Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Katrina's Flood: Apartheid and ethnic cleansing in New Orleans

Why hasn't the U.S. Congress probed the Apartheid that followed Hurricane Katrina? The neutered Congress does not want to deal with the controversial issue of racism in America.

By Brenda Norrell

TUCSON, Ariz. -- There is a new film out about Apartheid and ethnic cleansing. No, it is not about South Africa, it is about the United States' Apartheid in New Orleans. You might not have heard of this film, unless you follow the underground railroad in America, that's truth-seekers censored by the mainstream media.

"Welcome to New Orleans," is the story of Common Ground, the grassroots organization that rose up out of Katrina's flood waters to deliver aid to neighborhoods in Algiers and New Orleans in 2005.

In some ways, the 58-minute documentary is a simple story, revealing how Common Ground cofounder Malik Rahim and volunteers served their neighbors. But it is also the story of Apartheid and ethnic cleansing in America.

Rising above all of this, it is the story of hope. When Rahim issued the call across America that white mercenaries were shooting blacks, it was white people, like Scott Crow of Texas, who responded to help create a grassroots clinic. Rahim says there is no amount of money that can repay those who responded during those first days after Katrina's flood waters swept through and devoured communities. This is what gives him hope.

In the film, a group of white New Orleans residents talk about the fun they had shooting blacks after Hurricane Katrina. Smiling, one man said, it was like "shooting pheasants in South Dakota."
This film, one in a series of shown about racism, injustice and Hurricane Katrina at the University of Arizona Tuesday evening (Sept. 25), makes it clear that blacks were "demonized" after Katrina.

For most Americans, there is a singular bad memory harbored in our minds. It is of this: Turning on our television sets and watching morning after morning as blacks on rooftops in New Orleans waved for help. They were there, day after day, without water or food. "Why haven't they been rescued?" was the cry that followed across America.

The answer, according to those who live in New Orleans, is this: It was ethnic cleansing, Apartheid aimed at eliminating blacks and rebuilding new Orleans into a white tourist city.

It took this form: A jail was created before people were given food and water, to attract FEMA dollars. The mercenaries of Blackwater arrived to eliminate whoever they chose. New Orleans residents were ordered to evacuate homes that remained in good condition. For those unable to return to their homes from distant cities, 30-day notices were sent to their homes to tell them that their properties would be seized if there was no response.

Now, there is a new image to harbor in the place for horror in our minds, from video footage shown. It is the sight of hundreds of prisoners in Orleans Parish pressed against the glass ceiling of a jail as the flood waters rise. Guards fled the New Orleans' jails, leaving inmates locked in cells standing in water contaminated with sewage and screaming for help. Prisoners waited to be rescued three and four days, with sewage water up to their chests. Some were shackled and handcuffed. All were without food, drinking water and medicine, locked in those murky waters.

Why hasn't the U.S. Congress probed what happened in New Orleans? According to residents, the neutered Congress, including the Democrats, finds the issue of racism in America and Apartheid in New Orleans too controversial to deal with.

Meanwhile, just a few hours to the north, the town of Jena remains a dark vacuum of racism, where Wackenhut guards raped youths in the detention center and Hurricane Katrina evacuees became victims once again as they were tortured in prison. The current case of the Jena 6 is not a new condition, it just receives more media coverage than the covert Apartheid. The prison in Jena was not the only prison where New Orleans' evacuees were routinely beaten, pepper-sprayed and shocked with tasers, according to the ACLU.

Where are the billions aimed at reconstruction in New Orleans? Where are the clinics, hospitals and schools? Charter schools are becoming institutionalized as the corporate profiteers, well-known in Iraq, cash in on misery: Halliburton, Blackwater, Bechtel and Fluor.

Here is one scene that did not make it to the nightly news: A black man at a New Orleans fire station asks for bottled water, stacked high in crates against the wall. He is chased away by an armed fireman. Here is another scene that was video-taped: A group of policemen in New Orleans beat a lone black man in the head with their fists -- over and over and over.

Where was the U.S. Red Cross when all this was taking place? While focusing on fundraising nationally, New Orleans residents say the Red Cross was carrying out the state and federal agenda on the streets of New Orleans: Apartheid.

While American Indian Nations donated tens of millions of dollars to the Red Cross for aid to Indian Nations hit by Katrina, the largest tribe on the Louisiana coast, the United Houma Nation, said the tribe did not receive a single dollar from the Red Cross.

Read more about grassroots relief: Common Ground
ACLU: Prisoner abuse during Katrina:

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Censored News is published by censored journalist Brenda Norrell. A journalist for 27 years, Brenda lived on the Navajo Nation for 18 years, writing for Navajo Times, AP, USA Today, Lakota Times and other American Indian publications. After being censored and then terminated by Indian Country Today in 2006, she began the Censored Blog to document the most censored issues. She currently serves as human rights editor for the U.N. OBSERVER & International Report at the Hague and contributor to Sri Lanka Guardian, Narco News and CounterPunch. She was cohost of the 5-month Longest Walk Talk Radio across America, with Earthcycles Producer Govinda Dalton in 2008:
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