seen the desperation in the eyes of people just before their own death, or
death of a loved one. I’ve seen things I never thought I’d see in the
reporter Brian Williams, covering the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina)
country is in such a desperate state. On the government side we are faced
with cynical and reckless expenditure, with one eye on the next general
election... on self-preservation at any cost.
the opposition side, we have confusion and selfishness, with much more
ambition than ideas.”
Kirk Meighoo, political analyst, member of the Committee for
Transformation and Change in Trinidad)
here and there. There across four American states, the size of England,
the desperation is of biblical proportions.
thousand people feared dead. The ones that died, orphaned, lost children,
lost everything, were mostly the poor, disabled, illiterate, elderly, the
isolated, and mostly black.
red with shame incredulously wondered how scenes associated with the Third
World, of nameless corpses gnawed on by rats, of a city submerged in
diseased flood waters with garbage, oil and putrefying bodies floating in
the stagnant pools, of stranded starving people deprived of clean water,
food or medical care, could happen in America.
mainstream mainly white media reported on the stranded, hundreds of
orphans, on the million displaced people on 160,000 flooded homes. They
then removed themselves, began calling their own people “refugees.”
world caught on then, as did America. Reuters reported that “the gaping
racial divide” in the United States was laid bare by Hurricane Katrina.
New Orleans, a city that was more than two-thirds black, more than 30 per
cent of the population lived below the poverty level.
tragedy, said Illinois Senator Barack Obama, showed “how little
inner-city African Americans have to fall back on. They could not load up
their families in a van, fill it up with $100 of gasoline, throw some
bottled water in the back and check into a hotel with a credit card.”
epic disaster put a giant microscope on America’s legacy of slavery, of
decades of discrimination “reflected,” as Reuters put it, “in a
thousand different ways.”
life expectancy at birth is shorter than whites’. Infant mortality for
blacks is more than double the white rate. One in four black men is
permanently unemployed, a rate double that of white men.
in three black men spends time in a jail.”
list is endless.
they died. Or lost everything. Without dignity. The Statue of Liberty
ought to hang its head. America failed its poor, wretched refuse, brought
there against their will.
are not surprised. It’s the American legacy.
to Trinidad. See the blood-strewn corpses. We are second after Jamaica in
a non-warring country for murder rates. See the kidnap victims. See the
the 450,000 people living below the poverty line: in Curepe, in Laventille,
in the Beetham, in Couva with no home, no car, no savings, no education.
them brainwashed into dependency, bribed with easy cash into voting for a
government that prefers to import skilled labour, carpenters,
electricians, rather than train their own people who sit about in the
midday sun waiting for their ten-day dollars.
them forgotten on sugar estates.
our functionally illiterate, all 600,000 of them, who can barely read
newspaper headlines. See what they’ve become: full-time criminals.
dead innocent children in panyards; shooting one another dead; fighting
sick are left to languish. Our school children can’t read or write. Our
professionals are dwindling.
us, despite our oil, freefalling on the UN developmental index based on
health and education; 20 countries below Barbados that has neither oil nor
gas, but has university graduates and solid health care.
too, have a legacy of 43 years of independence, self-rule. We expected
betrayal of that proportion in Bush’s land, not by our own hand, by our