Magazine article The Spectator

Union Blues

Magazine article The Spectator

Union Blues

Article excerpt

To Oxford for a Union debate: This house believes that Hurricane Katrina blew away the myth of US racial equality.

Naturally, I was against the motion, but, students being students, my side lost. Mind you, I admit that I let the side down. I was unprepared, spoke haltingly and antagonised the audience by announcing my betrothal to the Union president, the beautiful Sapana Agrawal, then changing my mind and proclaiming that I would marry the beautiful Natasha, a very pretty girl sitting just behind the front benches.

Actually, I felt badly for my team, especially Gerard Baker, US editor of the Murdoch Times, who had done their homework and had come up with sound arguments which only a fool would deny.

Let's take it from the top. Louisiana had received more money over the past five years for the Army Corps of Engineers projects than any other state in the union.

Most of it, if not all of it, disappeared.

According to a careful New York Times examination of actual storm victims, those who stayed behind either owned cars or were offered rides by others but chose to remain. Proportionally, more whites died than blacks: whites make up only 28 per cent of the population of New Orleans, but accounted for 36 per cent of the deaths;

conversely, blacks account for 68 per cent of the population, but only 59 per cent of the deaths.

The opposition, needless to say, went to town on me. One Fellow of All Souls mentioned the fact that I had inherited wealth three times, and somehow dragged the exsainted editor Boris into his destruction of my character. I suppose an inheritance disqualified one from having an opinion about race, especially as I mentioned that New Orleans is run by black politicians who are as concerned about the welfare of their constituents as, say, their Nigerian or Congolese confrères. When Henry Louis Gates, a black academic, wrote, 'If our people studied calculus like we studied basketball, we'd be running MIT, ' he was called an Uncle Tom.

What the poor little Greek boy does not understand is why it is so difficult to say anything in public about race or religion without being pilloried for blaming the victim. After Katrina, some black American leaders discredited themselves by playing the race card. It was a class card they should have been playing, but never mind.

They tell us America is a classless society, but a racist one. …

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