The foundation of this country, of states united, wasn’t the blueprint the original American settlers had for this new nation. There was no conflict resolution in early America. Whenever people had ideological disputes they and other like-minded individuals simply packed up their families, their lives, and left to found new communities; states. As a result, things like the Civil War and Donald Trump still being president happened.
The colonial capitalist world system relies on degrees of separation. This is upheld through the English language itself and exploited by the media. For nearly every adjective in the English language, there is a polar opposite; a good way to be and a bad way. There is no greater or more pressing dichotomy than “black” and “white”.
With Hurricane Florence officially on land, it’s imperative that we examine the ways in which the media reinforces this dichotomy in the American imaginary, especially in response to natural disasters and the implications.
The Black Lives Matter mission statement begins with a call to action; a way of countering the abstraction of black and brown bodies through the media. Minorities are framed as drug users and thieves, while others are told white offenders must be understood as individuals who are troubled and need help. The movement cites the under reported police actions against black people in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005 as an eye-opening moment in our post-Civil Rights era “color blind” society.
Media coverage referred to black and white survival strategies in different ways. In photographs depicting white people scavenging for supplies they are labeled as brave. Conversely, images of black survivors doing similar acts were called looters, thieves. This kind of language had the effect of criminalizing an entire population. It painted black people as a threat to restoring order, and it allowed the justification the police needed to shoot and kill unarmed black people who were running not because they did something illegal; they were merely running for their lives to safety. This is an image most Americans cannot cite, media coverage was low and limited to local news and spectator accounts. It wasn’t picked up by larger news outlets because the media had already picked a side, and there is no sympathy for criminals.
We will also see that, due to red-lining, the communities impacted the most by natural disasters like hurricanes are minority ones, and since these communities are usually low income, no one is rushing to rebuild. There exists to this day, 13 years after the fact, neighborhoods decimated by Katrina in New Orleans that haven’t even come close to rebuilding. Puerto Rico still has areas without electricity and Texas is still suffering as well.
People are so focused on differences in this world that we forget that we are all still human, all worthy of the rights to life and liberty. Politicians are so concerned about themselves and their futures in politics, they refuse to admit that Trump is not fit for presidency. They protect him because they don’t want to see the end of their Republican party. They don’t want the “liberals” to win so they feign ignorance or simply change the conversation.
We need leadership by the people, we don’t need career politicians. We need diversity, people dedicated to the service of humanity, rather than their selves and closest allies. We need to impose term limits for offices aside from the presidency, we need a governing body that evolves with the people.
We need to examine multiple sources of news, draw our own conclusions and understand the intricacies of society and capitalist gain. Tragedy sells and having a villain pays more.
We all need to understand and make sense of the world on our own, we no longer have an excuse not to, information is at our disposal. We can no longer afford to hide behind the ideals of partisanship, to continue to do so means nothing would get accomplished. To do so means all people lose. America is a good country, but we can be better if we just open ourselves to the possibility that we are not all that different after all.