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The wake of Sandy, residents vs. refugees

By Dr. Wilmer J. Leon III
Trice Edney News Wire

Last week, tropical cyclone Sandy ravaged the Northeastern United States. It was one of the largest and fiercest storms to hit the East Coast in years, causing widespread flooding, power outages and damage.

Two of the hardest hit areas on the East Coast were New Jersey and New York. As the television networks took viewers into the boroughs of the “Jersey Shore” (home of Snooki, Pauly D and The Situation) as well as Staten Island, I was struck by the contrast between the coverage of Sandy and the coverage of Hurricane Katrina.

First, one could walk away from watching the coverage of Sandy with the impression that areas such as Harlem and Red Hook in New York were not impacted by the storm and their residents are not in need of assistance. I know they are because I’ve talked with them. Second, it’s interesting how those displaced by Sandy have been referred to as “residents” while those displaced by Katrina were referred to by the Associated Press and other media sources as “refugees.”

As we reflect upon Katrina and peer into the mirror of history, we see mostly poor people of all colors, ethnic groups and ages. We see children sitting on roof tops, the elderly floating on mattresses and crowds of Americans huddled under highway overpasses in the searing heat without food and water.

Where was our national government, we must ask. At the height of the greatest national disaster in American history, when our citizens were in their gravest hour of need, where were the resources of the wealthiest nation in the history of the world? Where was the leadership of those sworn to protect the public good? Two days after the greatest national disaster in American history was playing out before our very eyes on national television, this nation’s leader George Walker Bush was 3,400 miles away playing the guitar at a country and western show in San Diego. President George “Nero” Bush fiddled, while the Gulf Coast drowned!

The victims of Sandy have seen a much different response. The Obama administration immediately sprang into action providing the assistance needed in the region. FEMA (the agency that Romney wants to eliminate and privatize), the National Guard, the Red Cross and other agencies are there working together to provide relief. So-much-so, the Republican governor of New Jersey and staunch Obama critic Chris Christie called President Obama’s efforts “outstanding.” “He gave me his number at the White House and told me to call him if I needed anything,” Christie said. The president expedited the designation of New Jersey as a disaster area and was on the ground surveying the damage the next day.

As one listens to the victims of Sandy, standing in front of heaps of debris that were once their homes, they talk about rebuilding. Too many victims of Katrina are still trying to return.

In the wake of Sandy, it’s residents versus refugees. Residents rebuild, refugees relocate.

Dr. Wilmer Leon is the producer/host of the nationally broadcast call-in talk radio program “Inside the Issues with Wilmer Leon,” and a teaching associate in the Department of Political Science at Howard University in Washington, D.C. Visit Dr-Leons-Prescription@facebook.com or www.wilmerleon.com; e-mail wjl3us@yahoo.com or www.twitter.com/drwleon.

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