View Full Version : Congressman Blames Katrina Response On Race In Commencement Address

05-12-2007, 12:47 AM
Congressman blames Katrina response on race in commencement address


Published: Friday May 11, 2007

House Majority Whip Rep. James Clyburn (D-SC) blamed the federal government's inadequate response to Katrina on the predominantly black racial makeup of New Orleans during a commencement address to Southern University, a historically black college in Baton Rouge, LA, RAW STORY has learned.

"I truly believe that if the demographics of the affected areas were different, the response of the federal government would have been different," Clyburn said. "So I have taken this on as my personal mission."

Clyburn continued, "We acted swiftly and effectively to assist those devastated by Hurricane Andrew in Florida. Why did New Orleans not receive the same treatment? The only logical conclusion one can make is that the communities impacted didn’t hold the same 'value' to those in charge as the communities affected by Hurricane Andrew."

The full text of the commencement address follows...

Chancellor Edward Jackson, Board of Supervisors, faculty, staff, family, friends, alumni, and future alumni: Let me begin by thanking you for the kind and gracious invitation. It is an honor to speak before this impressive and resilient group of graduates, the Southern University Class of 2007.

This University has a rich history that leads to many parallels with what is happening in Louisiana today. When Southern University was founded more than 127 years ago, its original home was in New Orleans. Then the Second Morrill Act of 1890 created a second set of land grant institutions, and Southern became Louisiana’s Land Grant institution for people of color, just as my alma mater South Carolina State. In 1912, to meet its growing mission as an agriculture and mechanical educational institution, Southern’s campus was relocated to Baton Rouge. This migration from New Orleans to Baton Rouge mirrors a trend we have seen in recent years as well.

This most recent migration, however, was not one of choice, but of necessity as Hurricanes Katrina and Rita wiped out much of New Orleans and shattered the homes and lives of thousands of people. Baton Rouge opened its heart and its community to those escaping the hurricane’s wrath, and today many of those who came to Baton Rouge remain here.

I want to express my deep appreciation to my good friend, Mayor-President Kip Holden, to the citizens of Baton Rouge, and to Southern University for welcoming those in need and providing new opportunities for those displaced by Katrina and Rita.

I also want to tell you that the response of our nation’s leadership was not prompt enough or not sufficient enough to assist you with the recovery. The federal bureaucracy and the previous Congress didn’t provide the proper assistance and management of this national tragedy. But that was then and this is now, and I want you to know this new Congress will fulfill our responsibility to provide for those still suffering in the Gulf Coast region.

Last night, the House approved legislation that included $6.8 billion in hurricane recovery assistance for those impacted by Hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Wilma. The bill included funding for levee repair and coastal restoration; and funding for the farmers, ranchers and fishing industry devastated by the storms. It extends FEMA’s ability to pay utility costs through February 7, 2008. It also extends the Disaster Voucher Program, which provides Section 8 vouchers to low-income residents who evacuated and moved to Baton Rouge and other parts of the country. The bill provides $60 million to help colleges, universities and schools return to normal operations. It eliminates special rules that prohibit loan forgiveness and includes $25.1 million to extend the Community Disaster Loan program for homeowners and small businesses.

The bill would finally cut the bureaucratic red tape and speed up recovery efforts by waiving the provisions under the Stafford Act that requires local communities to match federal relief funding. This provision will free up billions of dollars for reconstruction and recovery projects that have been on hold because local governments still devastated by the storm couldn’t raise the matching funds.

All of these provisions were passed by the Congress two weeks ago and were vetoed by the President Bush. They have also been denounced by some of my colleagues as pork barrel spending. Well, I say to them, that one person’s pork is another person’s beef. And it is time for the people to ask in unison, “Where is the beef?

I truly believe that if the demographics of the affected areas were different, the response of the federal government would have been different. So I have taken this on as my personal mission.

A 100-page study released by the Kaiser Family Foundation this week clearly reports that double the number of blacks report their lives still being disrupted more than a year after Katrina than whites. The racial disparities cut across issues including job experiences, housing and health.

We acted swiftly and effectively to assist those devastated by Hurricane Andrew in Florida. Why did New Orleans not receive the same treatment? The only logical conclusion one can make is that the communities impacted didn’t hold the same “value” to those in charge as the communities affected by Hurricane Andrew.

But I believe that you know the value of the African American community just as I do.

When I was elected to Congress back in 1992, I became the first African American to serve in the Congress from South Carolina since post Reconstruction. My closest predecessor was George Washington Murray, and he used his bully pulpit at the end of the 19th Century to promote the achievements of Southern Blacks. On the floor of the House, Congressman Murray stated:

"Mr. Speaker, the people of color in this country want an opportunity to show that the progress, that the civilization which is now admired the world over, that the civilization which is now leading the world, that the civilization which all nations of the world look up to and imitate -- the people of color, I say, want an opportunity to show that they, too, are part and parcel of that great civilization."

This great country has benefited from the hard work and creativity of many people, some of them were African Americans from this state, people like Homer Plessy who in 1892, challenged the law that separated the races on public streetcars in Louisiana. His challenge went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court and resulted in the landmark Plessy vs. Ferguson case, in which the high court upheld the “separate but equal” clause. It was not the outcome he sought, but his efforts laid the foundation for Rosa Parks to make the same challenge on an Alabama bus more than 60 years later.

Our great civilization was enhanced by influential musicians like “Satchmo” Louis Armstrong and Mahalia Jackson. These extraordinary performers used their talents not only for others’ entertainment, but to promote social causes as well.

Our great civilization was built by business entrepreneurs like Madame C.J. Walker, whose beauty empire propelled her to become the first African American woman millionaire. She used her power and money to support causes that fought racism.

These proud Louisianans were black, and born into a time when they were not considered equal citizens. Despite the challenges they faced, they did not allow themselves to be held back by any encumbrances – real or perceived and they did not let setbacks stymie them. That , in and of itself, is a great lesson for us all.

Southern University and the city of Baton Rouge have faced adversity. But we are known by how we handle our challenges.

Yogi Berra once said, “When you come to a fork in the road, take it.” Each of you will be presented with opportunities and you will have to decide for yourself which path to take. The responsibility facing each of you as you as you take the next step is challenging.

Nationally, we are at a similar challenging fork in the road. Our intent aside, our place as George Washington Murray said as “the civilization which all nations of the world look up to and imitate” is being challenged because of the road our nation has been traveling for the past few years.

You, the Southern University Class of 2007, now possess a tremendous gift. The gift of a wonderful education. This is the greatest tool you have to make the right choices as you embark on the next chapter of your life. So I leave you with one last piece of advice—never give up, and never get hung up on who gets the credit.

Homer Plessy, Louis Armstrong, Mahalia Jackson, and Madame C.J. Walker were faced with extraordinary obstacles. They never gave up. When they came to a fork in the road, they chose the path that while treacherous, led to a long-term positive effect. They never gave up

I urge you to look down the path ahead of you, and search for those opportunities that will lead you to have a positive impact no matter how large or small. You have earned your degrees, and it is now time to take your place as a few more contributors to this “great civilization.” But in all that you do, never give up. Never, never, never give up.

Thank you and Godspeed.

05-12-2007, 06:34 AM
What race is to blame for NOT leaving before the storm hit?

05-12-2007, 06:36 AM
What race is to blame for NOT leaving before the storm hit?

What race makes up the majority of the population in that area, and didn't have the means, nor were supplied the means, to leave before the storm hit?

05-12-2007, 06:37 AM
I remember Katrina VERY well, and I know that race had A LOT to do with the level of attention they received (or didn't).

05-12-2007, 06:47 AM
I originally posted this back when it happenend...it still runs true.......

Allow me to preface this rant first by stating I feel genuine sorrow for those effected by this disaster. My thoughts and prayers go out to those who've lost their loved ones and possessions. My only regret is that our collective concern over the tragedy doesn't begin to assuage the grief or help explain how things can go so wrong so fast.

What is Katrinamania? ..you ask? I'm not really sure. Is it the media blitz forcing mouthfuls of despair down our throats? Is it the celebrity "Care of the week to reestablish my career" rescue squads with camera's to capture "the moment"? Is it the governments Spicoliesque tardiness? Who knows or really cares at this point. I'm sick of the coverage, the phony trendy armbands, and the exploitation of the disaster that is "Katrina" None of those can erase the fact that this could all have been avoided had we properly took action in the days leading up to landfall.

Let us dissect this from a Monday morning quarterback perspective. We/They/Whomever knew 3 years ago a major storm could cause serious catastrophe to the New Orleans area so much as to predict exactly what occurred. We/They/Whomever were informed ad nauseam via the news and weather networks about the impending hurricane at least 36 hours before. We/They/Whomever have elected a government that should be prepared and ready to react when unfortunate incidents arise. Then why did this turn into such a mess?

I'll start with the flooding and foreknowledge that the New Orleans area was a virtual fish in a barrel for any sharpshooting weather anomalies. Obviously the administration fumbled the ball deep in their own territory on that play and it cost dearly, but we can't assess blame completely with them. The people of New Orleans certainly read theses reports and the dangers they were in if such a storm was to arrive. Why didn't they raise the funds needed for the infrastructure changes or even further lobby the government for these changes more aggressively. If 100,000's of people flock to Bourbon Street every year to see co-ed nipples flailing about like Mickey Mouse ears at Disneyland, I'm pretty sure a few extra wet-T-shirt pageants and tequila shooter competitions could've supplemented the fiscal needs of such a large scale infrastructure change. Why didn't the resorts and local merchants start fund raising or yes even raising the sales tax a little in these tourist area's to generate the capital. San Francisco raised their local tax 1% for 2 years(I think) and used the funding to revamp their public transportation to a state of the art system that everyone benefited from. The city embraced the proposal and the hike because they recognized the need. End result was the lowering of the tax and a new "theme park" style subway system right out of a Jetsons cartoon. Had New Orleans addressed the issue properly and encouraged it's residents to participate, they would've had a 3 year head start on Katrina and possibly beat her to the punch by being prepared.

Since we can't expect our leaders to have a pro-active approach with that much forethought, we hope they could at least react to the hourly "Moe style" slap across the face from the weather news correspondents. We know for a fact the residents ignored it or were ignorant of the situation. Nevertheless an all out military style evacuation should've at least been considered when the news of impending wraith was reported. It's difficult to accept the fact that you have to grab what you can carry and abandon your life as you know it for a miserable detention camp existence somewhere, but it's much better than being camped out on your roof for a week surrounded by a tepid malaria bisque with no assistance available. I'd rather be cooped up like "Woodstock2" showgoers than be left to watch my neighbors float by as I try to extract any liquid from my own piss a while sitting uncomfortable atop a chimney. Tragedies happen all the time. The only tragedy here is the fact that A)so little was done before hand when it could've done some good, and http://graphics.pop6.com/images/common/chat/smilies/shades.gif the incredible outpouring of generosity from the people of this great world is nothing compared to what is needed. When I mentally juxtapose the response, I can't help but think that the help provided by the government and the selfless giving of people could've changed this outcome from weeks of dismal new reports to a large scale collective good old fashioned "Help Thy Fellow American" pat on the back for all the world to see. Instead we look like a third world nation scrambling for assistance. That kinda makes me sick considering how we are the "greatest" nation on the planet.

People as a group are dumb as rocks. Funny considering we are the most advance species on the planet and even the roaches had enough sense to get out of Dodge(in this case New Orleans). My big gripe with the government is not that they didn't provide any help or warning because they did what they could with the resources set into place. If people ignore the "LEAVE NOW" warning then well hey..they did their part. The problem I have is that the system in place for this occurrence FEMA was so unprepared they looked like tourists on the beach adding suntan lotion as the Tsunami hit Sri Lanka casually joking about the good waves for bodysurfing. How can we as a nation allow people with absolutely NO APPLICABLE EXPERIENCE run such an important and vital governmental machine as Disaster Management. If we insist on continuing the trend of nepotism in politics why not put the "gift job" employees in charge of something like Olympic Committee. This way the worse thing that can happen is our bobsled team shows up late without their sled. Instead we stick with the current system that allows a town to be decimated and we can't even find our "bobsled" to go help. I hope we learn our lessons here today about the proper operation of crucial machines such as FEMA . If our country actively embraced the important things in life we would approach "Disaster Management" with as much zeal and enthusiasm as we do making sure we vote in tonite's "Survivor Finale". Wake up people and prioritize!

After Katrina we should all sit back and take a good look at our state of affairs and assess where we stand. We need to address the issues that could've turned this debacle into an unfortunate occurrence with minimal damage and grief. The government needs to be actively prepared instead of reactively responding. The so-called celebrity do-gooders should stay home and think about what they could do now to prepare the nation for the next disaster instead of racing to exploit the current crisis for their own self-worth. As far as we the American people..well not much to say really..again we collectively emptied our pantries of glazed beets and creamed corn, assessed what articles of last years Prada line would look good on a refugee, and genuinely shook our change purses into every QuickyMart glass jar labeled "Katrina" to help. Kudos' to the general population on their efforts to help the folks down there and I hope we can continue this thought process into next election time, not to spite our current administration or government but to show them that we care about these issues instead of whose nipple was exposed on national TV( not to go on a side rant but if we paid as much attention to vital governmental function as we do to whether or not Howard Stern said "balloonknot" in a non sexual manner, this rant would be non-existent).

Again let me state my sincere feelings to the colorful, fun, energetic, pridefilled, culturally rich people of N'Awlins and I hope to someday visit and have that cup of Crawfish Chowder in one of the many fine local family bistro's I've been dreaming about. I gave to the Red Cross what I could to assist and feel that further assistance can be given via this tirade. If I can make one person, no matter how smart or dumb,rich or poor, to say "hey wait a minute...we should fix this" then I would've helped in ways exponentially greater than wearing the plastic armband of the week and pretend everything is ok. Good Luck New Orleans!!!! And the rest of us WAKE UP! We almost lost "hedonists paradise", the Saints(even though they always suck) and Tabasco(selfish to think that way when people lost their lives and loved ones, but that is all that seems to jar us into cognizance and that's truly sad).

05-12-2007, 07:03 AM
I agree with some of what you're saying, but you're asking why they didn't get off their asses, and do something about it prior? Jesus, elements within our Government murdered 2,973+ people on 9/11/2001, and yet, IT'S A PAIN IN THE ASS to get ANYONE off their asses to DO something about it. You are correct in that they (and the White House, and lower level Government officials) were WELL AWARE of what was to come, however, that still doesn't excuse them for their actions AFTER it happened. Blocking water, cutting phone lines, storing 1000's of people in a stadium, AP reports saying whites are rummaging for food, but blacks are looting, Barbara Bush saying, "let them eat cake", and on and on and on...

05-12-2007, 07:19 AM
Oh I totally agree ....I even believe (it's total speculation but in light of other events seems plausible) that the barge that broke the levee could've been strategically placed there. It destroyed an "undesireable part of town" freeing up a nice new section of what I bet will be an "urban renewal" project and Starbucks will replace the Jenkins household. Much like the WTC's ....an economic burden to it's owners ....it can simply be destroyed by some "unpredictable occurance" and rebuilt into a profitable plot of real estate. If you read the history about the construction of the WTC complex...it was itself a renewal project.

05-12-2007, 10:29 AM
And as far as them not getting "their asses out of there:"
The awful NOAH weather in the weeks before had predicted hurricanes that never came. During the news coverage before the storm, lots of the people interviewed said that they had "shot their wad." They had exhausted their rescorces on all the storms that never came. They had left town, plywooded their windows, and no storm had come. They came back, and didn't have the means to do it again.
Wolf blitzers "so poor, and so black" jumps to mind.
I would point out though, alot of these people stayed in Texas (forget the name of the town) and crime went up over 80% in the year two years they have been there.
So while I do agree that a part of this is racially motivated, some of it seems to be these people living up to the stereotype associated with their race.