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10 Questions Raised by Hurricane Sandy (And It’s Relief Efforts)

PHOTO CREDIT: DNAinfo/Leslie Albrecht

As always, I’m not one to just do something without thinking about larger ramifications related to society, class, race, gender, culture…take your pick. It’s a gift and a curse for sure.

Volunteering in Red Hook to support those that were affected by Hurricane Sandy was no different.  And actually, a lot of the complexities that I observed in the relief efforts were / are not just important to what is taking place now in the aftermath of the storm, but, I think, are key to how best to support those that are in need in general.

I’ve already touched upon some issues, like lessons that can be learned from Sandy regarding the concept of meaningful work as well as some inspiring stories of people doing great things, big and small.  That being said, I look forward to exploring the following and hopefully opening up a dialogue around each of these complicated (and personal) questions:

  1. How do issues of paternalism frequently appear and affect relationships and responses between affluent (Whites) and poorer (minorities) during the relief efforts (and in general when trying to help others or advocate for change)
  2. Why were there so many more (affluent) White volunteers than minority volunteers helping with relief efforts?  And does it matter?
  3. How great was it that so many people showed up to help that there were actually too many volunteers? But why does it take a national disaster to mobilize people to help others?  Why is this outpouring of direct service and empathy for others not the norm given that many are suffering on a daily basis?
  4. How do the complexities regarding the (tenuous) relationship between minority communities who were affected and the first responders (police, military, etc.) who are there to help affect the field response?
  5. How does a natural disaster like Sandy illuminate the (economic) inequalities that exist within our society, especially for lower income minority communities?
  6. How does climate change and environmental justice affect poor and minority communities disproportionately?
  7. Does benefiting from the  continuance of these inequities suggest complicity?  And if so, are liberals and progressives complicit?
  8. Do we overlook the effects of stress and trauma of these types of tragedies (and in general) in minority communities while focusing so intently on getting basic needs satisfied?
  9. How can we encourage people to undertake and reward meaningful work in a more effective and equitable way?
  10. Are there any common root causes related to the questions above (economic systems, cultural,
    overnance, approaches, psychological  etc.)?  And are we ready and willing to make the necessary sacrifices to address them?

If you have additional questions, topics to explore or thoughts that come to mind, I’d love to hear them.  I’m sure others would as well.  So please do share!

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