As America watched the human tragedy unfold in New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, two distinct classifications of humanity emerged: the doers and the doees.
20 year old Jabbar Gibson took (looted, found) a bus from a school bus depot, and en route out of the city proceeded to fill it to capacity with folks of all sorts, driving it to Houston, pooling the passengers' money to refuel it along the way. Jabbar took responsibility for sixty to eighty New Orleans victims of hurricane Katrina. Yet the world watched New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin as he couldn't even take responsibility for himself.
As has been noted ceaselessly in the media, the majority of those left behind as New Orleans sank into an ever—worsening calamity, both environmental and human, were black. "So poor... and so black" as Wolf Blitzer now famously stated. The Reverend Jesse Jackson, in classic form, baited, saying,
"This looks like the hull of a slave ship."
The allusion is more real than he imagined.
It has also been said that those who remained did not have the means to leave. But as New Orleans filled up like a cauldron and the need turned from weathering the fierce power of a hurricane to fleeing a doomed city, Jabbar Gibson demonstrated that they most certainly did have the means.
The poor of New Orleans corralled at the Superdome and the Convention Center were assured and confident, at first, that the government (many prefacing that word with "Federal") would deliver them and take care of them. After all, that's what they had been led to believe. This turned to bewilderment as their hallowed governmental savior failed to appear, then to frustration and despair, and finally into utter and miserable helplessness.
As the helpless crowd milled and waited and sank into anarchy, yes, appallingly, it did resemble the hull of a slave ship. And it was you, Reverend Jackson, and your ilk who enslaved them.
Following the emancipation of slaves throughout the United States in the 19th century, many slaves opted voluntarily to remain with their former owners. Why? With no way to make a living in the world on their own, or the prospect of doing so incomprehensible or too daunting, remaining where they were offered the food, shelter, and protection they needed and on which (and this is key) they had come to depend.
When faced with freedom, some slaves chose to remain. When faced with the mounting danger, some New Orleans residents chose to remain. Both from dependency. A chilling comparison.
Jabbar Gibson was able to keep himself from being enslaved by the likes of Jesse Jackson. Thousands of others were not. Jabbar is a hero, make no mistake about it. My own personal definition of a hero is simply, "someone who does something that no one else has the guts to do." He is, indeed, a hero. But what sorry state of human civilization is this in which an act of what should be simple common sense is heroic?
It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out the following equation: bus + keys = escape. It was obviously beyond the capacity for Mayor Ray Nagin, but not for Jabbar Gibson. Jabbar rescued dozens of people. Could it be possible that not one in eighty could have the wherewithal to gather as many people as possible and flee the city? Could it be that not one in 50,000 had the wherewithal or initiative to organize crude sorties to get people out? Whatever the numbers, the fact remains that the Mayor, like many of those in his city after the flood, did not do this, expecting the Federal Government to rescue them. Demanding to any camera near to hand that the Federal Government rescue them.
Toward the end, road blocks were erected to prevent people from leaving. This was reasonable and right, since the road blocks went up preparatory to imminent evacuation — which came in mere hours. Had the thousands of people in the city left of their own accord then, it would have made the task of evacuating them monumentally more difficult. Before this, though, all they had to do was leave. They took shelter in the Superdome to escape Katrina's destructive fury. No one had to stay in the Superdome after Katrina had passed on.
Litters could have been fashioned from clothes (nobody was in danger of freezing) for those unable to move themselves, and the citizens of the city, led by the Mayor or not, could have mobilized any buses that were still drivable and evacuated the city themselves rather than standing paralyzed waiting for the deific government to do it for them.
What prevents someone from taking what should be the simple initiative that Jabbar did? The answer is, quite simply, that such a notion has never been instilled into their world view. It has been drummed into them from birth that the government will take care of it. Whatever "it" is. Incapable of doing something as simple as Jabbar did, or even the more simple act of walking out of the city on their own two feet when the situation grew from desperate to dire, a lifetime of policies of entitlement has shackled them in mental and spiritual chains, enslaving them in the hull of the Reverend Jackson's slave ship.