Wednesday, August 31, 2005

(White) Finders keepers, (Black) Looters weepers

Props to General Tojo from the Fighting44's for this find.

These are two photos released on Yahoo News that show the carnage left in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. The first one has this caption:

Yahoo Picture

Two residents wade through chest-deep water after finding bread and soda from a local grocery store after Hurricane Katrina came through the area in New Orleans, Louisiana.(AFP/Getty Images/Chris Graythen)

The second has this caption:
Yahoo Picture Two

A young man walks through chest deep flood water after looting a grocery store in New Orleans on Tuesday, Aug. 30, 2005. Flood waters continue to rise in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina did extensive damage when it made landfall on Monday. (AP Photo/Dave Martin)

Now as is normally the case when you go beyond conjecture and start showing cold, hard racial inequity, all sorts of apologists came out of the woodwork to complain that the photos were from different organizations and that AP is calling all people taking goods "looters" while AFP is probably saying that they "found" stuff.

First of all, that doesn't make any fucking sense. There is no justification for using "finding" in this case. Maybe "scavaged", "took", or heck "liberated". But "finding" is some Columbus level shit.

Secondly, the justification that the organizations have different terminology just isn't true. The captions on Yahoo News are not determined by the organizations that provided the images. Here is the CNN caption for the picture:

A young man drags groceries through chest-deep water in New Orleans on Tuesday.

The other issue I have is with the outrage that is directed toward the "looters".
I'm sorry, but I don't know a good value system that rates, "Scavaging for stuff when your house is submerged under a fucking Gulf of a large-ass country" as a worse moral offense than sitting on your ass in your dry home judging people while those people are swimming/drowning through what's left of their city. I'm sorry, if some storm/cloud/whatever the fuck turns Chicago into Lake Michigan's new annex, I'm not going to be caught waiting for my VISA to clear the register at my neighborhood submerged Jewel Food Store. I'm not going to "find" any food there either. I'm going to be "swiping", "pocketing" or god-forbid "eating off someone's else shelf" if that's what's necessary.

That's not to say people should just grab everything they can like a British soldier invading a country full of colored people. I think it should be pretty clear that if people are not taking stuff to hoard or sell, it's fair game. It's pretty straight forward:
Food to eat-->OK Food to sell-->not OK
TV-->no, unless you are playing to install it in your submerged living room to catch submerged emergency reports
An inflatable raft-->Sure. Some bottles of water-->Of course.
A bunch of DVDs from Wal-Mart-->Not a lifetime sentence, in fact, it's fine, what else are you supposed to be doing while you are waiting in the Superdome swimming pool for the tourists to be bussed out.

Update: This is all over the nets (and probably was before I posted it). Many of the posts have the same lame title I chose all by myself. Great minds think alike--stupid, uncreative minds, too.

Yahoonews has put up a lame apology page here. They claim that they just run the captions from the different news services uneditted. Well, that's there prerogative, but it's also their prerogative to look like racist assholes. Incidentally, on the DailyKos, a user has posted other photos from the same news agencies that demonstrate that those news services are not only not consistent in defining "looting", but that they are inconsistent in the same racist way. (I suppose in a way that's consistency.)

So I correct myself--white people "find" and "look through shopping bags"; black people "loot".


Blogger Matthew said...

I'm not trying to make excuses, Xian, and I think this is a great post you've done, but the woman in the top frame looks African-American to me, so...

1:45 PM  
Blogger xian said...

It's possible and it's a fair thing to point out. It's one of the hazards of trying to study artifical constructs like "race" through inexactly mediums like photographs.

We I saw it, I thought that the guy looked utterly white and the woman looked ambiguously white, but possibly mixed African-American or Latina American.

Regardless, the point is that the lower picture was easily discernable as a young black male who is carrying groceries and the choice was made to call his actions "looting". In the other picture, WM and ambiguous F have "found" some bread and soda.

2:05 PM  
Blogger Ironcheffie said...

me and my mom were watching CNN... (mind you, my mom is pretty traditional Asian, with not that much knowledge about US politics/geography)

Mom: why are there only Black people in the city? (this is looting footage btw.)


9:52 PM  
Blogger xian said...

Nice! Yeah, I was getting so frustrated with this blogger who kept saying "All the looters are black!"

If you count the "finders", those "looking through shopping bags" and the fact that there are almost no white people left, then you have your normal human bullshit going on.

11:33 PM  

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