. I looked for the best picture. there were a million items floating in the water — we were right near a grocery store that had 5+ feet of water in it. it had no doors. the water was moving, and the stuff was floating away. These people were not ducking into a store and busting down windows to get electronics. They picked up bread and cokes that were floating in the water.
It’s always telling to me to take note of the people that mention and focus on the color of someone’s skin almost exclusively. While those that more often than not ignore skin color are most often charged with racism.
Until someone can establish that Hurricane Katrina was a member of the KKK, I think it would be better to again focus less on these issues and more on actually helping people of all skin colors and regardless of race.