The Least Dangerous Game
Just when you think white southerners and other bigots have plumbed the very depths of human, or inhuman, depravity, along comes a story that proves they can sink even lower. A.C. Thompson of The Nation wrote a cover story that simply has to be read to be believed. It's called "Katrina's Hidden Race War."
At first, you may think that it deals with a topic that's both well-worn and relatively benign, such as the Bush administration's ongoing callous disregard for the lives and welfare of African American residents of the 9th Ward or elsewhere in New Orleans. You may think that Katrina's hidden war is about New Orleanians kept in FEMA-owned internment camps or how the city's African American residents have been priced out of their own neighborhoods and even schools.
But this story concerns itself with far greater evil than even the Bush administration's neglect. This is a story about white people who were hunting down unarmed black people with high-powered hunting rifles, shotguns and even AK 47's...
...with complete, total, utter, unconditional impunity.
It's what I call the least dangerous game. Thompson's cover story is about a gun-toting vigilante group that proudly portrays itself as "the ultimate neighborhood watch" hunting down and killing unarmed black people and being encouraged, feted and protected by the local police, the judicial system and even the parish coroner's office.
In the first days after Hurricane Katrina made landfall, even before Blackwater USA cuckolded its way into the city openly advertising for the $70 million in post-Katrina contracts that it would eventually get, a paranoid vigilante group in Algiers Point began collecting guns to defend their proudly white enclave against black looters (no word, yet, on where they suddenly acquired all these firearms).
According to the homemade militia members interviewed at great length by Thompson, there was at least one fatality (at least three, according to one area doctor and the official death toll in Algiers Point during that period puts the number at four. There was no flooding in Algiers Point.) during the first week when the New Orleans Police Department was completely absent and anarchy reigned supreme.
Black people looking for an evacuation bus in an eerily post-apocalyptic New Orleans were fired on at will and local police advised the Algiers Point militia to do what they had to do against home invaders and to leave them (dead bodies) by the side of the road. Journalists that've asked questions have been stymied by a complete lack of documentation, residents clamming up, fearful of reprisals and even when the parish coroner's office was sued for their autopsy findings, whole sections of records were conspicuously absent. 25-50 corpses were never even autopsied regardless of the suspected cause of death. You would think that if one goes into the hospital to have a knife or bullet wound treated, the doctors, beholden by law, would immediately contact the authorities. That's civilization you're thinking of. This wasn't civilization but post-Katrina New Orleans and the law and the order simply went on vacation.
Ironically, much of the little documentation that's been cobbled together concerning these crimes of humanity have come from the boastful members of the militia themselves. It's, technically, an internationally-known story: The Youtube video at the top of this post was shot by a Danish film crew and the title of their documentary is sardonically called Welcome to New Orleans.
As per usual, these racists who shot African Americans as freely as they called them "niggers" swear they're not racist or prejudiced. Three young blacks were gunned down at an intersection simply for walking by carrying ball caps and sneakers that were suspected of being looted from a mall. Donnell Herrington, who was shot in the neck by a militiaman and almost died, appealed to a white motorist for help even as blood squirted out of his neck and was threatened with more of the same.
But it was all done under the rubric of civic pride, neighborhood security, bravely filling in until sanity slowly ambled its way back into Algiers Point. At no time in Thompson's article was there a verified report of a black person carrying a firearm or guilty of looting. And if anyone was guilty of looting food, clothing and water, one has to understand this was in the first days after the hurricane when FEMA was no where in sight and George W. Bush was licking cake frosting off his thumb at John McCain's impromptu birthday party.
Algiers Point is a white enclave surrounded by black neighborhoods and their post-Katrina paranoia has been blamed on a "siege mentality." But this goes beyond mere race-based paranoia and becomes a massive, urgent commercial for the necessity of a functioning, efficient and community-engaged police department. Hurricane Katrina was certainly one of the greatest natural calamities to strike the United States but people like the Algiers Point militia, these little Count Zaroffs in waiting, far from acting out of any understandable concern for their property, used the total lack of law enforcement as an opportunity to murder black people simply for being black and getting caught on their turf. Far from being a siege mentality, the center of Algiers Point descended into barbarism at the first available opportunity, the minute the blue uniforms disappeared. The mere absence of law enforcement, in their minds, gave them a license to kill.
In other words, we've actually regressed several steps from the early 60's when three civil rights workers were murdered in Mississippi by white racists. J. Edgar Hoover's FBI had flooded the area with agents, did a thorough investigation and brought several men to justice (albeit for civil rights violations).
Fast forward to 2005-2008: No FBI, no local law enforcement, no autopsies, no records, no pending litigation, no nothing.
The next time you hear someone, especially a white person, still pissing and moaning about Affirmative Action, the advances made in civil rights and how black people have it much better than they used to back in the days when they were lynched, point them to Thompson's story. And while you're at it, inform them that just because the racists of today have substituted ropes for AK47s doesn't make their crimes any less a lynching.