I was listening to Ann Curry of NBC this morning talk about the devastation in Chile. I happen to love Ann Curry; her reporting is laced with compassion and caring, which I think is every bit as important as is accuracy.
Anyway, she was in Chile, and talked about how horrible is the aftermath of the 8.8. earthquake that happened on Saturday. I found myself holding my breath, to see if she would use the “L” word: looting.
Why? Because in the aftermath of Katrina and the earthquake in Haiti, I was incensed at how reporters zeroed in on the presence or possibility of looting. In Haiti, even as the horror was unfolding before our eyes, the reporters kept saying that the authorities were worried about looting. In New Orleans, following Katrina, when for days the people could not get food or water because nobody would deliver it, the reports again zeroed in as people took what they needed in order to survive. My God. People in New Orleans were standing on roofs, begging to be rescued. Others were on a hot, concrete bridge, dying in front of our eyes. People were stuffed into the Convention Center and the Superdome, with horrible to no facilities to use the bathroom. The people had no food, no water, and no help …and yet, the reporters concentrated on looting. Instead of going to New Orleans with food and water to help the people, the government sent the military with guns. Thank God for General Russell Honore, who ordered the men to put the guns down and help the people!
In Haiti, the fear or anticipation was in every report. I love Anderson Cooper, but even he laced his reports with the fear of looting. Again, I call out to God. What were the people supposed to do? There was no food, no water, no housing, no bathrooms … and yet there were survivors, from infants to old people, who needed to eat and have water in order to live – in spite of the devastation.
What I am afraid of is that the world lives with a veil over its ability to be fair when it comes to people of color, and if the people of color being dealt with are poor, the veil is even more dense. The world still has a tendency to see people of color as objects and not as human beings. There is compassion but it only goes so far. Instead of empathy there is fear and disdain, and a readiness to justify bad opinions of people of color by going to the worst case scenario, expecting the worst, ready to pounce on the people as opposed to lifting them. Fear of people of color is a disease of the world.
I still ache when I thinkof how Belgian doctors left post-op patients unattended, according to news reports, because night was falling and there was no one to protect them. I felt my heart fall to my feet. These were doctors, for goodness sake. They had operated on desperately wounded people … and they just left! I thank God for Sanjay Gupta for staying there with the patients, alone, with no other doctor to help, overnight.
People of color are people. They/we hurt, ache, yearn for life just like everyone else. The world has painted us as objects to be feared, not people to be cared for and respected. I applaud the resiliency of people of color everywhere, for we have endured not because of, but in spite of the world.
The people in Chile will “loot” because they are desperate. I wonder if the military will take up arms to keep that from happening, as they did in Haiti and New Orleans. And, I wonder if the much needed food and water will have as much difficulty getting to the people in Chile as it has had getting to the people of Haiti and New Orleans. Better it would have been for my soul if some compassionate soldier, while working to keep order, had been seen throwing loaves of bread, water and formula to desperate people instead of threatening their already uprooted lives with threats of even more pain.
Just a candid observation.