2/9/2005

Looting vs Life

Filed under: — Bravus @ 7:15 am

But here’s another perspective on the looting (the rapes and murders are different):

Every time I read an article about “looting” my blood pressure rises. New Orleans is largely destroyed, thousands are possibly killed, hundreds of thousands will be homeless for quite a while. So why are we giving even a second glance at looting?

The people left behind in New Orleans are the poorest residents, the ones who couldn’t afford to buy a car to run away in, or buy a plane ticket out of Louisiana. They’re stuck in a ruined city with no fresh water, no electricity, and no way out except by helicopter rescue teams. Of course they’re going to “loot” grocery stores. How are they going to survive otherwise? And it’s not as though there’s anyone in the store to accept their money if they did want to pay.

These are poor people left to die in the face of a hurricane. We’ve failed them enough already without branding their struggle to survive as criminal.

— Denise Riffle

(Letter to the editor from Salon.com)

In other words, is property crime the big issue when dead bodies are lying in the streets, in the Louisiana heat, in the places where crowds of people are stranded, for days on end? Sure, some people grabbed TVs as well as food from stores… and that’s wrong, but again, is it the most important issue right now?

Denise’s letter also makes me rethink my post from a couple of days ago, What price idiocy? – I’d never thought about the fact that perhaps for the people who stayed in New Orleans, it wasn’t because they were too stubborn or too stupid, it may well have been because they were too poor. We take for granted the ability to jump in the car and join the massive traffic jam leaving the city, but I read somewhere that the average annual income for the 2/3 of the New Orleans population that is black is about $11,000 a year, and if that’s the average there are lots of people trying to live on a lot less than that. If you haven’t got a car and can’t afford a plane, getting out of the city and out of the path of the hurricane is not so simple.