There are very few pieces of good news coming out of Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Rita, but one thing that these catastrophic hurricanes delivered which, oddly enough, might serve as a powerful message of change for black and brown America, and the poor and the under-served, is this; the government cannot, and possibly will not, rescue everyone out of this tragedy. 2.5 million victims, which is the running number of the total number of victims of Katrina and Rita, is more in 60 days, for effectively one disaster, that all disasters put together for 2004 (a total of 1.7 million victims registered all year in 2004 with FEMA). The SBA reports that they may have more than 1.7 million referrals from FEMA for disaster loan assistance, where up to now the most they have ever had to address (Northridge Earthquake) was less than 200,000 at one time. This is not big, it is overwhelming, and effective or not effective, no government could "take care" of all of these people — over the long term. In other words, this is a wake up call.
A wake of call, in particular, for my people — black people.
A wake up call that no one is ultimately going to rescue you out of this disaster. A wake up call that the government, in its most effective state (which admittedly in this instance there many cases where government response was not all that effective), cannot "take care" of you, me, and certainly not more than 2 million folks. Government, it is obvious, is simply overwhelmed trying to handle the basis of response to this catastrophe, and furthermore, at the end of the day our lives are our responsibility. I have been saying this now for years in my writing, speeches and our work at Operation HOPE. Black America is the only modern race of people in the world today that created a political power base before we created an economic power base. Ready, fire, aim. As a result, we send our most brilliant public policy makers to our nation’s capitol to carry the wrong message, protect the wrong things (as an example, an ever decreasing pool of subsidies and entitlements), and push in some cases the wrong policies (short term "help," versus long term empowerment and self-help).
Now, it is true that black America has just a ton of troubles that must be addressed in short years ahead, and many of them cannot be solved "through the market economy." Many of our challenges and problems are so far gone that we simply need to help some of our people (government help, private charity, and faith based compassion) in the short term, who are simply in no position right now to help themselves. Now, that said, substantively we need to be about the business of moving our people into a new era; and era comprised of self empowerment and taking care of self. As Ambassador Andrew Young has said, "government cannot rescue us out of this disaster. Many of us have been thrown into deep financial water, and we need to learn how to swim (in these deep financial waters), and quickly I might add."
Ladies and gentlemen, we need to get on with the business of taking our lives back. When the government seeks to wire funds into accounts for folks who have no bank accounts, and there are more than 70 million Americans with no bank account in the richest country in the world, then not only does that say something about our government, it says something about us. Education is the ultimate poverty eradication tool in 2005; because if you don’t know better, you simply cannot do better.
Dignity is something everyone can afford (quoting friends and fellow Young Global Leaders HRH Crown Prince Haakon Magus, Professor Pekka Himanen and myself from our recent work session in Oslo, Norway around the to be announced Dignity Project).
You cannot have a rainbow, without a storm first. We have had our storm. Now let us claim our rainbow in our lives.
Onward, with HOPE