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Conservatively liberal, moderately well-educated, and highly opinionated...

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Friday, October 28, 2005

Red Cross, FEMA, and the American Way

Did you know the Red Cross has a $3 billion budget, and that 2/3 of that money gets spent on blood collection? I had no idea. Thanks to the Washington Post this morning, I not only learned this, but also that the American Red Cross has had to apply for loans just to cover the combined Katrita disaster expenses. They haven’t even begun to approach Wilma.

Functioning as a government contractor in the role of “first responder”, the Red Cross is subject to scrutiny like any other entity… and guess what? They fell down in a couple of key places. The article said,

Earlier, evacuees in rural communities waited days for the Red Cross to show up.
But I clearly remember that the Red Cross wasn’t in New Orleans, either. I’m sure they were someplace – but where?

Furthermore, it seems they didn’t serve the Black hurricane victims as well as they served the White:

Yesterday, the Red Cross acknowledged that its response to minority evacuees during Katrina and Rita was lacking, with some African American communities having less access to aid than white communities. Leaders met last week with 60 faith-based groups, ethnic groups and community organizations to talk about developing a "broader sense of inclusion" in its disaster-relief efforts, said Rick Pogue, the charity's chief diversity officer
What’s with that? Dunno about you, but that really ticks me off. Does this look any different than FEMA? Not to me.

In truth, there is no way we can expect bureaucracies to handle large-scale disasters. What works, as Katrina and Rita (Katrita) proved, is localized help on the ground until the larger relief can be organized.

Americans do this well. We are a take-charge kind of people, generally unafraid to act either on our own or through community/religious affiliations – and that’s the way it should be. I think our expectations of governmental solutions are way out of whack in massive catastrophes, and it smacks of dependence – a very un-American trait.

I’d like to think we can help one another while (intelligent) planning and deployment take place, and if we give these massive, ponderous, and bumbling agencies the time they need to react, they might do a better job. (Of course, they might not, but I don’t want to think we’ll all be standing around next time, waiting…)