Katrina’s Real Marauders

A major–and majorly disturbing–story of post-Katrina New Orleans is broken (12/17/08) by an independent reporter at the Nation who finds evidence of up to 11 black people shot by white vigilantes in one New Orleans neighborhood immediately after the hurricane. A.C. Thompson writes that

over the course of an 18-month investigation, I tracked down figures on all sides of the gunfire, speaking with the shooters of Algiers Point, gunshot survivors and those who witnessed the bloodshed. I interviewed police officers, forensic pathologists, firefighters, historians, medical doctors and private citizens, and studied more than 800 autopsies and piles of state death records. What emerged was a disturbing picture of New Orleans in the days after the storm, when the city fractured along racial fault lines as its government collapsed….

The new information should reframe our understanding of the catastrophe. Immediately after the storm, the media portrayed African-Americans as looters and thugs–Mayor Ray Nagin, for example, told Oprah Winfrey that “hundreds of gang members” were marauding through the Superdome. Now it’s clear that some of the most serious crimes committed during that time were the work of gun-toting white males.

So far, their crimes have gone unpunished. No one was ever arrested for shooting [the black flood survivors]–in fact, there was never an investigation. I found this story repeated over and over during my days in New Orleans. As a reporter who has spent more than a decade covering crime, I was startled to meet so many people with so much detailed information about potentially serious offenses, none of whom had ever been interviewed by police detectives.

What exactly does it tell us that corporate outlets looking at the same region and time period dedicated their enormous news budgets to sensationalistic–and largely apocryphal–reports of black people looting and shooting one another, but never even gave a hint of race-based violence by whites?

See FAIR’s magazine Extra!: “Demonizing the Victims of Katrina: Coverage Painted Hurricane Survivors as Looters, Snipers and Rapists” (11-12/05) by Jaime Omar Yassin