From Slave Ships to the Superdome in New Orleans

Revolution #13, September 4, 2005, posted at

New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. People trapped amidst squalor and chaos in the official shelters. People facing death from starvation and disease on the streets.

Most of the people trapped in the misery and chaos of post-Katrina New Orleans and along the Gulf Coast were Black. When people took what they needed to survive, they were condemned as animals and dangerous criminal gangs by the authorities. What were they supposed to do—just die quietly?

This is what the authorities must have thought. In a hundred thousand ways Katrina laid bare the unequal and oppressive relations Black people are forced to endure under this system.

Why are the two major oil pipelines running out of the New Orleans Gulf area called the Plantation line and the Colonial line? This underscores the reality confronting Black people in this country. Black people remain concentrated on the bottom rungs of this society. This is the legacy of slavery, Jim Crow segregation and continuing oppression of Black people as a people. The sight of thousands of Black people packed into sports arenas brought back haunting visions of the holds of the slave ships which forcibly dragged millions of Africans to the shores of the New World in chains.

But the masses weren’t going out like that. They defiantly went into the streets to see to their survival. Some organized efforts to meet not just their own needs but the needs of groups of people trapped in the mass shelters like the New Orleans Convention Center.

The New York Times reported that: “On Friday morning, some young men broke into the kitchen of the Marriott Hotel, across the street from the center, fixed a gigantic batch of scrambled eggs, grits and bacon and served it to storm victims.” A retired teacher at the Convention Center praised these youth as “Robin Hoods”—bringing food to the people.

It is especially outrageous to watch federal and state officials threaten people who were put in this desperate situation by government inaction with imprisonment and even death. The Governor of Louisiana said, “I have one message for these hoodlums. These troops (being sent into New Orleans) know how to shoot and kill, and they are more than willing to do so if necessary.” The Mississippi State Police Chief promised to deal ruthlessly with any looters. This is Mississippi, where the police used to arrest people and hold them for the KKK to lynch—where sheriffs and judges and preachers would often join lynch mobs in carrying out murderous deeds. And this is New Orleans, where a person’s racial ancestry was calculated down to great-great-great grandparents. Being found to be even 1/32nd Black would subject someone to a life as a second class citizen.

George Bush said there should be zero tolerance for any lawbreaking. What about zero tolerance for a system that has not and cannot end the oppression of Black people? Or a system that now threatens people facing starvation and disease with official violence for trying to feed themselves and others? These rulers have shown what they and their system are capable of in how they dealt with this hurricane. As long as power is left in the hands of these capitalist exploiters, we’ll continue to see the kind of suffering seen in New Orleans and the Mississippi Delta area in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

It’s Way Past Time To Throw Off the Chains of Oppression and Get With the Emancipators of Humanity!

Carl Dix, National Spokesperson, Revolutionary Communist Party, P.O. Box 941, Knickerbocker Station, New York, NY 10002-0900, 866-841-9139 x2670,