Sunday, November 18, 2012

"To be honest, I pray God I never see these people again."

The New York Times is still covering the continuing efforts to recover in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. Many working class enclaves in the outer boroughs were impacted the hardest. These include the Rockaways in Queens, parts of Staten Island (Where about 50% of the deaths occurred.) and the Red Hook area in Brooklyn. Of course New Jersey seemed to have a bullseye on it, but this post is concerned with the reporting by Sarah Maslin Nir*, who is concentrating on the income/racial divide in New York City that she discovered while reporting on volunteer activities.       

Much of the volunteers are described as middle to upper class white people and so among the victims seeking assistance there is some bitterness. Sarah Maslin Nir doesn't note any minority volunteerism and the Times has not covered any black assistance. That doesn't mean it's not there, but it has not been covered by this major metropolitan newspaper. If it exists than the Times is very much remiss and doing a disservice to minority efforts.

I mentioned bitterness among people trying to recover from Sandy. They resent their forced dependence on middle and upper class white people. So it is both a class and racial bitterness. Although much of the reporting by this reporter is antidotal, it cannot be dismissed solely on that basis. I would like to see more reporting on the income/racial divide not just in NYC but throughout the nation. But if you bring up this divide you are accused of promoting class/racial warfare. The following is a quote from Nicole Rivera: "It's sad, sometimes it's  a little degrading," she said as she stood in line in a parking lot waiting for free toiletries. Ms. Rivera said that she was thankful for the help, but that its face-mostly white, middle-and upper-class people -made her bitter. The only time you recognize us is when there's some disaster, she said. Since this happened, it's: 'Let's help the black people. Let's run to their rescue.' Why wait for tragedy? she added. People suffer everyday with this."

What Ms. Rivera is saying is that she lives in a racially and class divided society that persists with or without hurricanes. Probably the reporting of recovery efforts from Sandy will soon disappear from the Times front page and Sarah Maslin Nir will move on to other stories, but Ms. Rivera will still be saying, "Come See About Me".

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