Thursday, December 08, 2005

It's Been a Long Time Coming

As medical services were abruptly cut for evacuees in the Astrodome and evacuees from the Astrodome and Reliant Center were abruptly herded into Reliant Arena, beginning at 10:00 p.m. one evening, I wondered how things would play out for the evacuees. However, when medical services at the unbelievably cold Reliant Arena were whittled down to one poorly-supplied table, I had a hunch that I knew. And I wasn't far off. Within a few days, all evacuees were told that they had to leave or be whisked off to Arkansas to avoid the coming Hurricane Rita. In all that activity, I wondered if everyone would forget how the evacuees had been treated in New Orleans and in Houston. And for a few months, it seemed like they had.

Until this week.

Evacuees are telling their stories to Congress, and this is again highlighting the issues of race and poverty that initially came up immediately after Katrina. While these issues can be painful to address, if they can be dealt with openly and honestly, the consequences short term and long term are so much better than if they are swept under the rug and denied. Let's embrace this process. We have allowed racism to divide us for too long. Even if you don't believe that racism played a part in the local and national response to Katrina evacuees, isn't it worth being curious as to why black and white people have such different perceptions on these issues? Even if you don't believe that white people would have been left behind on rooftops in New Orleans, aren't you curious why some people do believe that? Even if you don't believe that white people would have been treated any differently in the Superdome or Astrodome, isn't it worth being curious about why some people do believe that?

Let's have these conversations before we boil over as a country and experience damage we cannot repair.

Tracy McGaugh