Tag Archives: Puerto Rico

Disaster Capitalism: Is Whiteness a Safe Space?


I believe it was Juan Gonzalez who made the comment that if Puerto Rico were a state, it would be 23rd in population following it up by the suggestion that if there were an equivalent natural disaster in Iowa, torrents of federal aid would be flooding into it right now.

But can we be so sure? My sense is the YOYO/tough love philosophy being imposed on Puerto Rico is best seen less as an expression of racialized contempt (which it surely is) than as a premonition of what the rest of us can expect in not so long. After all, the (non)-response to hurricanes Sandy and Irene-which affected areas not so far from where I live and which have yet to recover-was not so different from that which Ward 9 in New Orleans experienced in the wake of Katrina.

The charge of racism, while accurate, proved to be a diversion from what should have been recognized then: it wasn’t just that “George Bush doesn’t care about black people,” as Kanye West famously claimed, it’s that he doesn’t care about anyone (black or white or hispanic) outside of the oil industry execs, hedge funders and Goldman Sachs felons who make up his base.

That’s the lesson, in my opinion. There are signs that it is finally being learned, but they are slow in coming.