Dependence on Government, Not Racism, Hurting Black People, Pastor Says

By Susan Jones | July 7, 2008 | 8:22 PM EDT

( - A black conservative leader says don't blame racism or President Bush for what happened to thousands of black people during and after Hurricane Katrina.

"The truth is black people died, not because of President Bush or racism, they died because of their unhealthy dependence on the government and the incompetence of Mayor Ray Nagin and Governor Kathleen Blanco," said the Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson, founder and president of BOND (the Brotherhood Organization of a New Destiny).

Peterson singled out the Rev. Jesse Jackson, members of the Congressional Black Caucus, and rapper Kanye West, all of whom blamed President Bush for not doing enough to help black people, especially in New Orleans, where TV images showed scenes of desperation and violence that continued for several days after the hurricane hit.

Jackson called President Bush's response "incompetent" and charged that racism is partly to blame for the slow evacuation of survivors; and during a nationally televised fundraising event on NBC, West said, "George Bush doesn't care about black people."

Not fair, said the Rev. Peterson: "If black folks want to blame someone for this tragedy they only need to look in the mirror." Mayor Nagin has blamed everyone else except himself, when it was Nagin who failed in his duty to evacuate and protect city residents, Peterson said.

"Our prayers go out to the families of the deceased," Peterson concluded. "Hopefully this will help black people realize the folly of depending on the government or leaders and serve as a notice to avert future tragedies in other cities."

Peterson frequently criticizes the entrenched civil rights leadership, saying liberal black leaders have failed and exploited African-Americans.