In 21st century America, empathy seems to be reserved for the heroic and the stoic, those who give all and ask for nothing. Perseverance is what the nation seems to most admire in black folk, if it admires anything: the poetic but passive stuff celebrated in spirituals, blues songs and church hymns. In New Orleans, that has translated into admiration for the man who rescued his neighbor from a rooftop or for the family determined to return and rebuild, government help or no.
Anger is the province of criminals and complainers, which is pretty much how the country eventually came to view the hordes of dirty, desperate folks warehoused in the Superdome and Astrodome who had the temerity to be upset about it. Barbara Bush spoke for more people than herself when she opined that evacuees in Houston were doing better because they were probably "underprivileged anyway." What earthly right had they to be angry?
...In so many ways, we believe there is no continuity to the black story in America, and therefore nothing is ever at stake. Price Cobbs, coauthor of the seminal 1960s book "Black Rage," wrote a memoir in 2005 in which he declared that it was time for black Americans to finally claim a sense of entitlement. He meant not government handouts or racial exceptionalism but full participation in the whole entitlement culture that stresses an individual's inalienable right to be satisfied and listened to.It is a decidedly self-centered view, but one that blacks as a group could use more of.
Our survival — and that of New Orleans — depends on it.
African-Americans have a right to be angry about New Orleans, but we all should be. It's inexcusable that at the same time members of this administration can see fit to swoop into Baghdad under the dark of night to direct the rebuilding of that shattered country, they can't bring themselves to visit a shattered city right here at a home. It's inexcusable, and inexcusable that we should let them do it. What use to the world is a country that can bring itself to invade other countries for dubious reasons, but can't see fit to rebuild one of its greatest cities?