Why were weapons confiscated during Katrina

A racist dam break Podcast review: Floodlines

July 22nd, 2020 • Society - Text: Jan-Peter Wulf

The fact that so many people lost their lives in New Orleans in 2005 as a result of Hurricane "Katrina" only has something to do with the hurricane indirectly - it is rather the sad result of ailing infrastructure. The media image that was drawn by those looking for food, thrown back on themselves, was no less destructive. The podcast “Floodlines” shows: “Katrina” exposed the racism of the USA.

Gerhard Schröder was elected Chancellor again in 2002, despite poor poll results. It owes the turnaround to a flood: when the Oder overflowed its banks in August that year and dykes broke in many places, it was there right away. The pictures of the man in rubber boots at the makeshift protective dams hastily built with sandbags went through the country. The Chancellor, who had been behind his challenger Edmund Stoiber for a long time in the polls, gained sympathy and, at least for a short time, occupied the collective symbol of the caring national father, which is so powerful in this country.

Three years later, in August 2005, George W. Bush asked the Air Force One pilot to fly from his home in Texas to D.C. take a little flip and go a little deeper. The incumbent US President wanted to use flyover mode to get an idea of ​​the extent of the flooding in the Mississippi Delta region caused by Hurricane "Katrina". He didn't land. Bush later regretted his lack of presence (and the resulting lack of photo options). However, he was already a "lame duck" and there was no further term in office.

Not having come to the people can be interpreted as a failure to classify the flood as a national tragedy. It symbolizes how the government has dealt with the whole situation on the ground. And with that we are right in the middle of the eight-part podcast “Floodlines” from “The Atlantic”. He revisits what happened 15 years ago. How did it come about that over 1,800 people fell victim to the hurricane, most of them - 93 percent - black?

It has little to do with the cyclone itself. It knows skin colors as little as a virus does. “Katrina” wasn't that bad either, not the “big hit” initially feared. The disaster that ensued is once again man-made: the extensive levee system that was supposed to protect the districts of New Orleans had failed. Not that the levees weren't high enough. But they had already been made by the "army corps" of the USA, the military engineering that is responsible for such things, partly from insufficient, sandy material and the maintenance / renewal was in the comparatively poor - and predominantly inhabited by blacks - Most of the city was abducted. It was not the wind that did the great damage. The water did it, flooding meter high into the city districts through broken dams and dykes. Four fifths of the city was under water, some seven and a half meters high or deep.

In retrospect, the rescue and relief measures can only be described as a disaster. For days, the responsible authorities had not even really noticed that people were not only escaping from the water to the local football stadium (which is actually called the “Mercedes-Benz Superdome” today), but also to which it was only five minutes away by car Convention center. There they were left on their own for days, hardly anyone had the opportunity to stock up on an emergency ration in advance. An insufficient supply of food and clothing led to self-sufficiency in the surrounding shops. The US media, meanwhile, made looting out of it. There was talk of a “warzone” and terms such as “downtown Baghdad”, and soon the channels were outbidding each other with horror rumors from the convention center: violence, rape, murder should take place there. A fairy tale In retrospect, exactly one violent death was recorded among tens of thousands of people who had fled there, and just 13 weapons were confiscated. “Floodlines” reports on the movement of many city dwellers who have become homeless to other countries, associated with the designation or framing as “refugees”. Lack of compensation and no responsibility to date. The last, particularly strong episode of the podcast lets Michael Brown, then head of FEMA (Federal Emergeny Management Agency) and one of the main responsible - insightful and at the same time rejecting guilt - have their say. More than an indirect sorry comes to his lips.

Curtain up, all questions unanswered. Nevertheless, “Floodlines” draws a clear conclusion: The delayed and lack of help can ultimately be seen as an act of racism. Black lives matter - but do they really?