Why Wishing for a Hurricane Katrina in Chicago is Racist

Tonight I just read an article in the Chicago Tribune in which the author “metaphorically” wishes a Hurricane Katrina would wipe out Chicago. I wish I were making this up, please read this piece. But after intense public pressure the Tribune did decide to “soften” their piece so here is the original piece as it was written. Even while I and many others were tweeting her about how offensive her piece is, she sent out the following tweet:

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What Hurricane Katrina did was kill nearly 2,000 people and displace and relocate 1 million people on the Gulf Coast. In New Orleans the population of the city fell by half due to loss of homes and displacement. 50% of the city’s residents homes lost and forced to move.

Historical and proudly black communities were wiped out.

Now some people like this author will likely say, but New Orleans is back! Who is New Orleans back for? For people that look like me (i.e. white people). NOT the people who lived in those predominantly black precincts.

By the author wishing for a Katrina here in Chicago she is basically saying to get to rid of the black people and let the whites move in wherever they want. It would be like white flight in reverse, coming back from the ‘burbs to the city. We (white people) could proudly colonize, I mean move into Englewood and then joke on our porches while sipping tea about what life used to be like on the corner of 63rd and Racine, while we watch that new yoga studio go in. We would colonize Woodlawn, Roseland, and Austin too and the best part is we (white people) would get that land for cheap thanks to Katrina part II and Disaster Capitalism.

Arne Duncan (one of our fellow white brethren) said it best when he said, “Hurricane Katrina was the best thing for New Orleans Schools”.

I mean to actually fix the schools for the kids who live there, that is preposterous and besides that would be too much work. What is great is getting to have new (wealthier and/or whiter) kids move in, then rebuild the schools and boom schools are “great” now.

The author of this piece needs an education in white privilege. I suggest a starting point for her (and anyone who agrees with her) would be the Invisible Knapsack by Peggy McIntosh which details and explains White Privilege and how it benefits all white people all the time. She then could read books by Lisa Delpit, Theresa Perry, Beverly Daniel-Tatum, Howard Zinn, bell hooks, Ta-Nehisi Coates and many more authors. Even better she could actually listen and hear the messages of the Black Lives Matter movement or in that case any black person who would take the time to try to educate her.

The key as a white person is to listen to black people and not try to put our white privilege on what they are saying or for heaven’s sake say something like All Lives Matter.

Chicago Tribune author, here is the secret all lives do matter but our (white) lives aren’t being killed for all of America to see (just in case you needed to learn that too).

This country is going through a movement to bring to the forefront and hopefully make real changes to the way policing is done, so we can stop having black men and women murdered by the people who are supposed to be protecting them. There are many ways in which white people (like myself) can help. The first one is to listen to the real stories that people of color share about racism, the second is to call out racism when you see or hear it (like this Tribune article), and the third one (this is the hardest) is to educate our own (white) people. As a teacher in predominantly black schools in Chicago Public Schools I love teaching, learning and talking about race with my students, but talking about race with white people is hard. I’m no expert but I am willing to read, learn, and listen. I am working on always speaking up when I hear any type of racist comment. I am a work in progress, but I am taking the second and third piece of advice I gave by calling out this Katrina piece for what it is, racist and by attempting to teach (other white people) why it is racist.

I will end with a quote from scholar Beverly Daniel-Tatum with the key being white people must be “actively anti-racist”.

Her quote says, “I visualize the ongoing cycle of racism as a moving walkway at the airport. Active racist behavior is equivalent to walking fast on the conveyor belt. The person engaged in active racist behavior has identified with the ideology of our White supremacist system and is moving with it. Passive racist behavior is equivalent to standing still on the walkway. No overt effort is being made, but the conveyor belt moves the bystanders along to the same destination as those who are actively walking. But unless they are walking actively in the opposite direction at a speed faster than the conveyor belt – unless they are actively anti-racist – they will find themselves carried along with the others.”

This piece on Gapers Block

2 thoughts on “Why Wishing for a Hurricane Katrina in Chicago is Racist

  1. Dave, it is about economics: Working class, unionized, and Black people lost their jobs, and White people came in to run charter schools and buy cheap housing and invest. She just left out the race part and, oh, yeah, clearly only cares about finances, like it’s a course you can take in school. What happens to people like that that they end up so cold?

  2. Pingback: The Education of Tribune Editorial Board Member Kristen McQueary | I Teach

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