A few days after Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans in 2005 we saw images in the media of people going in to abandoned shops for food. The media was quick to identify survivors trying to get food as looters. Now we’re seeing similar coverage coming from Haiti. Tracie Washington, an attorney from New Orleans has written Anderson Cooper an open letter reminding him of the lessons he learned from Katrina.
Anderson Cooper, the people of New Orleans taught you, in the days and weeks post-Katrina, about the plight of disaster victims and our desperate need to survive. You learned from us how important is water when you are left without shelter in a warm/tropical climate. You learned from us how desperate a parent becomes when she sits for days on end listening to her child cry out for food. And you learned from us the damage media and journalists can cause by exaggerating rumors of violence and chaos. See Anderson, you know the difference between “looter/thief” and “survivor” and, most importantly, how to report accurately this distinction. We taught you that. You know how to identify and expose a disaster capitalist. We taught you that. You know how to report accurately from ground-zero of a major natural disaster. We taught you that. Shame on you, Anderson Cooper, for forgetting your lessons and, in the process, re-victimizing the people of Haiti. You know better.