Friday, March 13, 2009

Recap of the past two days

Yesterday we were in the city of Montgomery, Alabama. We visited the Civil Rights Museum, the Southern Poverty Law Center, the Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church, the patronage of Martin Luther King Jr. and his family, and the Rosa Parks Museum. I really enjoyed the Civil Rights Museum and Southern Poverty Law Center. They focused not only on taking a stand African-American civil rights, but also the civil rights of all people (Middle Eastern, women, gays & lesbians, etc). I think Elie Wiesel said it best when he said "We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented".

I saw one picture in there that just hurt my heart; it was a small child (around 2 or 3 years old) dressed in a KKK robe and touching the riot shield of an African-American police officer. I just don't understand how anyone could teach their child to hate at such a young age. I suppose it's the same way people teach their kids to love and be tolerant at a young age.

One thing I find interesting is that Rosa Parks has an entire museum dedicated to her. It's interesting to me that a person who physically did so little for the movement came to the status of fame that she did. Now, before you get upset, I'm not saying that she was not important to the movement, but that it's just interesting to me that there were so many other people that gave
up so much for the movement and they have not received the kind of recognition that she has. I believe that Rosa Parks was not necessarily essential to the movement, but she played an important factor in the speed of the movement.

So today is our first day in New Orleans and it has been an interesting day. We watched When the Levees Broke by Spike Lee on the way down from Montgomery. It was definitely an interesting film to watch. It talked about the effects of Hurricane Katrina on the different residents of New Orleans. It was hard to watch sometimes because of the pain you could hear in the people's voices and the pain you could see on their face. They were just hurt and felt betrayed by their own government; the same government that is suppose to protect them and watch out for them. The question has been brought up on several occasions of whether help would have came sooner if the majority of the people would have been Caucasian. I honestly don't think it had to do so much with race as with socioeconomic status (SES). The areas that were hit the hardest were the Ninth Ward (especially the Lower Ninth Ward) and the Lakeview area. It just so happened that a majority of the people in the Ninth Ward were African-American. If it had been a highly affluent area I think it would have been fixed a lot quicker.

Speaking of being fixed, it has been about 3 1/2 years since Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans. Some areas in the Ninth Ward, especially the Lower Ninth Ward are still in such horrible condition. How can we spend billions of dollars to institute democracy in a foreign country but when our own citizens need help it's taking years to get anything accomplished? There is no reason that things should still be as bad as they are.

Also, I read in my journal of a town in which Caucasian "militia" men basically went around shooting African-Americans walking through their town (simply trying to escape the hurricane) because they were "thugs" and up to no good. What really gets me is that the police did nothing and have done nothing about this. Since when was it okay to go around and shoot people because you think they are up to no good? I hate to play the race card but if a group of African-American "militia" men went around shooting Caucasian people would that be overlooked as well? In one statement, an older Caucasian man said that he had seen someone get shot and that as an EMT his first response should have been to go out there and help the man but he was afraid of getting shot himself. I can't wrap my head around the fact that people were just shooting, and in some cases "hunting" other human beings. To be fair, I can possibly understand why some of them took up arms in the first place. If you are hearing news reports about the violence and looting going on and then you see those "same" people in your neighborhood you want to do everything you can to protect yourself, your family, and your property. I am not trying to excuse them from what they done, simply trying to be fair by presenting both sides.

Something else that struck me as strange and honestly quite stupid while we were touring some of New Orleans was that they rebuilt the levees at the exact same height as before. I mean if they didn't work the first time, what makes you think that they are going to work the next time. Einstein said it best, "The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results". Why not take the time and money to do it right, that way if it happens again, the levees will actually work and all this money and man power will not have to be used. Another thing that struck me as odd was the fact that they fenced off some area around the levees (that are the exact same height as before) saying that it was unsafe to live there. However, it's clearly much safer to live across the street from the fenced off area (I'm being sarcastic in case you can't tell). I mean do these people honestly think before they do some of the things they do?

We visited downtown New Orleans last night and it was quite an experience. There were so many different things going on at once. There are restaurants, dance clubs, live music clubs, street performers, and gift shops just to name a few. You can't really tell that the downtown area was affected by Hurricane Katrina, but again, I believe this is because it is so essential to the New Orleans economy.

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