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Commentary :: Human Rights : Race : Social Welfare
World citizens, not just "Americans," need disaster relief—and national liberation
05 Sep 2005
Commentators and politicians, as the social disaster unleashed by Hurricane Katrina continues to unfold, are saying that there should have been better disaster protection or faster relief efforts since Blacks are also "Americans." Some have used this as a pretext for more military troops in the New Orleans, which would potentially militarize the city further. Prior to recent reports of military troops killing unarmed people in New Orleans(1), New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin in an interview with radio station WWL-AM on September 1st said: "I need reinforcements, I need troops." "Don't do another press conference until the resources are in this city. And then come down to this city and stand with us when there are military trucks and troops that we can't even count." The day before, CBS, CNN, NBC and others were saying that New Orleans looked like a war zone.

The sentiment that Blacks are Amerikans, too, and should for that particular reason be aided, has been repeated many times on TV and in the newspaper media. But why Blacks have been among the hardest-hit by the hurricane and flood devastation in the first place is a question that needs addressing. Those who think legal equality means real equality and liberation need to wake up and realize that just living within u.$. borders is no guarantee of getting the same help as Euro-Amerikans—not before the hurricane, not now, and not in the foreseeable future. This is because of national differences and national oppression within u.$. borders. Many Blacks, particularly lumpen-proletarians, are expendable from the viewpoint of the Euro-Amerikan nation. And not only that, oppressed-nation people in the united $tates are more susceptible to disasters due to economic aspects of national oppression.

A Latino migrant, whom this writer talked with about Katrina and New Orleans, said that refugees from the Hurricane Katrina disaster areas should be helped not just because they are Amerikans, or documented persyns living within u.$. borders, but because they are "people." This persyn was rightfully suspicious of individuals, not just Black leaders but also influential Euro-Amerikans in the media and the government, pandering to First World chauvinism. This same chauvinism in other contexts can easily turn into hostility toward oppressed people, including Haitian, Jamaican, Nigerian and other migrants who aren't necessarily part of the Black nation. It is not necessary to be opportunist and lie about Blacks having the same social status as Euro-Amerikans in order to get relief aid. Proof of this is the Southeast Asia tsunami relief efforts, directed toward many oppressed-nation persyns in the Third World, by some imperialist-country people; although, this aid is still inadequate.

While the imperialist media was paying much attention to Katrina victims in the united $tates, another social disaster was going down, in imperialist-dominated China, precipitated by Typhoon Talim. Those who are essentially putting forth a reactionary Amerika-first line in the name of garnering more support for relief efforts should think about the recent flood devastation in China to put things into perspective and realize some commonalities, between the u.$. internal semi-colonies, and oppressed nations in the Third World.

According to BBC News, at least fifty people in China have died due to flooding and landslides caused by Typhoon Talim. "About 40 died in the province of Anhui when Talim made landfall on Thursday [September 1st], and 14 died in the city of Wenzhou, China's Xinhua news agency reported."(2) "Up to a million people were moved from low-lying coastal flood plains in Zhejiang and Fujian provinces, Xinhua said."(2) The u.$. mainstream media (including CNN anchor Carol Costello on the early-morning "CNN Daybreak," and the Seattle Times) were mentioning Typhoon Talim as early as August 31st. English-language information about the disaster situation in China after the typhoon is sparse, but Anhui is a rural province, one of China's poorest provinces, with a large agricultural sector and has been struck by devastating floods in the past, and Wenzhou city is an Open Coastal City, similar to China's Special Economic Zones for imperialist exploitation.

"Serious flooding throughout southern and eastern China this summer has killed more than 1,000 people and left hundreds missing, presumed dead."(2) This is spread out, but in terms of deaths and missing persyns, this sounds similar to the disaster situation in Alabama, Louisiana, and Mississippi.

The effects of Typhoon Talim are supposed to be weaker than the effects of Hurricane Katrina, but floods in the past year throughout China have destroyed almost a million houses, typically near coasts and river/lake banks, where agricultural and manufacturing workers are concentrated, according to the Xinhua News Agency.(3) The Black nation today has a large section of petty-bourgeois workers, many of whom are in what Marxists call the unproductive sector (the Euro-Amerikan nation has even more petty-bourgeois workers and workers in the non-commodity-producing unproductive sector), but the Black nation is also oppressed by imperialism, and this is manifested geographically.

A newly released study by the Charlotte Observer, reported on by the Chicago Sun-Times, shows that "even blacks with incomes above $100,000 a year were charged the high rates more often than whites with incomes below $40,000."(4) This sort of discrepancy is not a new finding, but this new study is further confirmation that Blacks as a whole, compared with Euro-Amerikans of the same classes, face conditions that can't be attributed to outright racism by individuals or even simple mortgage redlining, but which reflect sharp, widespread and lasting differences. The Charlotte Observer, summarizing its study, reported on August 28th:

"Overall, about 1 borrower in 10 was charged a high interest rate. Among white borrowers, 6 percent paid high rates. But among Hispanics, 14 percent did, and among blacks, it was 27 percent—more than one in four borrowers.

"Black borrowers got high-rate home purchase loans much more often than whites with similar and even smaller incomes.

"Higher-income blacks living in white communities got high rates much more often than their white neighbors."(5)
The Charlotte Observer claims: "It's hard to prove pure race bias, because other factors also influence mortgage rates." But it also notes that "decades ago bank lending practices were blatantly biased, and many blacks today don't trust banks. They're more apt to use independent mortgage brokers, who make the bulk of the high-rate mortgages, and many of whom advertise heavily in low-income neighborhoods."(5) This is not necessarily racism, but an economic form of national oppression carried out by profit-seeking mortgage bank monopoly capitalists and those who invest with them, including many Euro-Amerikan so-called workers. In the study report, the Charlotte Observer paraphrases Financial Protection Law Center director Mal Maynard as saying: "Lenders are targeting black neighborhoods for the sale of high-rate loans, he said."(6)

The Charlotte Observer also reports: "The gaps increased with income. Among lower-income families, blacks received high-rate loans 3.3 times more often than whites. Among higher-income families, blacks received high rates 4.8 times more often."(6)

In this context, moves by financial institutions to forgo some mortgage payments for Hurricane Katrina refugees may just be making up for past mortgage-lending inequality (in addition to benefiting Euro-Amerikans who have smaller mortgages for the same or better houses).(7) "The Mortgage Bankers Association, an industry trade group, estimated that 360,000 single-family mortgages in the four states were affected by the hurricane and its floods."(7) The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. has asked banks to help customers get loans until they get insurance proceeds. Of course, many Blacks in New Orleans had no insurance and have nothing to collect insurance for, but the reported inequality in mortgage lending, which is not just a legacy of past segregation, illustrates differences between Blacks and Euro-Amerikans with the same income.

Another difference, pointed out in a New York Times article today and particularly relevant to the unfolding of the social disaster in New Orleans, is that even among poor people, Blacks are less likely than whites to have a car. Oppressed-nation people have less mobility than oppressor-nation people in general; although, many oppressed-nation people in the united $tates have faster or better means of transportation and more mobility than the oppressed in the Third World. According to figures attributed to Queens College Professor of Sociology Andrew A. Beveridge, cited by the New York Times and which are based on 2000 Census data, 59% of black "households in poverty" in New Orleans had no car, compared with 34% of white "households in poverty."(8) (See the graphic entitled "The Reach of Poverty in New Orleans.") Something that the New York Times did not report, but which is also interesting, is that even among workers (16 years or older) who had a car, truck or van in New Orleans city, blacks were twice as likely as whites ("not Hispanic or Latino") to carpool to get to work, 26% and 13% respectively, according to Census 2000 (Summary File 3) data. This indicates fewer white workers per vehicle, or more vehicles per white worker, and fewer vehicles per black worker.



1. "CORRECTED - Rapes, killings hit Katrina refugees in New Orleans," 3 September 2005 ("03 Sep 2005 22:52:27 GMT"),

2. "Dozens die as typhoon hits China," 4 September 2005,

3. "Floods claim 1,024 lives across China this year," 30 August 2005,

4. "Blacks pay higher mortgage rates, study says," 4 September 2005,

5. "Truth in lending," 28 August 2005,

6. Binyamin Appelbaum and Ted Mellnik, "The hard truth in lending," 28 August 2005,

7. Aleksandrs Rozens, "Banks give reprieve to stricken homeowners," 2 September 2005,

8. Jason DeParle, "What Happens to a Race Deferred," 4 September 2005,
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