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Was Blind. Am Starting to See

Sep
3
2005

Kanye West is wrong.
George Bush doesn’t hate black people. He just doesn’t have any use for folks who can’t help themselves. Like him. Folks who just show the gumption to get things done and lift themselves up. Just like him.
Yup. George Bush lifted himself up from Yale to Harvard. And from son of a president to governor of Texas. It was a tough row. But he hoed it with diligence and patience. Anyone can do that. They just have to try. It’s hard work, of course. But life’s hard.
That attitude’s not a color thing. It’s a privilege thing. Living your entire life unable to see past the end of your own nose is the ultimate luxury. It is one enjoyed by us white folks on a scale that we, uh, usually fail to fully appreciate.
But the reminders are coming fast and furious these past few days. NBC’s fundraiser last night may not have been meant to reassure white America that things in New Orleans were under control but that’s how it looked to me. Entertainment by black people (and Harry Connick Jr.) with announcing and platitudes by whites. Pretty standard fare, no?
But those of you who really listened might have noticed that Wynton Marsalis didn’t say a word the whole show. Not a peep. And Aaron Neville had an interesting song selection. He sang “Amazing Grace,” of course. But he also sang another song he didn’t write, one about a forced migration and virtual imprisonment of black people that will sound – when you read the lyrics – a bit familiar.
Randy Newman’s “Louisiana, 1927″ is a memorial to a flood where black folks were rounded up and told to remain while all the whites fled the rising waters. Many of those forced to remain behind died. Others were moved to relocation camps where they died of disease and other ailments. As Conservative David Brooks pointed out earlier this week, it was a seminal moment in U.S. race relations.
Aaron Neville may not have made a speech but he’s got Kanye West’s back:

What has happened down here is the winds have changed
Clouds roll in from the north and it started to rain
Rained real hard and it rained for a real long time
Six feet of water in the streets of Evangeline
The river rose all day
The river rose all night
Some people got lost in the flood
Some people got away alright
The river have busted through clear down to Plaquemines
Six feet of water in the streets of Evangeline
Louisiana, Louisiana
They’re tryin’ to wash us away
They’re tryin’ to wash us away
Louisiana, Louisiana
They’re tryin’ to wash us away
They’re tryin’ to wash us away
President Coolidge came down in a railroad train
With a little fat man with a note-pad in his hand
The President say, “Little fat man isn’t it a shame what the river has done
To this poor cracker’s land.”
Louisiana, Louisiana
They’re tryin’ to wash us away
They’re tryin’ to wash us away
Louisiana, Louisiana
They’re tryin’ to wash us away
They’re tryin’ to wash us away
They’re tryin’ to wash us away
They’re tryin’ to wash us away

Two footnotes: Plaquemines Parish remains, as New Orleans mayor Ray Nagin points out in this interview, one of the poorest (and blackest) in the state.
And “cracker” in the song above refers to white people.

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