Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Looting versus Hunting

Newsweek commented briefly this week on the "caption problem" in the wake of Hurricane Katrina: in essence, some folks are claiming that minorities are being identified as "looters," but white people are being described as "hunting" for necessities. Newsweek, in its comments, seems to take a dim view of this practice. Here's an excerpt from the AP:
They were just two out of hundreds of stunning images transmitted Tuesday, the day after Katrina ravaged New Orleans. What has drawn attention to these two photos, though, is their captions. In the first, the young man, who is black, is described as having "looted" the items. In the second, the pair, who are white or light-skinned, are described as "finding" the items.

Here's the twist: Newsweek has two captions that fall under this same critique. Two people of color are shown in a full-page photo that references looters, but a later (and smaller) photo of a white man is captioned as "hunting" for items in a destroyed local Wal*Mart.

In my opinion, stealing is stealing -- call it what you will. But in a situation such as this tragedy, it is almost understandable that people would need to take such measures; when everything around you is destroyed, lifting some bottled water or blankets is nothing I'd criticize (especially when the government fails to provide).

Some point out that water is a necessity, but taking a television is just theft. Just consider that those TVs may be seen as tradeable commodities that can be exchanged with others for food or a ride out of town; we really can't know.

This "caption problem" may merit more attention in the future; stay tuned.

No comments: