Katrina Proves Liberals Were Right All Along (Part 3: Wherein the Rude Pundit Fails To Solve Centuries of Racism, But At Least He's Trying):
Yeah, Hurricane Katrina did fuck up the lives of a hell of a lot of white people. And that's sad and a shame. But to deny the racial imbalances that led to images of New Orleans lookin' like they came from Mogadishu back in the day is to deny the reality of our urban areas in America. In this week's Gallup Poll, with over 60 percent of black respondents saying that race was a factor in the delays in rescue and aid arriving in New Orleans, one must say, at a minimum, the perception of a racist government response is real. And, much as the white right and their nonwhite enablers wish to, dismissing those feelings is to dismiss the last thirty years or so of racial division in America, a division that plays itself out in the schismatic geography of our cities.

Katrina demonstrated how neglect of the poor has exacerbated racism to the extent that, true or not, a large number of Americans, black and white, can believe that its government would abandon them because of their skin color. When Lyndon Johnson extended poverty relief programs started under FDR and Truman and expanded on those programs, he was attempting to offer some way to allow black Americans into the mainstream. Johnson understood that in order to reach the majority of blacks, he had to have the federal government reach into urban America.

Said the fartin' Texan in his Great Society speech, "Many of you will live to see the day, perhaps 50 years from now, when there will be 400 million Americans -- four-fifths of them in urban areas. In the remainder of this century urban population will double, city land will double, and we will have to build homes, highways and facilities equal to all those built since this country was first settled. So in the next 40 years we must rebuild the entire urban United States. Aristotle said: 'Men come together in cities in order to live, but they remain together in order to live the good life.' It is harder and harder to live the good life in American cities today...Our society will never be great until our cities are great." And he admonished listeners to create an urban landscape where people can live that Aristotelian good life (although, one imagines, without the slavery and man-on-boy action that characterized Aristotle's Athens).

The floods of Hurricane Katrina focused our attention on the urban blacks of New Orleans because, simply, as many, many cities in America are, it is a majority black. In fact, it's 70% black. The Great Society programs, in targeting poverty, targeted the cities, which were just beginning to explode back in 1964. JFK had started the ball rolling with the Manpower Development and Training Act in 1962, which "retrained workers displaced by new technology," and then LBJ followed that with the more comprehensive Economic Opportunity Act of 1964, which created the Job Corps and other work training programs. (And Reagan came along and, of course, fucked it up by giving control over to the states with the 1982 Job Training Partnership Act, which "ended federal funding for public service employment programs.") Toss in the Open Housing Act, which outlawed discrimination in the sale or rental of housing, the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Equal Employment Opportunity Act of 1972, the Food Stamp Act, the Child Nutrition Act, Medicaid, and on and on.

And when you list all these acts and programs and subsidies, some bag of douche conservative'll come along and spout Reagany things about welfare queens, the failure of the Great Society, and loser liberal ideology. But here's the fuckin' deal: the liberal ideas didn't fail - the government failed the ideas. First through the limited funding of the programs, then through the conservative ideological shift in the 70s and 80s, which, reduced to its essence, seems to have been a move from "We can help each other" to "Fuck you." With a Gerald Ford condemnation of New York City to hell along for good measure. So Washington fucked it up.

'Cause, see, during the 1960s, "median black family income rose 53 percent; black employment in professional, technical, and clerical occupations doubled; and average black educational attainment increased by four years. The proportion of blacks below the poverty line fell from 55 percent in 1960 to 27 percent in 1968. The black unemployment rate fell 34 percent." And much of that growth happened in urban America. So, with such success apparent, conservatives in both parties followed Reagan's lead and gutted programs for urban America like little boys filleting carp with butter knives. All that was left was shreds. Reagan cut money to federal assistance to cities, slashed HUD's budget (and even that pittance was given to major contributors for "development" of urban housing), and made sure that homelessness doubled during his presidency.

Things didn't improve under Clinton, with the limited scope of enterprise communities and empowerment zones, although the expanding economy did provide relief to urban areas. And, under Bush, beyond payin' Churchy with "faith-based initiatives," there's been lip service, proposed and actual budget cuts, and a 19th-century attitude towards the poor as being morally at fault for their poverty. (And this is not even getting into policies on crime and punishment, nor abortion politics, both of which impact urban areas.)

Katrina forced us to look once again at the cities of America (and it showed that the South has real cities, with real city problems, just like in the North), and at the vital, black centers of those cities, for the people who are still living there when many of the whites return home to Metairie, Georgetown, or Sugarland. The neglect of urban America by the federal government has blown up again, this time taking down the Bush administration, and, no matter how much they try to bribe people with faulty debit cards, destroying Republican chances of making inroads in the black community.

And, as with so many things, it didn't have to be this way. It didn't have to be that so many Americans would believe that the Bush administration blithely sat by to watch the slaves drown, like so many masters, their house negroes by their side, sitting on the plantation porch as the floods cover the field hands and their quarters.

(Note: An earlier version of this contained a long analogy about race relations and credit card debt after death. It was a fuck up and the information was wrong; therefore, it has been deleted.)