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TFT Analysis: Post Katrina

No More Shelters of "Last Resort": "Minority Report"

Lyrics to Jay-Z's "Minority Report", featuring Ne-Yo

[Intro: News Excerpts]

The damage here along the gulf coast is catastrophic.
There's a frantic effort under way tonight to find
survivors. There are an uncounted number of the dead tonight...
People are being forced to live like animals...
We are desperate...
No one says the federal government is doing a good job..
And hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of people...
No water, I fought my country for years..
We need help, we really need help..
In Baghdad, they they drop, they air drop water, food to people..why cant they do that to their own people?
The same idiots that can't get water into a major American city in less than three days are trying to win a war...

[Verse 1 - Jay-Z]

People was poor before the hurricane came
But the down pour poured is like when Mary J. sang
Every day it rains, so every day the pain
But ignored them, and showed em the risk was to blame
For life is a chain, cause and effected
Niggas off the chain because they affected
It's a dirty game so whatever is effective
From weed to selling kane, gotta put that in effect
Wouldn't you loot, if you didn't have the loot?
Baby needed food and you stuck on the roof
Helicopter swooped down just to get a scoop
Through his telescopic lens but he didn't scoop you
The next five days, no help ensued
They called you a refugee because you seek refuge
The commander-in-chief just flew by
Did he stop? No, he had a couple seats
Just proved jet blue he's not
Jet flew by the spot
What if he ran out of jet fuel and just dropped
hu, That woulda been something to watch
Helicopters doing fly-bys to take a couple of shots
Couple of portraits then ignored 'em
He'd be just another bush surrounded by a couple orchids
Poor kids just 'cause they were poor kids
Left 'em on they porches same old story in New Orleans
Silly rappers, because we got a couple Porches
MTV stopped by to film our fortresses
We forget the unfortunate
Sure I ponied up a mill, but I didn't give my time
So in reality I didn't give a dime, or a damn
I just put my monies in the hands of the same people that left my people stranded
Nothin' but a bandit
Left them folks abandoned
Damn, that money that we gave was just a band-aid
Can't say we better off than we was before
In synopsis this is my minority report
Can't say we better off than we was before
In synopsis this is my minority report

[Verse 2 - Ne-Yo]
So many times I'm, covering my eyes
Peeking through my fingers
Tryin' to hide my, frustration at the way that we treat
(Seems like we don't even care)
Turn on the TV, seein' the pain
Sayin' such a shame
Then tryin' to go on with my life
Of that, I too, am guilty
(Seems like we don't even care)
So we send a lil' money, tell 'em it's alright
To be able to sleep at night
You will pay that price
While some of these folks' lost their whole life
(Seems like we don't even care)
Now it wasn't on the nightly news no more
Suddenly it didn't matter to you no more
In the end almost nothing changed
What the hell, what was that for?
(Seems like we don't even care)

[Outro: News Excerpts]
...Buses are on the way to take those people from New Orleans to Houston
...They lyin'
...People are dying at the convention center
...Their government has failed them

...George Bush doesn't care about black people

Lyrics found at:,,Z-lyrics/minority-report-lyrics.html



In these lyrics, Jay-Z highlights a troubling aspect of the American approach to aid, at the personal, public and governmental levels: "Sure I ponied up a mill, but I didn't give my time/So in reality I didn't give a dime, or a damn/...Damn, that money that we gave was just a band-aid." So quick we are to throw money at those in need; we rarely ask how the people we are "trying" to "help" would prefer for us to help. Instead, we hand the less fortunate a check, usually with strings attached, and pretend we've expended our best effort. This is one of the major flaws in our "system" of "aid". Unfortunately, considering our long standing discourse about the poor and about Black communities, this flaw is not surprising: it is far easier to throw money at those in need and hope they find a way to "fix" themselves, to be more like us, than it is to take the time to ask very simple questions: what do you need? what do you need for me to do? in what way do you want me to go about doing that? To ask those questions requires expending personal energy, sacrificing time, and - *gasp* - actually caring about other human beings, each of which is not benefitial to the bottom-line in our individualistic, capitalist society: energy is to be expended at work and, maybe if you have enough left over, at home with your family; time is money (and goodness knows we can't sacrifice money); and caring about other people is the complete antithesis of the slogans shoved down our throats by society ("Be all you can be", "Because you're worth it", "Have it your way", "Love your style", etc.).

If a picture says a thousand words, what does this photograph say?



"And the fact is, many times, as we know from watching tornado coverage or any other natural disaster coverage, the poor people usually are in the neighborhoods that are the lowest or the most exposed or the most vulnerable. Their housing is the most vulnerable to a natural disaster, and that's just always what had happened" (First Lady Laura Bush, Before I move on to commentary on this statement, I would like to encourage you to read the entire news release at your leisure... it makes for some "colorful" reading! Now on to the meat and potatoes... In a society that promoted an ethic of care a statement like "...and that's just always what had happened" would not be uttered. How is that we can know that poorer communities tend to lie in dangerous areas, by some magic force, of course, and not at least mitigate for these kinds of disasters? As evidenced by phrases like "the wrong side of the tracks", "the wrong side of town" or "the bad neighborhood(s)", we have been socially aware of the fact that socioeconomic locations translates itself into geographic locations, whether it be in swamp lands, a trailer park on a hill, etc.; still, as a society comprised of the self-absorbed with no interest in caring for people beyond those involved in our daily interactions, we have not mitigated for potentially devastating occurrances, let alone asked why this is the rule and not the exception, how we can change it, and why we've accepted this as "just the way it is". Instead of invoking an ethic of care, we "[leave] 'em on they porches" and ignore the underlying problems until we can write a check to cover the damages caused by a disaster to which they were left vulnerable:

"While this Second Emergency Supplemental Appropriations for Hurricane Katrina Response provides an additional $51.8 billion for hurricane relief, much more will need to be done" (Hon. Kendrick B. Meek, Statement on the Second Emergency Supplimental Appropriations for Hurricane Katrina Response - Extension of Remarks, September 8, 2005, (my apologies for the highlighting, I could not find a way to remove it; it came up highlighted after a Library of Congress THOMAS search).

One of the most important ways we can move towards developing a society that cares for rich and poor, white and "brown", male and female (etc.) alike, is to ask ourselves why. Why do we hold these "beliefs" about people different from us? Why do we accept the symptoms and methods of marginalization as "the way it is"? Why is it so much easier to deal in abstract methods of aid, such as mailing a check or charging a donation to a credit card - or on the national scale, to draft resolutions allowing the reallocations of money - than to actually get our hands dirty and help? The list goes on; and these are not easy questions with which to be confronted, but they are essential steps towards changing public discourse and action from something that is divisive in its perpetuation of assumptions, myths, and generalizations about people, to something that can be used as a tool to better understand and help people.


In the interest of not inducing anyone who reads this with a massive headache, I will end this post here... but rest assured, there's more to come (just what you wanted to hear, isn't it?).

Published Dec 05 2006, 01:38 AM by archive
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