I apologize if my silence on the Texas disaster strikes anyone as indifference. My thoughts are always with black people as we collectively experience disaster daily—be it financial, educational, familial, or otherwise. My silence reflects my intellectual meditation on a so-called natural disaster that is not unlike anything we as a collective have seen or experienced in the past.
I was seventeen when Katrina hit. Despite the disturbing pictures on the news, the disaster did not appear real to me until I visited New Orleans my freshman year of college as a community outreach volunteer. The images of houses uprooted from plots of land are seared into my brain, as are the signs of those who returned home still seeking beloved pets and loved ones swept away or drowned by what the media referred to as Katrina. I also remember cleaning out a severely damaged convenience store when the owner asked us to leave in an outpour of emotions that brought him to tears. To the news, Katrina was a breaking story used to culminate the careers of countless white journalists. To blacks, Katrina was heartbreaking–the joys of their lives turned into memories.
What was perhaps most interesting about this trip, is seeing that despite black tragedy, whites thrived. While the lower ninth ward, a predominately black district, received extensive damage, the French Quarter was virtually unscathed due to the high levees and brick houses.
Whites were also in charge of the relief services. Thus, what I though was involvement with my university’s community service initiative, was actually whites seeking to consummate their journey to liberalism. Despite their liberal performance, the white leaders scolded my HBCU cohort, for not fulfilling what they deemed proper engagement. Yes, a service seemingly dedicated to helping blacks in need, was overly burdened by the presence of blacks on a journey to education, and seemed to find pride in reprimanding a group of black students in front of a predominately white constituency.
Similar behavior proves quite common in after school initiatives and non-profit organization started by whites supposedly in existence to aid black youth or black people. The blacks involved in these initiatives often misconstrue the interests of white founders and leaders. In doing so, blacks are often castigated by said whites in an understated attribute of the white liberal—seeming more involved or more dedicated to black disenfranchisement than actual black people. Thus, these portrayals illustrate that these natural disasters that prove detrimental to blacks provoke an unnatural response from white responders who use black disenfranchisement or tragedy to emerge as a white savior.
The same can be said of Hurricane Harvey whose devastation has proved a platform for a multitude of white saviors. Every day, the news is inundated with images of whites “saving.” Even the heat placed on Paster Joel Osteen for initially declining to open his doors for those in need, proved a gateway for his emergence as a white savior. Furthermore, the figurative knocks on Osteen’s church proved a mess for the pastor to emerge as a Jesus- like figure—despite his initial reservation in granting civilian access to the prodigious property their tithes paid for.
The Osteen scenario proved quite resonant, in that it exposed an unstated conflict with the white savior figure. The white “savior” is an illusion which appears to “rescue” blacks from a systemic heist to which they benefit. This notation, brings me to the query that anchors this post:
How natural are natural disasters?
For whites to win in times of loss—be it a hurricane or any of the other injustices that burden the black community, suggests that white gain is as natural as a hurricane—a conceptualization that substantiates white evil while simultaneously oppressing the colonialized.
These natural disasters also conveniently displace blacks. Natural community disasters like education displace blacks into charter schools as Katrina displaced many blacks to New York–which experienced Hurricane Sandy in 2012, and Houston–the location of the latest natural disaster. Coincidence or Convinience?
To some, these disasters merely expose how systemically disenfranchised blacks are in comparison to their thoroughly protected counterparts. But do these natural disasters expose systemic disenfranchisement, or are they a product of white supremacist conjuring induced to ensure cyclical disenfranchisement continues to plague the black collective?
Regardless of how one may interpret these occurrences, the natural disaster as it effects blacks reveals “nature’ as reflecting the nature of whites—making it cruel, destructive, yet predictable.
As a collective, we many not be able to predict when the wrath of white supremacy will strike—but we know for sure that it will.
So while natural disasters may reflect the nature of our oppressors—it also reflects our nature as Africans to adapt and overcome.
Thus, it it is imperative that we as a collective, to the best of our ability, maintain a stance ready for combat. So whether it is having a passport, being physically fit, eating healthy, reading and writing more, policing our neighborhoods, learning to swim, or farm—there are a plethora of attributes we can cultivate as a collective to increase our survival rate, and denounce the white savior by saving ourselves.
Black Power ❤