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September 4 2005

Looting Vs. Finding

People were shocked by Kanye West’s commentary during the NBC live telecast on Friday, where he said “George Bush doesn’t care about black people!”. (video can be found here and a written transcript here) It seems people are unaware that racism does still exist in this country, even in this day and age.

Sadly, the tragedy of Hurricane Katrina has brought this to the forefront of the national scene again. Sad, only in that it took a natural disaster to do it. Earlier this week, this was demonstrated nowhere as clearly as it was in two newswire pictures that came out (Thank you to Luis at BlogD for allowing me to use his edit of the picture, as it was the cleanest I had seen.):

Photo Captions

The photo on the left is an AP photo, the one on the right is an AFP photo. AFP has requested that all news outlets remove their photo now, but oddly, AP has not. Did you spot the difference boys and girls? It seems if you are a young black man with food items, you are a “looter”, but if you are young white people with food items, you can go to some magical land where you “find” food. (I have also heard that unicorns prounce and play there, but I digress…) The reporter who filed the AFP photo has now said he really does believe those folks found that food. I love this bit though:

“The people were swimming in chest deep water, and there were other people in the water, both white and black. I looked for the best picture. there were a million items floating in the water – we were right near a grocery store that had 5+ feet of water in it. it had no doors. the water was moving, and the stuff was floating away. These people were not ducking into a store and busting down windows to get electronics. They picked up bread and cokes that were floating in the water. They would have floated away anyhow.”

Remember boys and girls, if it’s floating, it’s free!

I am not slamming the people in the pictures at all, they needed food, they got it however they could. There is a difference between this and “looting” as far as I am concerned. So why in the world was the AP photo labelled as “looting”, while the AFP was not? The reason really is obvious, and it disgusts me. It disgusts me even further that the “find” photo has been removed, while the “looting” has not. What is that all about? Yahoo issued a statement on this whole debacle, which you can find here.

So how does this all relate to what Kanye West said about President Bush? Simple. Racism is alive and thriving in this country. Again I will remind you all of a very simple time line. Two days after 9/11, Bush stands on a flatbed truck with his arm around a fireman saying we will bring these villians to justice. Two days after Katrina, Bush sits in his house in Crawford, TX enjoying his vacation.

You decide what this means.



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Journalism



  • Alfonso

    Too bad you didn’t get the other photographer’s side of the story (two photographers, two different circumstances):

    Jack Stokes, AP’s director of media relations, confirmed today that [photographer Dave] Martin says he witnessed the people in his images looting a grocery store. “He saw the (black) person go into the shop and take the goods,” Stokes said, “and that’s why he wrote ‘looting’ in the caption.”

    Now you have the answer to your question of why the terms looting and finding were used and hopefully are no longer “disgusted”.

    BTW what disgusts me is the rush to cry racism at the drop of a hat. Also the person with the bread is clearly mixed race and has been described as “light skinned”. Also, Kanye is stupid for voicing his political opinions on a fund raising telethon – why alienate half of the potential donors who could be helping out in this tragedy.

  • I had not located the other photographers comments, though I did look for them. I appreciate you pointing them out though, and I will try to locate the source for them.

    Yep, I am still disgusted. This is also bad journalism on top of everything else. “Oh well it floated out of the grocery store, so that makes it free.” Whatever. It was a bad editorial choice no matter how you slice things.

    I am “disgusted” by the vast majority of things that have happened since this entire tragedy began, and will continue to be so until someone can explain to me why so many things went wrong.

    As for Kanye West’s comments, they obviouslly came for a fit of emotion, and they certainly did not sound planned out to me.

  • Alfonso

    No reasonable person has anything against those who seek to obtain food and water regardless of whether that entails entering a store or not. (Stereos, TVs and DVDs are another matter.) With that said it clearly would have been unfair to label the two (actually only one person is shown carrying things) “looters” when they grabbed some stuff floating by. Perhaps if the photog was a bit more descriptive this rush to judgement would not have occured. The reason for the outcry was the perception that all parties entered a store and were carrying things off and differing terms were used in describing them.

    I can share your disgust with the delays in assisting people in need, there is a lot of blame to go around and at least half will rest with the Governor and Mayor. In any case these delays IMHO were bureaucratic bungling at its finest without the sinister motives some have been all too quick to suggest, after all the notion that there was a purposeful delay assumes the Govt could have acted in a proficient, coordinated and expedient manner which now seems almost laughable. Best, Alfonso

  • “Perhaps if the photog was a bit more descriptive this rush to judgement would not have occured. The reason for the outcry was the perception that all parties entered a store and were carrying things off and differing terms were used in describing them.”

    Totally agree with you there. The photographers did a lousy job in this case because all qualifiers were removed from the picture. You had to take their word as for what was going on, and at first glance, they are the exact same situations. If these pictures had been labelled “Survivors make do with what they can.” there would have been no outcry. But to have two pictures, that at first glance are the same situations, the verbage choices were very poor.

    “after all the notion that there was a purposeful delay assumes the Govt could have acted in a proficient, coordinated and expedient manner which now seems almost laughable.”

    Ok, you got a good, hearty laugh out of me on that one!

    • Roronoa Zoro

      While I do agree with you, I believe you missed the point. After all the delay before any taking any action, the chose actions were terrible. Which leaves one to think what was the delay for. After 5 days of planning that was the best course of actions that could be planned suggests that wasnt much concern or effort.