'Black Culture' Blamed for Hurricane Katrina Woes

By Alison Espach | July 7, 2008 | 8:06 PM EDT

(CNSNews.com) - Nearly a year after Hurricane Katrina flooded the city of New Orleans, some prominent black conservatives and religious leaders blame cultural problems among African Americans, not the government, for "the great breakdown witnessed during and following" the natural disaster.

The conservative leaders will meet in Washington, D.C., on July 26 to discuss how best to transform the "human spirit," the destruction of which they say "is at the heart" of the still evolving crisis in New Orleans.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) on Tuesday awarded $4.2 billion -- up to $150,000 for each Louisiana homeowner seeking to rebuild or sell their houses that were destroyed or damaged by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita last year.

But, many African Americans who were living in New Orleans at the time of Hurricane Katrina and the subsequent catastrophic flooding of the city believe the Bush administration's slow response to the disaster was racially motivated.

Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson, the African American founder and president of the Brotherhood Organization of a New Destiny (BOND) is not willing to blame the Bush administration. Instead, he faults what he calls the "black culture."

"It's not President Bush's responsibility to make us get up and take care of ourselves. That was a political ploy in order to make blacks believe the Republican Party was against them and that they really don't care," Peterson said.

Peterson will moderate the July 26 conference at the Heritage Foundation.

Rev. Grant Storm, who is the Caucasian minister and president of Conservative Christians for Reform, echoed Peterson's view. "The mentality of 'government's going to bail me out. Where's the government?'" is "in the black culture," Storm said. "The mentality is instilled within their churches and in their homes -- of 'the government owes you, the government is your solution, and the government will come and help you.'

"When the government doesn't come and help them, frankly all they do is yap and complain," said Storm, instead of "saying 'Hey, I better go get a job, I better go on my own, I better go find an apartment, I better go take care of myself and my family.

"They are waiting for more FEMA money, they are waiting for more relief money and it ain't coming, or it's coming slow; meanwhile, the surrounding parishes -- the predominantly white parishes -- they are rebuilding on their own, and the same way in the Gulf of Mississippi," said Storm. "Orleans -- they still don't have their flooded cars off the streets."

Storm also noted that people living in project housing prior to its destruction from Hurricane Katrina are now demanding that the government quickly rebuild and return them to their old homes. One woman, Storm noted, is a 30-year resident of the projects who is threatening to sue the government.

"Now what in the heck is she doing in the housing projects for 30 years? It's like they own them, but they don't own them," he said. "The government owns them, and that's the mentality."

Peterson places most of the blame for the lackluster hurricane response on New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin.

"[H]e did nothing. He had the buses sitting there for days -- over 200 buses. He made no attempt to use those buses in order to get the people out. He is a black Democrat mayor of the city; how come they didn't blame him?" Peterson asked.

Storm and Peterson believe the federal government is also to blame for enabling the cultural problems because it fears being branded racist unless it acts.

"In general, you have a federal government very sensitive to that -- the race issue -- and very intimidated and they cater to that," said Storm, who cited the example of the Federal Emergency Management Agency's assistance to Hurricane Katrina evacuees.

"Not to say these people don't need help," Storm said, "but it went way, way beyond catering to some of this."

Peterson said the black culture problem has also been fueled by "false black leaders."

"Over the last 50 years, they have heard: 'You need government' from these false black leaders like Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson, and the NAACP. They have told black people 'You need affirmative action, you need more welfare programs' and that's not what black folk need. They need less of that and more family," Peterson said.

"They need to get married instead of having 70 percent of children out of wedlock. They need to teach their children to work by being an example of that," he added.

The NAACP and the National Urban League did not return calls seeking comment on this article.

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