A Correction, an Apology, and the Second Battle of New Orleans

(This was originally posted on Dec. 19.)

In a brief post yesterday, I wrote (This was originally posted on Dec. 19.) that African-Americans were treated as second-class citizens in the United States. I would now like to apologize for making such a controversial -- and flagrantly incorrect -- statement. Obviously, I was letting my knee-jerk liberal PC prejudices run wild. For as a new article in The Nation forcefully demonstrates, African-Americans are not treated as second-class citizens in the United States; they are treated as wild animals to be hunted down and shot in cold blood.

The article is a very detailed investigation of the white vigilante groups that formed, with police approval, in the white enclave of Algiers Point in New Orleans in the days after Hurrican Katrina. Although authorities had designated the area -- which had largely escaped damage in the storm and flood -- as a vital evacuation point for those trapped in the city, a group of white residents seized the opportunity to declare open season on anyone with black skin. Many African-Americans were shot and several were killed; but no one knows the exact number, because New Orleans police have refused to investigate any of the incidents, and coroner's records of the gun-blasted bodies that showed up in the area have unaccountably gone missing.

Many of the shooters have been quite open -- even boastful -- of their activities, and of their certainty that they will never be prosecuted. As the Nation's A.C. Thompson reports:

[Militia member Wayne Janak is] equally blunt in Welcome to New Orleans, an hourlong documentary produced by the Danish video team, who captured Janak, beer in hand, gloating about hunting humans. Surrounded by a crowd of sunburned white Algiers Point locals at a barbeque held not long after the hurricane, he smiles and tells the camera, "It was great! It was like pheasant season in South Dakota. If it moved, you shot it." A native of Chicago, Janak also boasts of becoming a true Southerner, saying, "I am no longer a Yankee. I earned my wings." A white woman standing next to him adds, "He understands the N-word now." In this neighborhood, she continues, "we take care of our own."

...Some of the gunmen prowling Algiers Point were out to wage a race war, says one woman whose uncle and two cousins joined the cause. A former New Orleanian, this source spoke to me anonymously because she fears her relatives could be prosecuted for their crimes. "My uncle was very excited that it was a free-for-all--white against black--that he could participate in," says the woman. "For him, the opportunity to hunt black people was a joy."

"They didn't want any of the 'ghetto niggers' coming over" from the east side of the river, she says, adding that her relatives viewed African-Americans who wandered into Algiers Point as "fair game." One of her cousins, a young man in his 20s, sent an e-mail to her and several other family members describing his adventures with the militia. He had attached a photo in which he posed next to an African-American man who'd been fatally shot. The tone of the e-mail, she says, was "gleeful -- her cousin was happy that "they were shooting niggers."

"Jurassicpork" at "Welcome Back to Pottersville" sums it up well:

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.