Race, Disaster and Comparative Suffering

Tim Wise on racism and racist rhetoric in Iowa flooding and New Orleans Katrina

Tim Wise has written a new essay that critiques the racist rhetoric that’s being furiously spread around the interwebs in the wake of flooding in Iowa – “Adding Insult to Injury: Race, Disaster and the Calculus of Comparative Suffering.” It’s a deeper analysis that is very similar in context to my post on “Comparing Iowa to New Orleans.”

Disasters bring out the best and worst in people.

On the one hand, millions of folks respond to the suffering of their fellow human beings with compassion, concern, and even significant financial assistance when needed. Be it a hurricane, an earthquake, tornadoes or the recent massive flooding in the Midwestern United States, the hearts, minds, and often wallets of large numbers of the nation’s people are with those in need.

And on the other hand, there’s Rush Limbaugh, who has decided to use the flooding in Iowa not to demonstrate compassion, but as an opportunity to make derogatory statements about poor black folks: specifically those caught by the flooding in New Orleans after Katrina in 2005.

This week, as folks in Iowa, Indiana and parts of Illinois have watched flood waters rise ever higher, Limbaugh took to the air to contrast these supposedly good and decent people who have joined forces to help each other, with the presumably evil, lazy and violent folks of New Orleans, who we are told, did nothing but foment criminality and wait for the government to save them during flooding there in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.