Black leaders on the USF campus have said that the federal government’s relief efforts came slowly because the majority of the Katrina victims were African American.
Kanye West, a popular hip-hop artist, raised a swell of nationwide discussion when he said during a telethon on NBC that “George Bush doesn’t care about black people.” Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice commented, saying that it is ridiculous to think this is a race issue.According to a Wall Street Journal poll, West’s opinion is a reflection of the opinions of many black Americans. Seventy percent of blacks and 27 percent of whites said that the federal government’s response was slow because of the race of the majority of the victims. The poll also showed that 67 percent of white Americans and 27 percent of black Americans said race was not a factor.According to student body President Maxon Victor, there is no excuse for the slow response.
“The government and everyone know where the impoverished neighborhoods are,” he said.According to Crystel Dawson, president of Black Student Union, it should have never taken five days for the government to respond.
“They’re Americans,” she said.
Even after the first week, Victor said the government still has not dealt with the major issues.
“Think socially what is going to happen to these impoverished neighborhoods,” he said.
These areas were social disasters before Katrina devastated them, said Victor, who believes Bush never cared about these areas before.
“I am not a Bush hater; maybe a basher,” he said.
While he said that he feels this was a race issue, Victor does not want anyone to think that he is against white people.
“I am against a system, not a people,” he said.
“I’m not surprised,” said Dawson. “It seems that we are always the last ones to get a response to social and economic issues.
“I’m from Miami, Florida. I lost my house during Hurricane Andrew. FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) was in Miami the very next day to help,” she said.
The difference between the two hurricanes was that the majority of the areas hit by Andrew were white, middle-class areas, and the majority of areas hit by Katrina were black, lower-class areas, Dawson said.
Blacks are not high on the priority list of the federal government, according to Dawson.
“We are not speaking for everyone, but the truth is the truth,” she said. “We must tell the truth, then maybe something will change and if we hurt someone’s feelings – sorry.”
“The problem is simple: The solution takes more effort,” Victor said. “I am focused on USF united.”
He plans on mobilizing USF in an effort to help the relief effort for the Katrina victims, not only through monetary support but also through education.
Student Government is putting together a program called Students for Relief, a student activism, awareness and educational program that aims to go into areas where there are social disasters.
“Social disaster, that is a mindset,” Victor said.
Victor plans on using this program to change the mindsets of people by educating them about preparing for natural disasters.
Victor said that the Civil Rights movement of the ’70s was about equality, but “the Civil Rights movement today is about education.”
“This is a time for everyone to unite,” Victor said. While the country is divided, Victor said he is being proactive and not waiting for another disaster to happen before action is taken. He salutes all students and faculty for their efforts in aiding the victims of Hurricane Katrina.