A Message from the Black Law Students Association at Columbia College

Revolution #020, October 30, 2005, posted at revcom.us

The people of New Orleans lived in a place where a natural disaster was expected to strike. For years the federal government knew that the city would be flooded if it was hit by a Category 3 or larger hurricane. Last month that day came. The local leaders did the only thing they could- order everyone to evacuate to avoid the catastrophic loss of life and human suffering that would result from Katrina.

But some were left behind, because they had no means to flee or no where to go or no money to pay for shelter and food while they waited until it was safe to return. The only man in the nation who had the authority, power, and resources to quickly and efficiently bring these people and their families to safety was in the next state Öon vacation.

Only once it is too late to act, too late to save those who could not save themselves- he comes to survey the damage.

President Bush chose to let the chips fall where they may for the poor in New Orleans. The self appointed evaluator of the fitness of others to rule their nations sat by and let only God knows how many die. Had this happened in Iran, there is no doubt he would have been planning "Operation Irani Freedom" the next day. There would have been no end to the outraged speeches on morality and human rights emanating from the White House. Yet there have been no apologies from George W. Bush to those he abandoned, only entreaties that we not "play the blame game."

There is no game to be played here. Instead of acting when he heard there was imminent danger to American citizens, President Bush stayed on his Texas ranch and only deigned to cut his vacation short when the outcry and criticism by elected officials, the press, and the public at his lack of response became so overwhelming that he could no longer sit back and watch. The outcry peaked unexpectedly on a live NBC telecast when rap star Kanye West emotionally declared "itís been five days ...America is set up to help the poor, the black people, the less well-off, as slow as possible."

However, the crime of omission happened long before that sentiment was uttered. We have witnessed what is likely the biggest avoidable disaster in U.S. history. Ironically, the very people Bush allowed to die in the floodwaters in New Orleans are the parents and grandparents of those he sends to die in the deserts of Iraq. Out of this disaster, he said, we as Americans could begin a "dialog" on race and poverty issues. As we all know that dialog has yet to be started. In a nation that has proclaimed that all men are created equal and that liberty and justice stand above all else, what happened to the poor in the Gulf Coast cannot be tolerated or ever allowed to happen again.

On Wednesday, November 2, 2005 there will be a nationwide student walk-out to show our President that this type of callous disregard for the welfare of the poor is unacceptable. We hope that other students at Columbia University will heed the call for action and join the protest.