Black Voter Suppression Blamed for Weak Katrina Response

July 7, 2008 - 8:22 PM

Washington (CNSNews.com) - The Bush administration's slow response to Hurricane Katrina may be the result of minority votes being suppressed and Democratic candidates losing the last two presidential elections, a member of the Congressional Black Caucus has alleged.

"Watching family members and others cling to rooftops in Hurricane Katrina, I wonder whether or not the absence of attention [to the recovery effort] is attributable to the loss of a vote in 2000 and 2004," U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, a Democrat from Texas, said.

She added that the government's hurricane response gave her the feeling of "deja vu," following the Republican Party's alleged attempts to undermine the black vote in those two presidential elections.

Lee is not the only member of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) to lash out at President Bush and his administration in the aftermath of the killer hurricane that flooded New Orleans and demolished much of the Gulf Coast of Mississippi.

One day after Lee addressed the CBC convention in Washington, D.C., Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.), one of the caucus' most prominent members, compared President Bush to the notorious Birmingham, Ala., police commissioner and segregationist from the 1960s, Bull Connor.

But it was Jackson Lee, often on the front lines of criticizing the Bush administration, who alleged a link between the electoral controversies of 2000 and 2004 and the weak storm response.

"The pain of disenfranchisement is still very fresh for those African Americans who were shut out of the voting process in 2000. It was a sheer travesty. We know America is smarter and better than that," said Jackson Lee, whose congressional district in Houston is now home to an estimated 150,000 Hurricane Katrina evacuees.

She also compared the hurricane's devastating effects on the minority residents of New Orleans with the often violent struggle for civil rights in the 1960s.

In 1965 in Montgomery Alabama, "the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King was attacked by state troopers, beaten and jailed ... This overt violation of human and civil rights, took place live on national television in front of the entire world, as did the tragedy of Hurricane Katrina. Who knows what [effect more African American] votes could have brought about in both of those instances," Jackson Lee explained.

"That is why we are so concerned about voting rights. They impact yesterday, today and tomorrow," she added.

A conservative African American group condemned Jackson Lee's comments, using one of the congresswoman's own descriptions -- "travesty" - to characterize her remarks.

"[Jackson Lee] is correct. It is a sheer travesty, but the travesty is that she and those like her would use a catastrophic hurricane to spew forth their patented brand of commercialized race baiting," said Project 21 member Mychal Massie in an interview with Cybercast News Service.

"Comparing Dr. [Martin Luther] King's beating to what took place in the wake of Hurricane Katrina is an unfathomable stretch in any sense of the imagination in anyone's mind except for Jackson Lee and those like her," Massie said.

"To America's credit, America is smarter and is indeed better than that because they see her and those like her for what they are, a contumacious (rebellious), malevolent person who sees nothing good in America," he added.

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