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Blaming the Victim?

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Although the Katrina aftermath and repercussions are going to be an on-going national focus for a loooooong-time, that will not be the sole purpose of this blog. Having said that…

It’s very interesting to me how many people are blaming those who did not evacuate, as if they purposely chose to be victims of this horrific event. It’s almost as if people are implying that the living conditions or situations were voluntary for the majority of those who stayed behind, i.e. the poor. There is no doubt in my mind that if 1) they could have predicted the severity of the storm, and 2) they had the means to get out, then they would have done so. Census records show that many of the areas that were most severely impacted are some of the poorest in the country, not just New Orleans! Therefore, even if they wanted to leave, which many probably did, they didn’t have the resources to go (i.e., no money for a car, bus, or plane ride, or an extended stay at a hotel). I’ve also heard many people saying that those who were evacuated to the Super Dome and the Convention Center should have had four to five days of food with them. Again I use the same argument, because many could barely afford groceries as it was, so to ask them to buy 4 to 5 days’ worth of food was really unreasonable…

We all need to recalibrate how we see the poor and how to help alleviate these conditions. There needs to be a new understanding of how to raise the level of poverty in this country. Yes, we need to require people to take personal ownership of their own conditions and their futures. However, if they don’t have the resources to pull themselves up by their “own bootstraps,” then how can they be expected to figure their own way out of their situation. People don’t just need to be told what to do. In addition to being “inspired,” they need to be EDUCATED and EQUIPPED for success. This is not a short-term fix or something that can happen overnight. There must be a long-term commitment – supported with MONEY – that will enable people to grow out of their current state and build a life that can be perpetuated to their children. Right now, poverty is reproducing poverty in a vicious cycle that must be broken with innovative solutions, not the same, out-dated programs that have shown only limited success, if any success at all. This commitment must come from the public and private sectors, IF we truly are committed to changing the long-term situation in this country, and not just providing a temporary, quick fix for those who have been displaced. Otherwise, let’s not make false promises or show temporary compassion. These people – Americans – deserve better than that.


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