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.
I been reading a lot of quotes on the interwebs that are saying that Iowa is handling flooding better than New Orleans dealt with Katrina. A lot of the comments (some are more overt than others) imply that white folks in Iowa (of course these comments completely marginalize Iowans of color) are doing a better job of steadfastly standing up to floodwaters while folks of color in New Orleans were looting and relying on handouts. Is this rhetoric racist? Of course it is. It’s comparing two situations that are logically impossible to compare. A single urban area vs. acres of farmland dotted with small to medium sized towns does not present a landscape that is comparable. The rhetorically racist comparisons of flooded Iowa and Katrina-impacted New Orleans reminds me of this Tim Wise video that illustrates how racism has been used to facilitate division amongst working class white folks and working class folks of color.