Dr. Juliet E. K Walker, Professor, Department of History, Founder/Director Center of Black Business History Entrepreneurship, Technology, The University of Texas at Austin
Yes, we should take up a donation, absolutely--but the after-effects are going
to be long-term!
There is no precedent for this, except in the aftermath of the 1921 Tulsa race
riot, where many blacks fled the city to escape the racial violence and the
NAACP, at that time, responded by organizing a relief and refugee fund to
assist them. As to Tulsa blacks who remained, they were marched into detention
camps, given badges and allowed to leave only when their white employers signed
the badges, which allowed them to come back to work.
With our own from New Orleans, especially those who are now in Houston, they are
there because they had no means to get out. What will/can and where will they
We will have to live with this for a long time, so we need to formulate some
plans for FEMA and all of the organizations who are providing immediate relief.
As I watched the news, I wondered why it was that company trucks that carry
bottled water are able to deliver that water everyday to various stores but
couldn't get their water to N.O, once the roads were cleared enough to get
people out. Couldn't those same roads be used to deliver bottled water?
I wondered why, Wal-Mart, with all of its resources (commbined resources that
outstrip the total receipits of all black businesses in America), didn't jump
in to deliver water, food and other necessities? Wal-Mart's warehouses are
bulging over with all that would be needed for immediate relief. And, Arkansas,
the home base of Wal-Mart, is just north of Louisiana.
Wal-Mart can make timely deliveries to both its European and China outlets. Why
couldn't they do this in America? Where are our human resource people in this
gargantuan monolith, not only at Wal-Mart, but other mega-corporations, doing.
What are they doing to prompt their companies to provide relief?
Indeed, what is L'OREAL doing, with its substantial African American market, for
its Soft-Sheen and Johnson products and it's Dark & Lovely Brands? What about
Alberto-Culver that now owns the Dallas-based Pro-line corporation.
I wondered why, too, e.g, in the aftermath of the building of the Berlin Wall in
1948, which locked West Berlin in East Germany, that the United States military
was able to quickly initiate an air lift to drop food and supplies to the
nation's former enemy, which the U.S. military did for 11 months, and can't
seem to formulate air-lift drops for its own citizens.
Yet, notwithstanding advancements in the technology of military relief
efforts-that the present military could not do this here in the US seems
astonishing. But it seems that all the military, today, can deliver to New
Orleans, are National Guard troops.
Why not use the trucks bringing in the National Guard to move people out of New
Orleans--move them to northern Louisiana, Memphis, or drop them off in small
numbers in small towns along the way, where churches and other organizations
can provide assistance beyond immediate relief?
Moreover, could it be that, with New Orleans being 67.3 percent black and
28.1 percent white, and that most of the blacks are poor, while most of the
whites were middle-class and could get out, that no one really could think
beyond the fact that, since the "real" people got out, that they were saved,
that that was all that was important until it became such an embarrassment that
only black people, for the most part, were left behind. Is that why relief
efforts started so late?
I believe that if we do not formulate long-term plans we are going to lose a lot
of people who will drop out of the national radar, like long-term unemployed
people are dropped from unemployment stats.
In California, there is an organization where individual members adopt a family,
move them to a suburb or apartment in a middle class neighborhood.
Many families are headed by women--they help her find a job-go to
school--everything so she can be self-sufficient. In this instance, if this is
done--the first thing that should be done is to help that person get a car.
So, as a beginning, should we, CAAAS with all our intellectual resources, along
with other black organizations, our churches, graduate sorority and fraternity
chapters here in Austin, make some kind of commitment in "adopting a refugee
family/ies, bring them to Austin, rent an apartment for them-get the kids in
school, find a job for the mother?
Moreover, can we come up with other plans to be used as models for private
relief agencies, government social services agencies, FEMA and the military?
In the 1930s, New Deal programs were formulated on the "Three R's," RELIEF,
RECOVERY AND REFORM. While we are concentrating now on relief, we need also to
begin formulating programs for recovery.
As to reform? that calls for a restructuring of a racial society that allows so
many black people to live in poverty.
In any case, I believe it imperative that we need to begin to think beyond our
present plans to donate money for immediate relief.
Perhaps, we should enlist Angelina Jolie to search for an African American baby,
who lost its mother in the Katrina disaaster, to take and adopt that baby.
Yours in sorrow that we live in a society where, being at the bottom means we
will always be the forgotten people who do not rally matter, unless we can sing
and entertain or be superstar athletes.