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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on September 3, 2005 1:50 AM. The previous post in this blog was You ask a silly question.... The next post in this blog is Hard to believe. Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

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Saturday, September 3, 2005

Black people loot, white people find

This week's events shook me to the point that I didn't make my usual runs of the blogosphere. But thanks to my blogbuddy Tony Pierce in L.A., I was just now able to catch up on one heck of a screwup by Yahoo. I know how they feel, but that's a bad one.

Comments (20)

There's been a lot of talk about that, but the photos weren't captioned by Yahoo, in any event. One is an AP photo, and the other one is from AFP/Getty. Yahoo doesn't edit the captions. The AFP photographer has reported that he saw the people in his photo grab items that were literally floating in the water, having already been lost by the store where they were (thus, "found"), while the people labeled as "looters" had been seen by the AP photographer going into the store and removing the items.

Not necessarily a complete explanation, but Yahoo didn't caption either of them, and they were captioned by different photographers who saw different things, not a single entity using different language for the same thing. Totally agree that it's sensitive, but I don't think it's what it originally appeared to be.

I picked this up earlier this week (I was similarly outraged) from a friend's blog - the AFP photographer actually visited her comments to to this post explain his captioning choices.

Read it here:

In a double-gotcha, a third AP photo was found that showed people two white people actually departing a mini-mart with broken windows with items with the caption "two people leaving a store in New Orleans." Sort of canned the idea that the distinction was whether looting was obvious or not. Frankly, I think we should just use one label for all of them: "people whose city is destroyed and have lost EVERYTHING."

I think there's a distinction to be made between those who run into a store and grab a case of water and some bologna, and those who run into a store and pack garbage bags full of Nikes and electronics.

Sure, you can, but to what end? Is theft of a TV or an Xbox really a major concern right now? I just think that in the whole scope of issues that need to be dealt with, lives lost, economic loss and continuing need for help, the focus on looters is silly. When we see images of criminals acting barbaric dominating coverage, it helps people rationalize tuning out. "Those negroes, look at them acting like people in a third world country." Dehumanizing them helps us to ignore their plight. It really isn't the story here. I don't care if all the mercedes and BMWs in New Orleans were stolen, it's still not worth covering at the expense of covering the devastation, disease and death that we need to be paying attention to.

Here's some more background.

>Sure, you can, but to what end? Is theft of a TV or an Xbox really a major concern right now?>Sure, you can, but to what end? Is theft of a TV or an Xbox really a major concern right now?

Well, yeah. Survival is one thing. I'm ok with taking food and water, diapers, and so on.

Excuse me, but what are they gonna plug that 42" plasma screen into? That's not survival; it's just plain theft.

Especially in the midst of disaster, right and wrong matter.

The AFP photographer has reported that he saw the people in his photo grab items that were literally floating in the water, having already been lost by the store where they were (thus, "found")

Sounds like a convenient CYA story by the person who wrote the caption.

Okay, Jack, after your post above, I guess I, too, have to defy blogging conventions and post this comment from a link from the link you gave:

September 01, 2005
The Photographer's Statement
Grace posted some of this on her blog, but I'm going defy blogging conventions and post the entire entry from Chris Greythen, the photographer who took the "found" picture.

->> Jeasus, I don't belive how much crap I'm getting from this. First of all, I hope you excuse me, but I'm completely at the end of my rope. You have no Idea how stressful this whole disaster is, espically since I have not seen my wife in 5 days, and my parents and grand parents HAVE LOST THIER HOMES. As of right now, we have almost NOTHING.
Please stop emailing me on this one.

I wrote the caption about the two people who 'found' the items. I believed in my opinion, that they did simply find them, and not 'looted' them in the definition of the word. The people were swimming in chest deep water, and there were other people in the water, both white and black. I looked for the best picture. there were a million items floating in the water - we were right near a grocery store that had 5+ feet of water in it. it had no doors. the water was moving, and the stuff was floating away. These people were not ducking into a store and busting down windows to get electronics. They picked up bread and cokes that were floating in the water. They would have floated away anyhow. I wouldn't have taken in, because I wouldn't eat anything that's been in that water. But I'm not homeless. (well, technically I am right now.)


I'm not trying to be politically correct. I'm don't care if you are white or black. I spent 4 hours on a boat in my parent's neighborhood shooting, and rescuing people, both black and white, dog and cat. I am a journalist, and a human being - and I see all as such. If you don't belive me, you can look on Getty today and see the images I shot of real looting today, and you will see white and black people, and they were DEFINATELY looting. And I put that in the caption.

Please, please don't argue symantics over this one. This is EXTREMELY serious, and I can't even begin to convey to those not here what it is like. Please, please, be more concerned on how this affects all of us (watch gas prices) and please, please help out if you can.

This is my home, I will hopefully always be here. I know that my friends in this business across the gulf south are going through the exact same thing - and I am with them, and will do whatever I can to help. But please, please don't email me any more about this caption issue.

And please, don't yell at me about spelling and grammar. Im eating my first real meal (a sandwich) right now in 3 days.

When this calms down, I will be more than willing to answer any questions, just ask.

Thank you all -
-Chris Graythen

Oops - that link was from the link posted by *Betsy* not *Jack* Thank you, Betsy. It really helps to get context.

Yahoo may not edit the captions, but it should. And it certainly shouldn't deny responsibility for them. The photographer who wrote the "found" caption isn't the one who created the glaring juxtaposition and hypocrisy -- Yahoo is.

And in any event, it's clear from the photog's explanation that he doesn't know how the people in the picture got what they were carrying. So he clearly should have picked a different verb.

It looks to me like the photographer's explanation is pretty credible. I see a fairly obvious difference between seeing someone walk into a store and take items that are inside, versus seeing someone with items you know were floating in the water anyway. If it's true that he captioned other pictures of white people as "looting," isn't that pretty persuasive?

I've hollered as much as anyone over the implications of what went on this week, but I have to admit that with this one, I'm not seeing it.

Agree, Linda.
Here's what I'd really like to see: photos of black people from all around the U.S. collecting, donating, and distributing materials to the victims of the storm and floods. I'd like to read news stories about how Northern urban communities are opening their homes to refugees. They must exist.

Where are they? Images and stories like this would do a lot to restore pride and respect to and for African-Americans. Are the wire services only plugged into the white world? What does Tony Pierce have to say about this?

Is the only Black mayor we see in the MSM going to be the one we saw cursing and crying about why somebody didn't come in and do his job for him?

mac,

you say you want to read stories of Northern communities giving aid? why? this isnt the civil war. by the way, did you even look?

9/2 Michigan Opens its Doors to Refugees"

9/3 city offered 36 members of the firefighters' technical rescue teams, eight emergency medical technicians, search-and-rescue equipment, more than 100 police officers as well as police vehicles and two boats, 29 clinical and 117 non-clinical health workers, a mobile clinic and eight trained personnel, 140 Streets and Sanitation workers and 29 trucks, plus other supplies - but all FEMA would accept was one tank

9/3 Missourians help hurricane refugees

the issue at in Jack's post and in mine was that the AFP said that white people found and black people looted.

for all of those who want to argue that one pic was from the AP and one was from the AFP, fine

heres the AFP saying that black people loot: http://news.yahoo.com/photo/050831/photos_wl_afp/050831003403_tqs74j8d_photo3/print;_ylt=AqexAUCjCjOuVEbDxofpkF8ZO7gF;_ylu=X3oDMTA3bXNtMmJ2BHNlYwNzc3M-

and the one that Jack pointed to said that white people "found"

As for the reporter covering his ass by saying that the food was "floating in the water... near a grocery store,". that's not what he wrote in his caption, he wrote "two residents wade through chest-deep water after finding bread and soda from a local grocery store..."

thats a big difference. he never mentioned floating, he never mentioned that there were "a million" items around the store. either he is lying now, or he wrote poorly then. either way he wrote that white people "found" without any sense of a clue that nearly every report of people with bread and diapers were peppered with words like "looting".

you want to see black people helping victims, turn on the damn news. there was the 20 yr old black kid who commandeered a school bus and drove refugees from NO to Houston (http://www.chron.com/cs/CDA/ssistory.mpl/topstory2/3334317)and there is the 3 star general who gave far more leadership than the commander in chief (http://www.cnn.com/2005/US/09/02/honore.profile)
African Americans dont need wire service stories to help our pride or to give us respect, what we need are judgers like you to quit asking bullshit questions like youve asked in you post.

and what we also need are real issues like racism to be met head-on without the minorities having to prove themselves first.

AFP and Yahoo has even pulled the picture and caption because they dont even believe the photographer's CYA excuse.

Sorta sucks when racism is right in front of you and instead of acknowledging it you say bullshit like, yeah no, and what are the North doing to help the South.

you're part of the problem Mac.

You Guys,
I'm from the 3rd world country and I was so pissed when all of you say"this was like being in a 3rd world city or country" please that was too much. we do not have all those drug addicts, not even those hurricane and thank God for that. Do not even rely to these bad images painted by some news channels for I do know Interest.

It might have been just like the photographer said HOWEVER... the combination of the pictures, the wait for help that took too long( don't forget the sunami /we were there in 24 hours?) so I think race had a lot to do with it also the levys needed repair and the bill to get the funding ws vetoed by the goverment every time it was put though

Tony - perhaps we're both part of the problem. You read my post too fast. I was, and still am, complaining about mainstream media coverage. I did finally get some local news from the Internet and did see what you saw - all races working to help the people in Louisiana.

However, most images I've seen from AP and Yahoo! have shown WHITE people collecting money to help the people in New Orleans and BLACK people crying for help. What would anyone conclude?

Now, it turns out that Detroit's churches and law enforcement people are sending help. Turns out, probably, that this is happening in other parts of the country as well. Blacks have complained about being invisible before, and frankly, this coverage by the MSM proves that point. Local tv news coverage from New Orleans is covering everything they can get their hands on and not pointing fingers of blame anywhere.

Like it or not, Tony, the MSM is where we need to direct our ire, not at each other.

Here's another place for ire: from an article by Randal O'Toole, formerly of Portland:
"* In 2004, New Orleans opened the 3.6-mile Canal Street streetcar line at a cost of nearly $150 million.
* New Orleans was planning to spend another $120 million on a Desire Street streetcar line."

Hmm, echos of aerial tram [rim shot], eh?

The N.O. streetcars are a legitimate tourist attraction, with a clear tie to history. They're like the cable car in S.F. The Portland aerial tram [rim shot] is just stupidity.

If tourists start to crowd in and make the rich doctors wait for this "public transportation," you can bet OHSU and its developer pals will make some calls and try to put a stop to that, quick. But with nothing to attract tourists at the top or bottom of the ride, they'll probably be indifferent. Meanwhile, we'll all pay.

Oh please. You mean we aren't also blaming Bush for the damned captions?

You just KNOW it's going to be like this. The guy who WROTE THE CAPTIONS tells you in his own words what happened, but it will never be enough for the white-hating RACISTS. Man, I am sick to death of being the white bogeyman.

The fact of the matter regarding New Orleans is that the people - regardless of race - were just unprepared. It is shameful that so many Americans couldn't go less than 24 hours without "starving" and "having" to loot. Further, they couldn't sustain themselves for less than four full days. We are always told to prepare at least five days of food and water for each person in our home. So keep the blame where it has to start - with the individuals, regardless of their income or SKIN COLOR.

Believe me, stupidity, ignorance, laziness and outright stubborness comes in all the colors of the rainbow. This time it cost a lot of folks their lives.

Referring to unfortunate victims of Katrina as "stupid, lazy, and ignorant" is downright cruel. Everyone is not the survivalist that you may be. And, yes, the government should have provided better support to New Orleans residents. I just hope you never experience a disaster of that magnitude in your lifetime...or maybe you should, just so you can prove how smart and prepared you are!


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