In the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, 80 percent of New Orleans was under water, thousands of people were displaced, and at least 1,800 people were killed. The country watched in disbelief as residents — a disproportionate number of whom were black — pleaded for help on rooftops as then-President George W. Bush watched from afar — first from Washington, D.C., then overhead from a helicopter. All the while, the city’s poorest community, the Lower Ninth Ward, had up to 12 feet of water sitting stagnant in some areas for weeks. It was the last place to have power and water service restored, and the last to have the flood waters pumped out.
Despite the dire circumstances, news outlets and law enforcement quickly began to label the black residents as “looters.” They were not viewed as people trying to survive, but rather as criminals who needed to be reined in. New Orleans Police Department Captain James Scott instructed police officers that they had the “authority by martial law to shoot looters.”
The above excerpt was originally published in Medium.
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