A DECADE ago, when Hurricane Katrina poured her wrath on the Gulf Coast, America wasn’t prepared for the kind of wholesale destruction we witnessed. The Category 3 storm killed nearly 2,000 people, destroying more than 100,000 homes. But it wasn’t just the physical destruction that alarmed us. It was the emotional toll of watching a disaster that could have hit any of us.
In the wake of the deluge that tore through levees and destroyed a city, portraits of devastation filled our television screens, and disbelief filled our minds.
We couldn’t fathom an America where people were left on rooftops, cobbling together makeshift signs in fruitless efforts to get help.
But in one scene after another, we saw poor people of color begging for assistance, and in one scene after another that assistance never came. It was a phenomenon that prompted Kanye West to go off-script during “A Concert for Hurricane Relief,” a benefit aired on NBC after the hurricane.
“George Bush doesn’t care about black people,” West said of the man who was president at the time.
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Illustration by Richard Harrington