"I hope we realize that the people of New Orleans weren't just abandoned during the hurricane," Sen. Barack Obama said last week on the floor of the Senate. "They were abandoned long ago -- to murder and mayhem in the streets, to substandard schools, to dilapidated housing, to inadequate health care, to a pervasive sense of hopelessness." ***
Obama, the only African-American in the U.S. Senate, says "the ineptitude was colorblind." But he argues that while -- contrary to rapper Kanye West's attack on Bush -- there was no "active malice," the federal response to Katrina represented "a continuation of passive indifference" on the part of the government. It reflected an unthinking assumption that every American "has the capacity to load up their family in an SUV, fill it up with $100 worth of gasoline, stick some bottled water in the trunk and use a credit card to check into a hotel on safe ground."
When they did focus on race in the aftermath, many Louisianans let their fears take over. Lines at gun stores in Baton Rouge, La., snaked out the door. Obama stops short of calling this a sign of racism. For some, he says, it's a product of "sober concern" after the violence in the city; for others, it's closer to "racial stereotyping."