August 31st, 2005

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Language.

Black folks loot, white folks "find".

Just a warning to everyone to be aware of the way language changes perception and not to fall into the trap the media is setting for us when we think about what is happening in New Orleans.

I think it's a huge mistake to conflate the few looters who are violently stealing expensive consumer goods with the vast majority of people who are breaking into grocery stores so they can eat. It isn't like these folks have the OPTION of lawfully paying for their food. And really, those stores are going to be out of commission for so long that the food will be unsellable anyway. Honestly, I'm not even sure it'll ever be economical to recover the consumer goods from their stores for resale. So really, the fact that folks are salvaging stuff that would probably otherwise be lost to the bulldozers when they rebuild NOLA isn't a big deal. Violence is a big deal and I'd like to see the violent looters distinguished from the peaceful salvagers in news stories. I'd like to see that distinction NOT be quietly implied along racial lines.