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Sexton.the Obscurity of Black Suffering

Sexton.the Obscurity of Black Suffering

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Published by: jamesbliss0 on Aug 01, 2012
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06/30/2014

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"WhatLiesBeneath
isabookthatwillkeepalivethememoryofoneofthemostdramaticandterribleeventsofthenewmillenium-thecatastropheoftheKatrinahurricane,anditsaftermath.Thewriterscomeattheeventfrommanydifferentvantagepoints,buttheyallprobedeeplyintothosefatefulweeks,pointingustothelargersignificanceofthedisasterandthereactionstoit.Atthecenterofthestoryaretheunavoidableissuesofrace,class,andtheshamefulcallousnessofofficialdom.Thisbookwillkeepusthinkingforalongtimeaboutwhathappened,whyithappened,andprovokeustoexaminehonestlythenatureofthesocietyinwhichwelive."
-howard
zlnn,
APeople'sHistory
of
theUnitedStates
"ThesufferingthatcontinuesintheaftermathofHurricaneKatrinaisnotaccidental.
It
resultsfromyearsofintentional,plannedwrongdoingcommittedbypowerfuleconomicandpoliticalinterests.Futurehuman-madedisasterswillonlybepreventedifthepropheticvoicespresentedin
WhatLiesBeneath
areheeded."
-margaretkimberley,
FreedomRiderblog
WHATLIESBENEATH
Katrina,Race,andtheStateoftheNation
EDITEDBYTHESOUTHENDPRESSCOLLECTIVE
"Weneverknowenoughaboutourenemies.That'swhytheydosowell.KatrinawasacoverandanexposerofBushFascism.Thisbookhelpsusunderstandthis.Understandordie!"
-amiribaraka,
Tales
of
theOut
&
theGone
southendpresscambridge,massachusetts
cO::>
1
"Thisvolumeiswide-ranginginstyleasitnarrowsinonitssubject-thetruthaboutraceintheUnitedStatesthatisrevealedintheeventsaroundHurricaneKatrina.Thecombinationofon-the-groundreportingandanalysisplacingeventsinthewidercontexthelpsreadersuntanglethewayinwhichrace,gender,andclassaffectedtheoutcomeofthatmostunnaturaldisaster.Thebookbristleswiththeangerweallshouldfeel,andoffersthecriticalself-reflectionweallshouldengagein.
-robertjensen,
theHeartofWbiteness
 
upfromthedepths
southendpresscollective
theobscurityofblacksuffering
jaredsexton
themeaningof"disaster"underthedominanceofwhitelife
dylanrodriguez
afterword:politicalliteracyandvoice
joyjames
onrefugeandlanguage
suhelr
hammad
indexacknowledgmentsaboutthe
contributors
aboutthe
people'shurricanerelieffundandoversightcommittee
about
southendpress
preface
182
"Inallthesestruggleswemustbeassertiveandchallenging,combating
the
deep-seatedtendencyinAmericanstobeliberal,thatis,toevadestrugglingoverquestionsofprincipleforfearofcreatingtensionsorbecomingunpopular,Insteadwemustlivebythefundamentaldialecticalprinciple:thatprogresscomesonlyfromstrugglingtoresolvecontradictions."
-anonymously-authoredfeministpampblet,
{1976}.
Quotedin
Ain'tIaWoman,
bellhooks(1981)
I
nAugust2005,thousandsofNewOrleansandotherUSGulfregionresidents-overwhelminglypoor,overwhelminglypeopleofcolor,themajorityblack-wereleftontheirowntofaceoneoftheworst"natural"disastersinUShistory.AsKatrina'swatersrecededandthebodycountsoared,anuglytruth(relsurfaced:thelivesofthosewhoarepoor,whoarevulnerable,andwhoarenotwhitearenotvaluedbytheUSgovernment.Andso,thosewithnomeanstoescapewereimploredtoprayandthenblamed.Andso,survivorswerecriminalizedas"looters"forstrugglingtoobtainfood,water,diapers,medicine,andotheressentialsoflifethatnooneelsecouldorwouldprovide.Andso,theywerelefttodieinprisons,innursinghomes,andonthestreet.Intheimmediateaftermathofthestorm,aleveeofadifferentsortwasbreachedascorporatemediasharplyrebukedtheBushadministrationinamannerunprecedentedinthe
post-9/11
era.Acrossthepoliticalspectrum,commentatorsandcelebritiesalikechimedin,outragedthattheUSgovernmentwouldletthishappentoAmericans,even"thoseAmericans."
133157167170176177181
 
theobscurityofblacksuffering
jaredsexton
Noimaginationisrequiredtoseethissceneasadirectremnantofslavery.-WilliamGrierandPriceCobbs,
BlackRage
N
cant~inkofnobett:rwayt~beginam"editationonthetheme
i
fthisanthology-whatliesbeneath-thanwithreferencetoTavisSmiley,thepremierblackmediapersonalityoftheearly21
st
century.Smiley,asmanyknow,isspearheadingtherecent"CovenantwithBlackAmerica"(CVvBA)campaign,"ana-tionalplanofactiontoaddresstheprimaryconcernsofAfricanAmericanstoday,"andwhosecapstonepublicationofthesamenamequicklyreachedthenumber-onespotonthevaunted
NewYorkTimes
best-sellerlistinthespringof2006.
2
Thetext,whichcompilestentopicaleSS::iysromnotedexperts,waseditedbySmileywithblessingsfromChildren'sDefenseFundfounderMarianWrightEdelmanandpublishingassistancefromthewell-knownandindependentThirdWorldPress.Inthepro-motionalabstractforthisbroad-based,ifmodest,programforreformineducation,policing,healthcare,employment,housing,etcetera,theeditoroffersthefollowingadmonishment:''MricanAmericanscontinuetofacedevastatingdisparitiesonnearlyeverylevel.However,thetimehascomeforAfricanAmericanstoshifttheconversationfromtalkingabout
OU(
pain
totalk-ingaboutour
plan."
Oneshouldimmediatelywonder,ofcourse,whywecannotdoboth,why,thatis,talkingaboutpainmustbede-emphasizedormuted,putasideorsubstituted,beforetalkingaboutplanscancommence.Whatisthisshiftmeanttosignal,
theobscurityofblacksuffering
121
!
;
I
I
j
i
i
~
I
I
wemightask,ifnotachangeindirectionorperhapsattitude?Isthisnewshiftnotanothermodeofdefenseagainstthemali-ciousaccusationofourincurable(or
inconsolable)
shiftlessness?'ThesentimentoftimelyexpediencyprofferedbytheCWBA-asolemnpromiseto"stoptalkingandstartdoing"basedonabeliefthat"actionsspeaklouderthanwords"-playstoanunderstandablypopularurgencythatemanatesquitedirectlyfromtherigorsofeverydaysurvivalfacedbythevastmajorityofblackpeopleintheUnitedStatesand,notincidentally,fromthecontinuedmaterialprecariousnessandacutestatusanxietyoftheblackmiddleclass.However,Isubmitthat,inpointoffact,"wewhoare
dark"
havedonepreciouslittletalkingaboutourpaininthispost-civilrightseraandprobablyabittoomuchposturingaboutourplans.Ifanything,wehaveasurplusofplans,manyofthemquitesoundandlongstandingandunrealized.Whatwedonothaveisalanguage,muchlessapoliticalculture,thatadequatelyaddressesthecomplexityofourposirionfs),ourpredicamentts),andourpaints)withoutrecoursetoeuphemism.Asaresult,weareperhapsmoreinarticulateaboutourpainto-day-intheageoftransnationalismandmultiracialism-thanwehavebeenatanyotherhistoricaljuncture.Imention"pain"here,butitisbettertospeakmorepreciselyof"suffering"andtodosointhefullestsenseoftheword:indicatingnotonlypain,whicheveryoneexperiences,alloppressedpeople,atleast,butalsothatwhichwemust
bear-uniquely
and
singularry-that
whichwemuststandandstand
alone.
IshouldsayattheoutsetthatIamnotreportingonHurricaneKatrinaanditsaftermathinthislight.Rather,IamcommentingonwhatIhaveencounteredoftheextantreport-ing,bothmainstreamandindependent,onKatrina.Thisessaypresentsasecond-orderreflectiononhowvariousmediaoutlets,publicofficials,policyanalysts,socialcritics,andserviceprovid-ershavecoveredtheunfoldingofthedisaster;howtheyhaveevaluatedthewaysthedisasterhasorhasnotbeenattendedbyvariousrelief/recovery/reconstructionefforts;and,finally,thehistoricsignifi~ancetheyattributetothedisasteritself.
i
I
1
1
.
~

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