Charles J. Mambula I (Ph.D.)
Assistant Professor of Management
Sawyer School of Management
8 Ashburton Place, Beacon Hill
Boston, Massachusetts 02108
Reports from the scene is sad to hear let alone watch especially when one starts to imagine the unbearable pains some of the victims especially the 'under privileged blacks' are going through. The Katrina disaster is indeed what could be rated as one of the worst natural disasters in America's history. The poignant point of this episode to me was when a boy of about five years old, alone by himself pointed to a floating body and helplessly told some relief staffs that, "this is my mother, someone pushed her into the water". The question is the impact incidents such as this would have on children like this one and many others whose unfortunate stories we have not seen or heard from the disaster? Would this be the beginning of an uncertain future for these children tarnished by images of insensitivity, apathy, racial injustice, deprivation etc.? Where will it end and what are the consequences?
It is true and without question that the Bush administration did not act soon enough or as fairly as they should have done and yes, like anyone else, the victims of this disaster deserve the right to be protected as bonfide and indigenous citizens of the American 'democratic' society. We can also refer back to history from Vietnam to Iraq among other politically ambiguous and seemingly unnecessary causes that have costed lives (including a high number of blacks), have received more attention and gulped more money from the US government than Katrina. It is surprising that President Bush as a declared Christian and who owes a large portion of his winning re-election votes to the Christian community would act in such a way. But like one African American Pastor from New Orleans have said, "we are not surprised to be neglected at times like this, we have always been neglected and we are used to being neglected". Although nothing should be put above or considered to be more valuable than human lives, no less should be expected, for the apparent neglect of predominantly black southern states. One needs to consider what has already been seen in the past from the insensitive and reluctant attitude to respond to the emergency calls in Liberia and in Sudan, while more attention is being given to the gulf region amidst international protest and resentment. It appears as if regions related to the African race are not a priority in terms of their well-being and security.
The puzzling thing about the way the Katrina disaster is treated however, is the role that Black leaders are playing towards the situation. With the exception of Kanye West and Serena Williams who have publicly voiced out their support and contributions and lately Rev. Jesse Jackson, no other has yet to come out to help rally support or mobilize resources from other elite blacks or do anything to counter the American government's uncaring reaction. One would have expected that people like Al Sharpton who at one time was vying to be a Presidential candidate, Justice Chamberlain, Louis Farrakhan of the nation of Islam who is known to be a vocal critic of the US government on race relations, Andrew Young the chief executive of Good Works international, Oprah Winfery the talk show billionaire, who has been generous in giving to her audience and to other humanitarian causes, or P. Diddy the multi million dollar hip-hop magnate and many others, to do something. As of yet no prominent black figure has come out to give significant succor to the Katrina victims. Does it then mean that if the government does not come to the rescue, the neglected should equally let it alone and only complain by articulating how discriminatory and negligent the government has been towards them? This aloof gesture by not taking action even when no one comes to help, could be another stereotype that could also be misinterpreted against black people to mean lack of solidarity, unity and personal responsibility in times of situations like this. And why do black people have to wait? How many will have to die before something is done? In the end who gets the worst hit?
If Fidel Castro who has been declared to be an enemy of America can act as a Good Samaritan and love his enemies by voluntarily offering to help the victims of the Katrina disaster and the underprivileged in America, because the American government and the elite black people are not acting as they should, this leaves a lot to think about. I respected Castro when he answered journalists who were expecting him to jubilate over the natural misfortune in America when referring to the Katrina by saying that "It is not right to talk about politics at a time of a disaster like this, it is wrong to kick the enemy when they are down at their weakest point". If something can be learned from an outsider like Castro who has nothing to do with the natural event, I believe it is time to act and do something for the common good rather than continue to criticize and hang on to the historical chain and shackles that keeps holding black race back. The Katrina disaster is only a bigger picture of an already deplorable condition of the underprivileged in America, most of who are blacks, many of who are uneducated, poor, in jail or live in projects. It is a clarion call to the fortunate, the affluent and the elite of the Black race, to rise up and 'be thy brother's keeper' by coming together and do something at times like this. Taking a proactive approach on how to deal with unforeseen events rather than waiting or reacting only at critical times could be a better way for minority communities through their various organizations handle future occurrences like the Katrina Disaster with or without external help.