In 1898, Puerto Rico was made part of the United States of America as an annexed commonwealth at the end of the Spanish-American War under the Treaty of Paris. This meant, all those born in this country would be considered citizens of the United States. This legal grace was offered just in time for World War I.
In 2017, Hurricane Maria — a Category Five storm — all but obliterated the island of 3.4 million people. This American-annexed commonwealth marks the one year anniversary of this storm’s landfall on September 17. As this dark anniversary looms, this week it has been reported the actual deaths from the storm rose from 64 to 2,975 people; two thousand-nine hundred and seventy-five people who happen to be at the intersection of brown-immigrant-American.
One year ago saw the less than expedient response of the United States government to its citizenry who had no clean water, reliable communication, housing or food.
The world saw one year ago the person who occupies one of the most prestigious positions in political history, the President of the United States of America, throw paper towels in front of cameras in San Juan. The President of the United States refused to acknowledge the pleas of people whom the Oath of Office says he is supposed to tend, defend and support.
The President of the United States thought it best to compare the death toll from Hurricane Katrina in 2005 (1,833 people) to the first reported 64 people of Hurricane Maria, congratulating the United States government on the ‘excellent response.’
Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Maria made landfall in Houston and Puerto Rico one month apart. Houston got supplies immediately, while Puerto Rico languished, and is still languishing! There are still people without adequate housing, access to medical care and as one resident quoted, “tired of asking for help.”
It can be reasoned that natural disasters are devastating with loss of life inevitable. However, this is why the role of government is so important; prevention of widespread damage, fortification of infrastructure and evacuation plans are tools by which loss of life can be minimized. Throwing paper towels into a crowd two weeks later, surrounded my stagnant water and the diseases birthed from is no one’s idea of doing a great job.
What is important to note is not just the response time, but whom was responding to what. The implications almost one year later is this current federal gubernatorial body lacks ability, stable leadership, the consistent compassion or focus needed to attend to the affairs or lives of those who are seen as neither profitable nor white!
We have seen, and continue to see the disparaging cognitive dissonance as it relates to the lives of those seen or thought as less than. We have seen, recorded what it has been like, for people whom the American flag grants freedoms, protections, and assistance to be stripped of all three once they are deemed by its leadership to be of the status of vermin!
There is no fixing this situation with an apology. The weight of leadership, the crushing weight of anyone in a leadership capacity is not scored wins, or the ability to dictate or disseminate propaganda. It is the consideration of those whom you are entrusted!
The decisions, inactions, hesitations — and neglect — all result in what can be lost or gained, or salvaged. The reaction to Puerto Rico one year ago was derelict and lackadaisical because the people there are of no use or concern to current leadership of the sovereign nation it is a part of!
These offenders are sure all can be rectified with, “I’m sorry.” The apology is neither substantial nor sufficient.
The right to be visible and heard as a minority is ongoing. In this struggle, be sure to remember there will be some who do not desire reconciliation of your plight through legitimate help, but absolution once your plight has been noticed.
There are American citizens who have been told they do not matter, and never will. No amount of apology cures erasure by eradication.