On the plane back from Vermont this morning (trees, lake, and mountains are good for the soul) I caught a clip of Kanye West’s ad-lib about New Orleans and George Bush during NBC’s concert to raise funds for New Orleans. Standing next to Mike Myers, who didn’t seem to know what to do with himself, West said what I and a lot of other of people have been saying, that the destruction of New Orleans is partly an issue of race, since the majority of the victims of this thing are poor and black. It’s hard to think that if a similar disaster had hit the white population of a city like Boston the federal government would be so sluggish in its response.

I don’t think Georgie or anyone else thought, “don’t help them because they’re black”; it’s a more nuanced racism than that. It’s about neglecting the very existence of these people, pretending that they don’t exist. It’s about developing evacuation plans that assume that everyone owns a car. And it’s about denying, as Condi Rice did, that race plays any part in anything when almost everybody —even uber-Bush apologist David Brooks— can see that it is still a huge player in our national psyche.

So here’s a link to Kanye West’s refusal to read his prepared lines, and the speech he gave instead. I think it was brave and important for him to say what he said. When you’re such a public figure, it’s important to use that platform for good once in a while.

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