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ERIC Number: EJ841540
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2008
Pages: 8
Abstractor: ERIC
Reference Count: N/A
ISSN: ISSN-0161-6463
George Bush May Not Like Black People, but No One Gives a Dam about Indigenous Peoples: Visibility and Indianness after the Hurricanes
King, C. Richard
American Indian Culture and Research Journal, v32 n2 p35-42 2008
Shortly after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina became clear, NBC televised "A Concert for Hurricane Relief," a star-studded event watched by more than fourteen million Americans. Perhaps the most memorable moment of the evening had little to do with charity. Hip-hop artist Kanye West went "off-script" during a live segment of the telethon, voicing an opinion shared by many in the African American community: "George Bush doesn't care about black people." In his brief interruption of the choreographed program, West captured the uneasiness and shame many Americans felt regarding not only the federal government's response to the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina but also the stark racial inequalities and class disparities hidden in plain sight in the contemporary United States. Whatever the veracity of his specific charge, West's comments left an indelible mark on public discourse: race mattered in the social context that made the disaster and its tragic aftermath possible. Importantly, to the producers and viewers of the telethon, as much as to West, in the wake of the hurricanes that devastated the Gulf Coast in 2005, race mattered in a rather singular fashion, one that cast it in black-and-white terms and located it within impoverished areas of New Orleans. Consequently, the presence and experience of other racially marginalized groups received far less attention in the media. Native Americans, in particular, suffered beyond the glare of the media spotlight, rendered invisible by journalistic biases and public preoccupations. Ironically, although the mainstream media and its audiences all but erased American Indians from the unfolding story of the social crises wrought by Katrina and Rita, during the past two years Indianness has played an important role in the framing of New Orleans, the staging of America, and popular perceptions of the crisis. Specifically, although turning away from embodied Indians and their struggles, the media has displayed an abiding fascination with the Mardi Gras Indians, which are predominantly African American collectives, or so-called tribes, that integrate elements and images of Native American cultures into performances held in association with the annual carnival. In this article, the author unpacks the uses and understandings of race, Indianness, and nation emergent from this pattern, arguing that as it reflects a long history of appropriation, misrecognition, and symbolic power, it also reiterates the urgency of politicizing representation. (Contains 10 notes.)
American Indian Studies Center at UCLA. 3220 Campbell Hall, Box 951548, Los Angeles, CA 90095-1548. Tel: 310-825-7315; Fax: 310-206-7060; e-mail:; Web site:
Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Descriptive
Education Level: N/A
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Location: United States