Tuesday, September 06, 2005
It is ubiquitous. Everywhere you look, they are exhortations to donate to the American Red Cross as the antiseptic, non-partisan, reliable way to assist the victims of Hurricane Katrina.
Unfortunately, there is good reason to believe that the Red Cross will not be especially helpful to the people of Lousiana and Mississipppi. As Will Bunch has written in the Philadelphia Daily News, the Red Cross collaborated in the abandonment of the poor people of New Orleans before the storm struck:
"You're responsible for your safety, and you should be responsible for the person next to you," local Red Cross executive director Kay Wilkins explained to the Times-Picayune just six weeks ago. "If you have some room to get that person out of town, the Red Cross will have a space for that person outside the area. We can help you. But we don't have the transportation.”
Ironically, the Red Cross has run a network of shelters in New Orleans in the event of hurricane warnings. But it decided several years ago not to open them for a Category 3 or stronger storm that it was more important to get people out of the below-sea-level area - despite the lack of any organized system for transporting them.
Translation: the Red Cross will house and feed you if you don't drown, starve or die from lack of medical care on your way out of town. Apparently, the Red Cross agreed with local officials who, according to Bunch and the New Orleans Times Picayune, communicated the following approach in a DVD distributed to the public a few months ago:
"City, state and federal emergency officials are preparing to give the poorest of New Orleans' poor a historically blunt message: In the event of a major hurricane, you're on your own."
When it came to the poor of New Orleans, where, again, according to Bunch, an estimated 134,000 people lacked vehicles, the Red Cross' decision to refuse to open shelters and organize transportation takes on a decidedly Mathusian cast. To put it bluntly, it failed New Orleans, and now it wants you and me to give them money to confront the consequences of their failure. I'm not very confident the Red Cross will overcome the racial and class bias that caused it, so I suggest that people look for alternatives.
Here is a random list of sites for possible donations and more information. Naturally, make sure and do your own due diligence.
Don't hesitate to provide additional links and information. An emphasis upon community based activity, with a sensitivity towards the needs of poor people and African Americans is appreciated.