Posted by: mzbitca | September 2, 2009

The difference in our society.

So, most people are aware of the wildfires that are raging in California right now.  There was just a recent article about people living close to the blaze who are not evacuating.

“It’s my house, I don’t want anything to happen to it,” said the 47-year-old film producer, whose wife and daughter left Monday to stay with friends. “I’d rather be here and leave at the last minute than down the hill not knowing what’s happening

That hasn’t daunted Joseph Stachura. He’s staying with his 3,500-square-foot home in Big Tujunga Canyon where he has his own well and a pump that can drain 12,000 gallons of water from his pool. He has also stocked fireproofing gel to spray on his roof along with other firefighting supplies

Something to highlight.  All of these people have consistent resources to get out whenever they want.  They can afford materials to save their house or can, as one pair did before, jump into a hot tub to protect themsevles from the flames. 

Meanwhile, the people of Katrina, who did not have resources to get out and were stranded or just did what some of these people are doing, which is not wanting to leave their homes and everything they had (a completely natural human reponse), were called stupid and were told they had what was coming to them. 

There is a big difference between the people that are being highlighted in this article and those that were stranded before Katrina and there is a big difference between what the way they are being presented.  One is exhibiting a very human response and are given agency and not being criticized for any moral failing or blamed for any possible damage to their homes.  The others were considered crazed animals who didn’t know any better to save themselves and deserved no sympathy because their reactions were obviously so different.

What are the most obvious differences: One is focusing on the rich and the white (people who are always given the benefit of humanity and agency in our culture), the others were low-income and mostly POC (people who are often dehumanized and denied the very basic right of being allowed to exhibit basic human behavior/limitation without judgment).



  1. excellent post. i’m glad someone is pointing out the different ways these similar reactions are presented by the media. the white people are taking a stand, even though they have the money to leave if they had to…the black people are just dumb poor people–it’s they’re own fault for not pulling themselves up by the bootstraps, right? i mean, people choose to be poor, don’t they? yeah, whatever.

    and somehow i’m to believe we’re “post-racial?”

  2. Great post mzbitca. I’ll definitely be filling this away in my “frackin hypocrites!” folder in my mind.

  3. I’m sure that any day now ex-Sen. Rick Santorum will be suggesting that these people should be prosecuted for failing to evacuate. You know, the way he did about the people of NOLA, whom he evidently expected to abandon their homes and crawl out of town on their hands and knees – really, really fast, so as to stay ahead of the floodwater. Sen. Man-on-Dog, as he was known, has been attempting to insinuate himself back into the national public policy discussion of late, so I’ll be holding my breath for that.

  4. It’s all So True.

  5. You must not live in California. The majority of these people who stay with their homes are generally regarded as idiots.

    Especially that couple who tried to stay in their hot tub and had to be rescued. They’re luckily they made it out!

    Or the three people who wanted to stay with their property until they realized how intense the fire was going to be. Instead of being heroes and saving their property, they had a change of heart and when they wanted to leave, they could not even be rescued by because it was too dangerous for the firefighters to get to them. Those people are rightly called stupid and they are not lauded as much as you want to portray for your singular article.

    • well seeing as how my post is based on a article intended for consumption by all I think it’s interesting how it’s being framed in comparison to Katrina. Many of the people in New Orleans knew how hard it was to get out but the portrayal by others and the media was completely different. Hence my post being based on the article and not what people in California may or may not be saying.

      • In that case, I still think you’re not proving your point because the article discusses how authorities consider these people to be:

        “just plain foolhardy and vastly underestimate the risk”

        and explain hot tub people this way:

        “The men, aged 53 and 40, sustained second and third-degree burns on their faces, arms and legs from the fire and had to be rescued”

        and continue describing the people who stay behind:

        “In California, authorities cannot force residents to leave against their will, only emphasize that they stay at their own risk, said Whitmore.

        “It’s a combination of bravado, people who won’t listen to authority and those who seek adventure,” said Irwin Redlener, diretor of Columbia University’s National Center for Disaster Preparedness. “It crosses the line from bravado to stupidity.”

        Now machismo in never described as a good thing:

        “They’re typically men — a type of machismo thing …”

        And further discussing the risk these people who stay behind are at:

        “However, after Australian bushfires last summer claimed 130 lives, the idea has been largely abandoned in California.”

        So after 3/4 of the article discuses how dumb these people are, the last 1/4 shows the viewpoints of the people who stay behind.

        It did not describe Katrina at all or even mention New Orleans. I think you’re misrepresenting the article.

  6. An excellent point – made all the more by the fact the Katrina victims had nowhere to go – just packing up and leaving and hoping to find (and afford) accomodation? That’s just not viable.

    Contrast that with these clearly wealthy people who, no doubt, would have little difficulty in seeking refuge (and replacing the assets they are fiercly protecting)

    But it is spun so differently, the privilege of wealth, class and race somehow makes their decisions right and reasonable, even admirable, while the often complete lack of choice of the marginalised is criticised.

    That criticism is an essential protection of privilege – because if you’re criticising them for it, it’s their fault and totally not the fault of inherent racism that caused so much unnecessary death. The criticism was used to absolve the guilt and responsibility for the horrors caused

  7. LOL, I always laugh because the primary reason these wealthy folks are LIVING in the bushes of cali is because of “white flight”. No one would be living in the woods if the poor brown folk didnt move in where ppl usually live. I cant blame animals for attacking their homes or fires for gobbling them up!

  8. “I’d rather be here and leave at the last minute than down the hill not knowing what’s happening”

    That is the main difference, they thought it through and have an escape route (albeit a poorly designed one). The story mentions how most of the people staying behind are men by themselves (their families left) trying to protect their homes. A man or woman staying behind to protect the home while everyone else is safe is much different than keeping your family (young and elderly) there with you during an emergency situation. They have a proactive approach instead of sitting there hoping it won’t be bad.

    The situations are completely different and trying to frame it as such just is moronic.

    • But the issue being is that many of the people in Katrina did not have an escape route. They just could not leave yet they were treated like it was all their fault. The situations are not different. You have two impending natural occurences that may or may not cause a situation that requires you to evacuate. Some people are actively choosing to stay and risk their chances, other didn’t. However, the way this article frames these men’s choice is completely different than the way they framed other people in Katrina’s choice or lack there of.

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