Thursday, September 15, 2005

How Different People View the Hurricane and Its Aftermath

I sit on my employer's Diversity Council, an effort on the part of our very large corporation to make our world a caring, accepting, safe place for all our colleagues, regardless of gender, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or differing abilities. Sometimes I find the work frustrating - I mean, how long can we keep talking about these topics and still not get it right? - and other times I am in awe of my colleagues as they try to go deep on these issues. The council has about 30 people, of different ethnicities, genders, sexual orientations, and levels within the company.

We started out our session today talking about what we had observed about Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath.

The white males talked first, and observed the fact that a great divide between the haves and have-nots was revealed, and that while they were disappointed in the government response, they were gratified that everyone was now pitching in, particularly the private sector and faith-based organizations.

Then the people of color talked. Oh, my, how they talked, about how it feels as a black person in America seeing your brothers and sisters so poor and desperate and so ill-served by the government that's supposed to provide some safety net. They talked of the pain of seeing the poorest and weakest - the oldest and youngest - left by the side of the road to die. They talked of the hurt they felt in seeing people so misjudged ("Why were they so ignorant not to know to get out of town? Why did they steal a TV set in a place with no electricity?"). Some of them couldn't even talk, they just cried.

It reinforced my own pain - I was pretty close to tears much of the time - and reminded me how far we have to go yet on issues of social injustice. It reminded me of how far we still have to go to even see those who live below the poverty line in cities and towns all over America.

The rich man wouldn't give a drop of water to Lazarus, the rich man who had so much [who among you has fed Me when I was hungry?].

The day will come when we who have so much will ask Lazarus for help. How will he respond to us?

1 comment:

Katherine said...

Thanks for sharing this. It is so important to listen to how different people interpret the Hurricane, and to let disparate reactions be lessons.