The New York Times has an interesting article that explores how class and race have been brought to the forefront in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy. The article deals with how victims, most of which are poor minorities, feel about privileged, white, upper-class New Yorkers–those same people who made gentrification a reality–are now offering their assistance.
The blatant privilege and ignorance expressed by the volunteers in this article is not surprising, but frustrating nonetheless.
Those coming to them for relief worry that their helpers are taking some voyeuristic interest in their plight, treating it as an exotic weekend outing, “like we’re in a zoo,” said one resident of a Rockaway project — echoing a complaint often heard in the Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina — as volunteers snapped iPhone photos of her as she waited in line for donated food and clothing.
And while the good being done is undeniable, the gap-bridging atmosphere has a melancholy undertone for some on all sides who are sure the moment is fleeting.
From her Gramercy Park apartment, where she had been without power for several days, Kelly Warren, 48, and a friend lugged 500 pairs of new socks and underwear bought at Walmart to the Rockaways. Her guilt at being largely spared the storm’s wrath was compounded by being up-close to the destruction of an area already struggling with poverty, she said. It made her only more keenly aware of privilege.
“I’m driving in my big Lexus coming down here,” Ms. Warren said, betraying her self-consciousness as she stood in a parking lot amid people riffling through donated clothing. I said, ‘Thank God the car is dirty.’ ”
She said she was so affected by the experience that she was considering forgoing Thanksgiving dinner to spend the day volunteering with her family.
A similar scene was unfolding in the shadow of the Red Hook Houses, a housing project with nearly 3,000 apartments. Stung not only by pervasive income inequality, but also by the steady march of gentrification in this once-derelict area, some here found it hard to accept aid from the same apple-cheeked young people pricing out longtime residents of the neighborhood.
Read more here.