Some lives are cheaper than others

mexican-flooding.jpg
Picture via brownfemipower

UPDATE: Moving this to the top to make a tiny attempt to counter the mainstream media silence on it. Also check out Bob Harris to see where you can donate — options include the Red Cross, UNICEF and Save the Children.

Large swathes of Mexico are under water, people are dying and an entire country is in crisis — and the U.S. media is already bored of it. The state of Tabasco is 80 percent flooded, and they’re receiving little to no aid from the Mexican government. A refugee crisis is in full swing, and in response, the United States has pledged $300,000 to aid refugees displaced persons. Three hundred thousand. Not million.

Read BfP’s full post — it’s chock-full of sad, infuriating information on the situation in Tabasco. One million Mexicans are still displaced by the floods. The comparisons to Katrina are obvious, and as BfP points out, “I guess as long as it keeps happening to people of color, we can keep pretending that global warming is the devil’s lie.”

42 comments for “Some lives are cheaper than others

  1. alsojill
    November 6, 2007 at 9:58 am

    This is beyond awful, and I’m incredibly ashamed of the US–though not even remotely surprised. (Maybe someone should tell them that if they send more money, fewer of those displaced persons will try to cross the border? Even if that’s total bullshit?)

    But my shallow self has to take over for a second here: The state of Tabasco

    I had to do a double-take. Yes, yes, I’m an ignorant slut, blahblahblah, but it is kind of funny.

  2. November 6, 2007 at 11:01 am

    Brownfempower makes a good point at the end of the article about the headlines.

    And let’s take a peek at what U.S. media is talking about:
    Fox News: Mexico Floods Swamp 900,000 Homes; Disease Outbreak Feared
    UPDATED Fox News: Thousands Depart Mexico Flood Zone Amid Disease Fears, Reported Looting
    CNN: Devastating floods prompt outbreak fears in Mexico
    MSNbc: Headline news:Teacher arrested after allegedly fleeing with boy (scroll down and down and down some more, and there nestled between sports and politics, is a small little link announcing “Mexico state 80 submerged”
    ABCnews: Headline News: “Teacher Arrested In Mexico” World news section: Nothing
    Detroit Free Press: Mexicans flee as region floods: Infectious waterborne diseases could surface
    AP: Mexico Fears Disease Outbreak From Flood
    Bloomber.com:Mexico’s Red Cross Is Preparing for Disease in Flooded Tabasco

    Is it really Mexico that fears a disease outbreak?

    However, I really think this is a class issue first and a race issue second. When global warming effects poor white folk, our government and media aren’t going to give a shit then either. Just look at who Bush is killing with our wars. The Americans dying are more poor than anything else. It’s all about money. They’re greedy bastards.

  3. Melissa M.
    November 6, 2007 at 11:11 am

    Thank you for blogging about this. It needs as much publicity as possible. I read about the flooding in Mexican newspapers and on BfP’s site. I’m glad that other people are picking up the story. I know that BfP posted some links (in Spanish) earlier about where to donate to help. Maybe there are links in English too?

  4. November 6, 2007 at 1:37 pm

    Those forced to flee their flooded homes in Tabasco would be displaced persons or internally displaced persons or (perhaps most accurately) forced migrants, not refugees.

    I always winced when the term refugee was used to describe people displaced by Hurricane Katrina. Refugees flee war or persecution, not natural disasters. We can talk about whether or not all of these terms need to be broadened to reflect a world in which humanitarian disasters are increasingly caused by a combination of natural and man-made factors and ecological disasters and armed conflict/violent repression more and more often go hand in hand, but, for now, let’s not.

    The international media is still covering the Tabasco flooding pretty heavily, at least where I am. I can imagine, however, that it’s wedged somewhere between the writers’ strike and celebrity drug use/divorces/custody battles in the US.

  5. Mnemosyne
    November 6, 2007 at 1:42 pm

    Hey, the US government and media don’t even care about US citizens — why are they going to care about our close neighbors to whom we have many economic ties?

  6. Mustella
    November 6, 2007 at 1:50 pm

    $300,000? That’s the aid equivalent of tipping a nickel- it’s more insulting than tipping nothing at all.

  7. November 6, 2007 at 2:13 pm

    Just a minor quibble on the global warming part. Yes, it has something to do with what happened. But there’s also the problem of land use and the exploitation of property rights under the neoliberal doctrine that keeps millions of people living on unhabitable land whilst we can watch our house prices rise. Mmm….

  8. November 6, 2007 at 2:22 pm

    Jill, is it possible to lock this post up at the top? I think it’s awfully important that people know what’s going on in Tabasco given the near silence from the MSM.

  9. November 6, 2007 at 2:43 pm

    $300,000 is insulting. Glad to know we care so little about so many. That should be just the barest of beginnings.

  10. Micky
    November 6, 2007 at 3:22 pm

    If one includes the remittances from US citizens and immigrants, the US is making a significant contribution to the disaster.

  11. ChrisR
    November 6, 2007 at 3:34 pm

    Bob Harris wrote this:

    If you’d like to help, you can donate to the Red Cross, UNICEF, Save the Children, or any other charity you prefer in a matter of seconds. The Mexican Embassy has also posted direct transfer bank information for relief-specific accounts accessible in the U.S. and Canada.

    Si hablan español, el gobierno del estado de Tabasco tiene todos sus últimos avisos de la emergencia aqui, y Televisa pone sus noticias actualizadas con frequencia y muchos videos aqui.

    I first heard about the flooding through Catholic Relief Services. The American Institute of Philantropy lists other highly-rated charities that might be responding to the flooding.

  12. November 6, 2007 at 3:36 pm

    wait… 1 million people displaced and in need of aid.
    $300,000 is, what, 30cents per person?

    What are they expecting Mexico to do with that? Buy each person a band-aid?

    Is there anywhere online that I can donate to the aid effort?

  13. November 6, 2007 at 4:10 pm

    But my shallow self has to take over for a second here: The state of Tabasco

    I had to do a double-take. Yes, yes, I’m an ignorant slut, blahblahblah, but it is kind of funny.

    No. This is not funny at all. Please don’t let your “shallow self take over”. This is not funny.

    Also, I disagree with Elaine. This is a race issue. Seriously people. Notice what happened in California recently with the fires. Help was there immediately. It was all over the news 24/7 (even here in Greece where 50 people lost their lives in the recent wildfires). Compare that to New Orleans or now in Mexico.

    The difference is they are people of colour (they are not white Americans) and their tragedies count for less in the MSM and to white Americans.

    I’m stopping now, I’m too angry..

    I agree with Rachel, can you pin this ?

  14. November 6, 2007 at 4:18 pm

    Sure. Moving it to the top now, and adding the aid links.

  15. Val
    November 6, 2007 at 4:29 pm

    Also, I disagree with Elaine. This is a race issue. Seriously people. Notice what happened in California recently with the fires. Help was there immediately. It was all over the news 24/7 (even here in Greece where 50 people lost their lives in the recent wildfires). Compare that to New Orleans or now in Mexico.

    I think that deserves to be repeated.

  16. Beth
    November 6, 2007 at 5:15 pm

    This feels so familiar here in New Orleans: the clear message that certain kinds of people don’t really matter.

    It is appalling that a disaster of the magnitude of what’s happening in Mexico would get compared to much smaller-scale things happening to white Americans (but some of them are CELEBRITIES!!) as if they were equivalent. There has been a lot of annoyance here about comparisons of Katrina with the California fires, noting that — while we of course sympathize with those who have lost their homes or lives — the fires have destroyed about 1200 homes compared to some 350,000 for katrina (and about a half million in Mexico) and there are less than a dozen fire deaths compared to nearly 2000 dead for katrina (Mexico death toll yet to be seen, of course – don’t forget the mudslide that just wiped out a village, with 16 missing). But what is really relevant to the current discussion is a very racist/classist attitude evident in the comparisons; as James Gill put it in his recent Times-Picayune column:

    What galls, however, is the chorus of right-wing ignoramuses who suggest not only that the two disasters are comparable but that the greater suffering of Katrina refugees bespeaks a moral inferiority. President Bush’s most strident radio shill, Rush Limbaugh, found the Californian response “inspiring” on grounds that folks got together and confronted disaster rather than sitting around and waiting for government help. The clear implication was that Californians embodied the sturdy, self-reliant American ideal in stark contrast to the whining parasites of Louisiana.

    And you know that narrative is driven by racial stereotypes: the “self-reliant” white folks vs. those people of color “who just want a handout”. I’m sure we’ll hear this same kind of patronizing “why can’t you pick yourselves up and move on like we [think we] would manage to do?” toward those suffering in Mexico too, as time goes on and long-term needs emerge, while Americans just get “disaster fatigue” and don’t want to hear about it any more.

  17. D.N. Nation
    November 6, 2007 at 5:21 pm

    New Orleans wasn’t all over the news 24/7? Do what?

  18. November 6, 2007 at 5:48 pm

    DN–the people of New Orleans were left to literally flounder and die on the road and in cramped, shit-filled stadiums. We knew the hurricane was coming, and never got it together to send help or evacuate but were quick to blame “those” people for looting (you know, getting food and supplies, which is what we said when White people did the same goddamn thing) and “refusing” to leave, even though they had no way of leaving since most didn’t have cars. They are now left in mobile homes in communities that don’t want them and that are trying to force them out. They have zero job prospects because–again–they either have no way to get to the jobs, and/or are often turned down for jobs they are qualified for. Those who want to return to NOLA are finding that NOLA is doing everything it can to zone them out. I’m sure it’s just a coincidence that they’re Black.

    Seriously? I see the stupid still flies fast and thick on the internet.

  19. November 6, 2007 at 6:08 pm

    Also, I disagree with Elaine. This is a race issue. Seriously people. Notice what happened in California recently with the fires. Help was there immediately. It was all over the news 24/7 (even here in Greece where 50 people lost their lives in the recent wildfires). Compare that to New Orleans or now in Mexico.

    Didn’t Mexican firefighters come across the border to help fight the fire, too?

    D.N. Nation, news coverage is part of it. How New Orleans was covered vs. the lack of coverage at all in Mexico.

  20. November 6, 2007 at 6:15 pm

    Just trying to find photos of the coverage was difficult. I ended up using silly pictures from my travels there for my own blog and ONE good pic I found online. This is so disheartening.

  21. Anatolia
    November 6, 2007 at 6:53 pm

    Thank you for kicking me out of my stupor. I’m working on a personal pledge of $1000 to Pro Mujer by the end of the year and I’m still $375 short of my goal.

  22. Luna
    November 6, 2007 at 7:26 pm

    It’s both a race *and* class issue. If the people were rich and brown, I suspect they’d get more attention and help than they are now. If they were poor and white, they’d get more help than they are now. But poor and brown? Forget it.

    Devious Diva says: “Seriously people. Notice what happened in California recently with the fires. Help was there immediately.”

    Yeah. A *rich* white area. This example doesn’t put race above class at all. Elaine didn’t say it wasn’t a race issue. She said it was a class issue first, a race issue second.

    Anyway, I say it’s both. So there. :)

  23. November 6, 2007 at 7:36 pm

    I don’t want to turn this thread into a race vs. class argument, but I’ll just throw it out there that they aren’t independent categories. Race and class both overlap and are conflated with each other; to pretend it’s about poverty but not about race, or to act like class obscures race, ignores reality.

  24. alsojill
    November 6, 2007 at 8:13 pm

    This is not funny at all. Please don’t let your “shallow self take over”. This is not funny

    Of course the situation isn’t funny. It’s godawful, and it should be on the news, it should be all over the papers, and the US government should bloody well be donating more than $300K to help.

    What I thought was mildly amusing was the idea of a state named Tabasco–b/c I’m shamefully ignorant of geography, so the name caught my attention and made me smile a little.

    But. It was an inappropriate comment on a post drawing attention to a serious and desperate situation, and I apologize for it for that reason.

  25. Mnemosyne
    November 6, 2007 at 9:41 pm

    And you know that narrative is driven by racial stereotypes: the “self-reliant” white folks vs. those people of color “who just want a handout”.

    Funny thing is, you’d never know it from the TV coverage but a large number of the people who were displaced, especially in San Diego, were brown people, and not particularly rich ones. And yet somehow the TV cameras raced right over them and focused on the rich white people in Malibu and Rancho Santa Fe.

  26. November 6, 2007 at 9:41 pm

    The interesting thing about Tabasco is, my first thought was “how in the holy heck did the manufacturers think it was an acceptable product name when the stuff comes from a Louisiana corporation?!”

    I don’t think it’s even a little bit funny, the amount of co-opting that had to go into that particular corporate decision.

    And for the love of all that is holy, yes, yes, YES this is a race thing. To say it’s about class and not race is to miss the point dramatically.

  27. Lauren
    November 6, 2007 at 10:00 pm

    I am sorry to say that I knew nothing about this until coming to this site. I checked news websites several times this afternoon and never read a word, how disgraceful. This is totally a racial issue and I can tell you that there are ignorant people whose mindset would be “screw them, they’re dirty illegals invading our country!” (despite the obvious fact that they are living in Mexico and are Mexican citizens)

  28. R.
    November 6, 2007 at 10:27 pm

    I found out about the flooding from a frigging webcomic. (http://www.arthurkingoftimeandspace.com/1262.htm) I suspect the ‘dirty illegals!’ is at the heart of it; the American media seem to have a special place in their shitpile reserved for Mexicans.

  29. Manju
    November 7, 2007 at 12:05 am

    This thread stinks of white mans burden and the soft bigotry of low expectations. A corrupt nation run by an oligarchy suffers a natural disaster and we’re worried about racism and the American reaction. Of course Americans don’t worry about how much press mexico gives to American disasters. That’s white privilege.

    and that’s ok. i don’t begrudge white Americans for feeling a sense of responsibility to help those less fortunate. that’s natural reaction when one has the privilege of living in a free, democratic, capitalist nation.

    but i can’t help but feel a sense of shared humiliation for brown people who have internalized white superiority to such a degree that they look to America to blame for and solve their problems, as if we are without power and responsibility.

    i’m less concerned about the american press ignoring brown people. i’m more concerned about those who treat us like children.

  30. November 7, 2007 at 12:36 am

    Rachel, it’s the name of the pepper in the sauce.

  31. November 7, 2007 at 12:44 am

    Miss said:

    I always winced when the term refugee was used to describe people displaced by Hurricane Katrina. Refugees flee war or persecution, not natural disasters.

    For the record, the flooding in New Orleans was a result of broken levees, not a natural disaster. The levees were not built correctly and they were going to break eventually one way or another as a result of faulty construction, greed, and corruption, not as a result of a hurricane. Most of New Orleans is below sea level and needs levees to keep the water out every day, not just on days when there’s high wind and lots of rain.

    Jill said:

    I don’t want to turn this thread into a race vs. class argument, but I’ll just throw it out there that they aren’t independent categories. Race and class both overlap and are conflated with each other; to pretend it’s about poverty but not about race, or to act like class obscures race, ignores reality.

    That’s true.
    I just feel like all the discussions of race (and only race) ultimately result is a division between poor whites and poor people of color. And so, my comments that this is about class are a reflection of that.

    Also, many Mexicans are white. Just because lots of xenophobic Americans think all Mexicans are non-white doesn’t mean they are.

    Lastly, the wild fires in California shouldn’t be compared to New Orleans or Mexican floods. For one, they’re FIRES not floods. And fires are totally different. But there are a lot of other differences too. Comparing disasters does no one any good. It just hurts everyone. Really, it does.

  32. November 7, 2007 at 1:23 am

    Thanks Sara – that makes much more sense!

  33. JenLovesPonies
    November 7, 2007 at 10:11 am

    Also, I disagree with Elaine. This is a race issue. Seriously people. Notice what happened in California recently with the fires. Help was there immediately. It was all over the news 24/7 (even here in Greece where 50 people lost their lives in the recent wildfires). Compare that to New Orleans or now in Mexico.

    Correct me if I am wrong, but I thought the difference was that with Hurricane Katrina, this was something that had never happened to the degree it did, and since hurricanes are difficult to predict (sometimes they seem big and lose their mojo, and sometimes they seem harmless and get crazy right before land, says the non-meterologist in me) no one really knew it was going to be such a huge hurricane. Since something on that scale had never happened, there was no plan for escape. Meanwhile, aren’t there fires in California every year? I thought the only real suprise this time was that they were so late in the year. Therefore, they have escape plans, etc, because it is something that happens fairly regularly.

  34. November 7, 2007 at 12:13 pm

    Sorry, Jen, you’re wrong. ;-) But mostly in little details.

    Correct me if I am wrong, but I thought the difference was that with Hurricane Katrina, this was something that had never happened to the degree it did, and since hurricanes are difficult to predict (sometimes they seem big and lose their mojo, and sometimes they seem harmless and get crazy right before land, says the non-meterologist in me) no one really knew it was going to be such a huge hurricane. Since something on that scale had never happened, there was no plan for escape.

    It’s not that it had never happened, but Hurricane Katrina was only the fourth Category 4 storm to hit New Orleans in the city’s 200-year history. So hurricanes are not uncommon, but one that big is pretty uncommon.

    One of the reasons that people (like me) get so angry about the way that the Katrina relief was screwed up was that people had been predicting for years that a really big hurricane would be disastrous, and the federal, state and local governments pretty much did bupkis to prevent it. For the media to then turn around and blame the poorest of the poor in the city for not leaving was an astonishingly assholish move, but it was the only way they could even try to make the Republicans look better.

    Didn’t work, of course. A huge number of Republicans turned against Bush in the wake of Katrina. I worked with a guy who voted for Bush twice, and when that footage started running on TV, he was absolutely livid that the Bush administration would leave people to die. Another Bush voter started calling the White House every week to complain about the administration’s screwups.

    The Republicans thought that their voters were so unanimously racist that they wouldn’t mind if they left a bunch of black people to drown. Turns out they were wrong. Oops. Bye-bye Republicans.

    Meanwhile, aren’t there fires in California every year? I thought the only real suprise this time was that they were so late in the year. Therefore, they have escape plans, etc, because it is something that happens fairly regularly.

    We do have fires every year, but the surprise was actually that they came early. However, when we get less than half of our usual rainfall — San Diego County got more rain than LA County, but SD still got only 30% of their usual — we get fires. It’s just kinda what happens.

    Not to mention that there were some really bad fires in San Diego in 2003 that got really screwed up, so what we saw in 2007 was the result of lessons learned and problems fixed, not some magical white-people preparedness.

  35. Danielle
    November 7, 2007 at 12:53 pm

    Correct me if I am wrong, but I thought the difference was that with Hurricane Katrina, this was something that had never happened to the degree it did, and since hurricanes are difficult to predict (sometimes they seem big and lose their mojo, and sometimes they seem harmless and get crazy right before land, says the non-meterologist in me) no one really knew it was going to be such a huge hurricane. Since something on that scale had never happened, there was no plan for escape.

    As a longtime Florida resident and therefore, as someone with a more-than-passing interest in hurricanes, I can tell you that everyone on the Gulf coast (my little slice of Florida — Tampa Bay area — included) knew that, once it hit the Gulf, Katrina was going to be huge, we had all been prepared for it to be massive. I get fuzzy on exactly where the breakdown was as far as not getting New Orleans and the other poorer parts of the Gulf coast the preparation and aid they needed, but I’ve always figured it was some sort of massive balls-up on the part of city and state officials beforehand, and after the fact, well… we all know who was responsible for the balls up after the fact, don’t we, George?

    On topic? It is a travesty that this is not being discussed on a national level, but unfortunately, it’s not much of a surprise.

  36. Cecily
    November 8, 2007 at 3:09 am

    Mnemosyne
    Funny thing is, you’d never know it from the TV coverage but a large number of the people who were displaced, especially in San Diego, were brown people, and not particularly rich ones. And yet somehow the TV cameras raced right over them and focused on the rich white people in Malibu and Rancho Santa Fe.

    Thanks, Mnemosyne. The coverage I tuned into was on the radio, not on TV, so I wasn’t as certain…but, living in California, the idea that a large evacuation could affect only/almost exclusively white people was, well, not working in my brain.

  37. Tom
    November 8, 2007 at 6:05 am

    The Mexican government gets too much of a pass here, as it usually does. If you look at the actual numbers, Mexico is NOT a poor country. It’s GDP per capita is in the upper-middle income range as countries go, parts of the country have UN Human Development Indexes on the level of Germany or New Zealand, and Mexico City is actually the 8th richest city in the world (Behind Osaka). The country has the wealth. It’s just run by a system that’s brutally corrupt and racist, and figures that it doesn’t have to take care of its poor, brown people, because they can all head north. Having a million people a year risking their lives to escape a country argues pretty convincingly that that country doesn’t work.

  38. November 9, 2007 at 1:24 pm

    Stand there in your wrongness and be wrong.>> from Elizabitchez
    http://haloscan.com/tb/redqueen319/3252314549881903877

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