Friday, December 16, 2005

Spinning Like a Top - Katrina's Real Victims were White?

Man oh Man: what the Right Wing won't do when race is an issue that's pointing right at their wingnutty little heads.

From (a source that I highly recommend people avoid because it's biases are evident thus taking it from the realm of "news" firmly into the realm of "rightwing propaganda"; I mention it only because it's being discussed on left wing blogs after Drudge latched onto it, so you need to see the official source) comes this quite stunning "news":

Whites died at the highest rate of all races in Hurricane Katrina.

Well, knock me over with a feather. All those black faces on TV crying about missing or dead loved ones? All those Black voices testifying before Congress? Yet whites were the "real victims"?

Give me a break. The desperate spin of actual facts that led to this "news" is obvious and thus, it's conclusion about "the real victims" utterly unsupported.

Here's why.

According to CNSNews (and I include the word "news" only because I have to in its name) the data from which this conclusion about race is beign trumpeted came from Louisiana DHH. Actually, from the St. Gabriel Morgue, which admits to having received 883 bodies.

Well, that's already 200 people short. The official death toll according to the Louisiana DHH is 1,094 in Louisiana (1,300 when you include Mississippi).

Moreover, Louisiana DHH attempts to ascribe race to only 466 of the 523 bodies that it admits to having released to families, even though only 23 bodies have been determined to be wholly unrelated to Katrina. In other words, there were so far 34 known victims that have been identified yet not ascribed a race, for unexplained reasons.

The more significant number is the 571 bodies that have not yet been identified that LDHH admits it has knowledge of. For example, you have the fact that only 500 of St. Gabriel's -- the primary Katrina morgue -- 883 bodies have been identified, according to St. Gabriel itself. Since that subset of bodies is larger than that from which CNSNews makes it's stunning announcement about race, it would seem that the underinclusivity of the known data set is obvious to anyone who has bothered to....oh, pay attention in 9th grade science and math class?

But the ultimate fact that undermines any conclusion about race and Katrina's dead at this point that contradicts the likely outcome (and it is likely that in a city that was 69% black, 69% or more will be among the dead) is this:

Louisiana DHH also says that there are 4,486 people still missing - four times the number of people whose remains have been found.

(Others say that figure is still not high enough. As of three weeks ago, according to USA today there were still 6,644 people missing and unaccounted for from Katrina, of which nearly 700 were children.)

I can't speak for you, but when there are still 4 times as many people missing and unaccounted for 3 months after Katrina as have been found, I think it's fair to say that any analysis of the official number is analyzing fiction. How can you even make a statement until the majority of victims have been identified? You can't -- until they are found, and ID'd, they can't be classified by race because it is the surviving family members who would make such a designation. If it turns out that the majority of them were of African descent, that would dramatically undermine a conclusion that whites were disproportionately affected, wouldn't it?

So until all *those* missing folks are found dead, identified, and classified by race by relatives, anyone jumping up and down claiming that whites were killed disproportionately is knowingly and deliberately working with incomplete data. There is only one reason that anyone would wish to do so: to undermine the public's perception of a tragedy disproportionately affected the one group that most folks usually would rather not think about because they can't handle the guilt and need to believe that *anything* is true other than the truth about how racism intersected with poverty to create a death sentence for what looks like thousands in New Orleans.

The sad part is how many people desperate to believe that race had nothing to do with Katrina's aftermath will fall for this "news" hook, line and sinker.


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