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Monday, September 26, 2005

It turns out that the stories of murder, mayhem, death and cannibalism in New Orleans were greatly exaggerated.

More than ever, I believe that Katrina was a missed opportunity for black America. The image of black America that was projected to the rest of the nation will reverberate for years to come.

Just like the riots in the 60s and the LA riots, this will be a huge setback for black America. The media has projected and reinforced a frame for black Americans that puts them into two categories -- at best, poor and helpless, and at worst, lawless and violent (and even cannibalistic).

Five years from now, as we see the results of continued flight of people and capital from mostly black urban centers, we won't think of Katrina... but we should.

This was an opportunity for all Americans to come together -- a time where we could see black Americans overcoming adversity to come together, and see white Americans reaching their hands out to help. It could have been an historic, unifying moment for America.

I know, it sounds pie-in-the-sky. But shift the frame on 9/11 and you can easily imagine a day in which the story focused not on the bravery of the firefighters but the failure of federal and local systems to plan for such an event, provide adequate communication, etc... Yes, the media caught up with those stories later, but they weren't the initial focus (and rightly so).

Unfortunately, thinking of black Americans as heroes doesn't fit the frame our "best and brightest" learned in J-school (unless they are heroically suing their employers or staging a sit in or boycott against 'the man'). I'm sure they feel good about themselves - - after all, isn't everyone better off by continuing to beat the dead horse of racism and victimhood?

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