What's happened to Louisiana Latinos and Asians post-Katrina?
Almost the same length of the shaft as blacks. But many of you wouldn't know that by looking at American cable news or network news.
For example, there were at least 200,000 Latinos who lived in Louisiana. There were 30,000 Vietnamese, and over 23,000 Filipinos. The face of New Orleans was predominantly black, but hardly any of these other faces--and voices--are known.
It's only ethnic media--newspapers, radio stations, websites, blogs, and TV and cable news shows--that is taking up the slack:
With passion and pride, ethnic news organizations in the United States are sending reporters, photographers and TV crews to the disaster area and covering the Hurricane Katrina story from angles not seen in many of the nation's major metropolitan newspapers.
At times, the ethnic media have been more opinionated and outspoken, and in many cases have taken a more activist approach than mainstream news organizations and tried to help members of their ethnic groups who have suffered from the storm.
And why not? I'm talking about a franchise of 51 million people of color. Ethnic news media is more attuned to the needs of their audience, be it blacks, Latinos, and Asians, and when they see some shyt go down, they are more likely to call it out. Moreover, they report on issues that the mainstream media tends to give a blind eye. The staffs have even pitched in to help, not only with money but with walking the talk. For when the deal goes down, it appears that people of color are always on their own.
For example, they have been reuniting families and finding housing for refugees, said Daffodil Altan, associate editor of New California Media (now New America Media), a nationwide association of more than 700 ethnic media groups. [...] "I'd have to say the tendency to both really cover and interact with their communities seems to be one of the biggest differences," Altan said.
And for all the horror stories that the MSM tends to focus on to whip up ratings--or animosity in some cases--some good news about relations between ethnic groups never gets told:
The Korea Times, based in Los Angeles, is dedicating much of its coverage to motivating Korean-Americans to help their own.
"There are so many Koreans who had been living in the New Orleans area ... and they lost their houses and businesses and had to evacuate from where they had been living, so Koreans have their own stories, and we're focusing on the Korean victims," managing editor Yoon Cho said.
But reporter Euyhun Yi added: "We are also trying to help African Americans."
Koreans and blacks were antagonists in the 1992 riots that followed the Rodney King beating in Los Angeles. Now the Times is using the disaster to show they can work together. In one story, the Times cited a Korean shopkeeper in New Orleans who was trusted with $12,000 of his black neighbors' money as they all fled the storm. He later tracked them down and returned the cash.
"I am so thankful to have been trusted in that way by my neighbors," the Korean told the Times.
In a September 28 article on NewAmericaMedia.com, Univision, the country's largest Spanish-language broadcaster, had difficulty getting accurate information to tell its audiences about the rights of undocumented victims of Hurricane Katrina.
Anchorwoman María Elena Salinas says the government hasn't been straightforward about what benefits and protections such victims can and can't receive.
"When asked over and over again by Spanish-language journalists whether or not undocumented immigrants would be excluded from aid, time and time again FEMA's representatives said the aid is for 'all' of the victims," reports Salinas. "But we later learned how relative the terms 'aid' and 'all' can be."
La Opinion offered options for those seeking assistance. Its focus (along with being geared towards Spanish readers and speakers), however, has been on Hurricane Rita in Texas rather than Hurricane Katrina, while "Rumbo, a Spanish-language newspaper chain based in San Antonio, Texas, reports that one Texas school district gained 110 students in a single day. "It remains unclear who will cover costs for the students," the paper writes. "Local officials say they are not taking costs into account for the time being." But in an already cash-strapped community, who is going to pick up the bills, sooner if not later?
There has also been an influx of undocumented workers to help with the reconstruction of New Orleans, since Bush rescinded the 1931 Davis-Bacon Act. Homeland Security has temporarily suspended sanctioning employers who hire illegal immigrants. And this development has now stoked up the whole illegal immigration controversy to a fever pitch.
El Tecolote in San Francisco, California reported on September 23 that
Around 300,000 people from Mexico, Central America and several South American nations were affected by the hurricane, according to Consular officials from various Latin American nations.
So far, the Mexican government estimates that more that 145,000 Mexicans may have been displaced by the hurricane. Mexican consulates say the fear of deportation may be keeping some victims from asking for help.
Native tribes are also weathering the fury of Hurricane Katrina. According to Kevin Billiot from the Intertribal Council of Louisiana, one of the hardest hit of all the native nations was the United Houma Tribe - a state-recognized tribe of 15,000 members on the coast southeast of New Orleans. Brenda Dardar Robichaux, tribal chief, said 3,500 Houma members were displaced from the hurricane.
Robichaux told Brenda Norrell, a reporter with the newspaper Indian Country Today: `'We have tribes and Indian organizations that have come to our rescue. They have been very, very supportive. That is not the case with the federal government."
Several other tribes located in the three states hit by the hurricane were the Chitimacha Tribe, Coushatta Indian Tribe, Jena Band of Choctaw and Tunica-Biloxi Tribe in Louisiana; the Poarch Creek Band in Alabama, and the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians in Mississippi.
New America Media also said:
Today, "Vietnamese are still living in churches and temples in Houston and Baton Rouge" and resources are stretched thin, said [Giao] Pham, an associate managing editor for Nguoi-Viet Daily News, a Westminster, Calif.-based paper. Pham had previously reported about a Vietnamese mall in Houston that became a meeting place for storm survivors. Pham says he spoke recently with Father Hung of St. Le Van Phung Catholic Church in Baton Rouge. "He told me that since the hurricane, the church has spent about $20,000 extra in utility bills and other expenses" to house about 300 Vietnamese evacuees. [...]
The Vietnamese fisherman community on the Gulf coast, activist [Minh Thu] Lynagh said, "has very low education, even in Vietnamese. They didn't even know the difference between the Red Cross and FEMA." Many, she says, have no bank accounts.
Yet community rescuers are already strained to the breaking point. As Earl Ofari Hutchinson said in his October 6 column, assistance in the form of money and aid is still not getting to those who really need it on the front lines.
South Asian immigrant students, many of whom are also Muslim, feel trapped and disheartened, according to another story submitted to NAM by India-West correspondent Viji Sundarum.
"We're homeless. We cannot work off campus. We are in a bad situation. Everyone is trying to survive. We are moving from place to place."
Tulane University student Azad, who wouldn't give his last name lest "I get into trouble," was not just mouthing off. He meant every word of what he said, and what he said was an echo of what a number of other immigrant students from the Indian sub-continent were saying in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
The hurricane that hit the Gulf Coast earlier this month turned Azad's life upside down, along with everyone else's. Only, in the case of immigrant students like Azad, especially those from predominantly Muslim countries like his, many are wondering whether to seek help from federal agencies, or just lie low and continue banking on the uncertain help of friends and acquaintances.
"The fear they are experiencing is understandable," Artesia, Calif.,-based South Asian Network's executive director Hamid Khan told India-West. "It's because of how South Asians, and particularly how Muslim students have been demonized" in the wake of 9/11. "Students with Muslim names face a higher degree of scrutiny. That's why even in times of need they are afraid to reach out so that they don't show up on the radar screen."
Of course, African American media has been more focused on instilling pride and pointing out discrepancies in the aid effort. "But mainstream media is focusing not on the distribution of aid and federal funds, but on sensationalized stories of "wild gangs" and the "urban menace," writes Dwight Cunningham in a report for the National Newspaper Publishers Association, a federation of more than 200 African-American newspapers. Meanwhile, "black households across the nation are dusting off spare rooms and sending Moneygrams to displaced family members," Cunningham writes. "No doubt, people will need to be buried, yet there will be no money to bury them."
The Black Voice, out of San Bernardino, California, however, is part of a coalition effort to send volunteers to New Orleans to search for bodies. The effort is also being co-sponsored by entertainer Nancy Wilson and her husband, the Reverend Wiley Burton.
Mark McKay of McKay's Family Mortuary said the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) sent out a call for morticians across the country to send supplies, but excluded many black mortuaries. McKay and others fear that black morticians will not be allowed to participate in the recovery and burial of bodies, many of which are African American victims. McKay believes it is important to bring dignity to the process and honor the dead.
In fact, Kenyon International Emergency Services announced Sept. 7 that it signed a contract with the state of Louisiana to recover bodies. The contract runs from Sept. 12 to Nov. 15 at the rate of $118,980 per day.
Kenyon is a subsidiary of Service Corporation International (SCI), which runs a chain of funeral homes. They have provided services at the World Trade Center site and after the tsunami in Thailand. A longtime supporter of George W. Bush, the Houston-based company operates 1,500 funeral homes throughout North America.
In the past SCI has been accused of unethical practices, including using unlicensed embalmers and dumping bodies to clear space for new graves and additional profits.
The process of preparing the bodies for burial is being handled almost solely by the Disaster Mortuary Operational Response Team, (DMORT) an organization supervised under FEMA. According to Don Kelly, public information officer for DMORT, the organization uses only trained and certified individuals who have been immunized and have not been accepting the services of untrained personnel in the handling of the bodies.
Led by Mark House, a probation officer, licensed mortician and owner of Windthrop Industries, which makes caskets, the team of volunteers was scheduled to leave for New Orleans October 4, after receiving permission from FEMA. His group has ten days to brave the hazards of handling bodies along with bacteria, mold, poisons from refineries, lead dust and airborne asbestos. Like him, many of the volunteers are already employed in law enforcement; two are licensed morticians; and others work in the funeral business.