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How will our movement respond?

For the past month, friends and colleagues have been telling me that Katrina signals the end of the Bush administration.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

It is obvious now that the devastation caused was preventable and that New Orleanians lost out to Bush's other priorities--a tax cut for the upper ranks and the Iraq war and subsequent occupation, costing $400 billion total. The entire nation, say the optimistic, has finally realized that Bush gutted the public programs that help the poor and people of color maintain a basic standard of living and did away with the civil rights protections that defend our humanity.

But I remain depressed and furious. While I did take a minute to appreciate the fact that even white mainstream reporters and celebrities wept over the race and class problem on national television, I can't help thinking that this moment is not going to last very long. By the time this column appears in November, it may already have passed. Unless we act, the country will forget not only that Bush did nothing, but also that the conditions of Black and poor life in the Gulf Coast long preceded his tenure and are replicated in many other places.

This nation's attention span is notoriously short and the implications of the Katrina disaster will be awfully long lasting. The migration of one million poor people of color to other poor communities nationwide in such a short period of time is unprecedented. How will our communities outside of the Gulf Coast cope with that? How will our movement?

As the Bush PR machine grinds on, the movement for social justice faces two major challenges. We need to fight for just treatment and reparations for Katrina survivors, and we need to struggle against poverty and racism more comprehensively. Over the coming months, we must continue to support relief efforts directly while refusing to let the national revelation sparked by Katrina fade from the memories of our elected officials and the general public.

First, to support the survivors visit www.katrinaaction.org and frequent it today, tomorrow, next month and next year. At this action and information clearinghouse you can read untold news about the crisis and take "real action for real relief" that prioritizes race and social justice. At the top of our list of Katrina-related demands should be one for an independent review.

Then, to keep poverty and racism at the top of the national agenda, we need to continue the work we've been doing, even as we equip ourselves for the latest battle in a war we've been fighting for a long time. We need to keep our competence level high and the competition level low. And we need to remember that when Katrina hit, it wasn't just the memberships of labor unions or prisoners' rights groups or community organizations that suffered--an entire community got washed away. That should be enough to make us drop "that's not my issue" from our collective vocabulary.
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Article Details
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Title Annotation:helping disaster victims
Author:Sen, Rinku
Publication:Colorlines Magazine
Article Type:Editorial
Geographic Code:1U7LA
Date:Dec 22, 2005
Words:492
Previous Article:I became the defendant.
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