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Racial Framing and Superstorm Sandy: A Black Mother Begs for Help While Her Children Drown


The murder of Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman was an example where a neighborhood vigilante decided that a black teenager was a particular type of stranger, dangerous by nature, who could be shot dead in the street without consequences.

During Superstorm Sandy, Allen, the homeowner in question, decided that Glenda was a stranger who could be ignored while her children drowned. Here, the stereotype and logic is one where black strangers in white neighborhoods are automatically looters and brigands. They can never be a mother fighting to save the lives of her children.

America is a sick society. Racism is internalized by all Americans. Glenda Moore's loss of her two children is a horrible example of how implicit and subconscious racial bias can impact a white person's level of empathy and sympathy towards African-Americans. A woman cried, begged, and screamed for help while her children drowned. A decision was made by a white neighborhood that this type of person, in that gendered body, with that skin color, was not worthy of assistance.

For twelve hours she pleaded for help. Her children died. Students of race and politics often discuss these matters in the abstract, and through examples grounded in a careful study of social and political institutions, as well as Power. The death of Glenda Moore's children, and her treatment that evening by the people in that neighborhood, is an example of racial immorality on the most personal level.

Some other thoughts and questions about racial framing and SuperStorm Sandy:

1. Has racial framing become more or less prominent in the media's coverage of Superstorm Sandy? I have noticed a good number of photos where people of color are shown in line waiting for gasoline and food. I have not seen many similar images of white people. In discussions of looting, the only stories I have seen have featured black men. Have any of you seen stories about social disorder following Superstorm Sandy in white communities?

2. The white victims of SuperStorm Sandy in Staten Island, and the Jersey Shore in particular, have been framed by the media as "hearty" stalwarts and survivors. In comparison to Hurricane Katrina, why is their decision to stay put after an evacuation order, not being interrogated as that of "irresponsible" people?

3. If Glenda Moore were white, and her children were "white" how would the coverage be different? In one of the worst storms in recent memory, why is this not a huge story? Alternatively, what if a white woman was refused help in a black neighborhood and her children then died? What would result?

4. Moreover, white people's demands for assistance are being treated as legitimate and reasonable. Where is the critique of "lazy, not self-reliant, and entitled" people who should have "personal responsibility" for their choices that greeted the survivors of Hurricane Katrina?

5. Will the white folks who are seeking assistance from FEMA, and then voting for Mitt Romney, understand their hypocrisy? Will they be made more or less sympathetic to others, especially people of color, who find themselves in need of government aid and assistance?

6. If you want a reminder of how white privilege and the white racial frame can color a person's understanding of reality, and levels of empathy and sympathy towards the Other, read the comment sections on either Youtube or in the online press regarding the tragic drowning deaths of Glenda Moore's children.

7. Glenda Moore's two children were fathered by a white man. In many ways, the multiracial movement is prefaced on gaining white privilege for those people who are of a "mixed race" background in order to create a buffer race and colored class.