While watching the media coverage of the New Orleans disaster and rescue (mostly on CNN, I have to add, because that’s the only US news channel I have available here) I couldn’t help but notice a strange regularity. Most refugees – and looters – were black, while almost all rescuers (firemen, policemen, troopers) were white. Image after image I saw this and I started to wonder why it is so.

I contacted an American friend and he reminded me that New Orleans population was predominantly black, as many as 70% of New Orleans residents were black. It explains the fact why so many victims are black – it’s even kind of obvious, but it didn’t quite explain to me why most rescuers were white? Said friend has also reminded me that black soldiers and officers make up 25% of US armed forces which is not what I saw on the media. I don’t know what to think.

The sole question seemed to upset him a bit. Race is a very delicate issue with Americans. Some subscribe to political correctness – which is, let’s be frank, a quite stupid self-censorship – and just repeat what media say and some just refuse to talk about it.

What I never could understand is why calling someone “black” can be racist but calling someone “white” can’t. Or how prohibiting a race from, say, entering university is racist but giving additional favors based on race is not. This defies basic logic. Even amidst all this disaster some black American politicians say that there is “racism” in delaying help, which is hard to believe, and serious newspapers consider this point like this article in the Washington Post. Strange that someone could seriously throw such accusations.

Here in Eastern Europe there is no racial problem at all, there are so few immigrants from other races that they are either ignored or treated with friendly interest. My surprise at those TV images clearly shows that I will have to learn how to talk with Americans about the subjects touching race. However, I observed a chilling pattern with my friends who already moved to the States – all of them became outright racists within a year or two since settling there. And I’m pretty sure they were not concerned with skin color of people while living here.

By the way, I can still remember my surprise and amazement when I learned that blacks make up no more than 13% of Americans. From what I saw earlier in the movies or media I assumed they make up half of the nation or something close to it. I suspect many Europeans who didn’t check the numbers or have not visited US think the same way.