The late Malcolm X said that "you cannot have capitalism without racism". He was absolutely right. The events of the past few days in the Gulf Coast States serve as a prime example of this. When we analyze the priorities of the authorities regarding their approach to addressing the problems in New Orleans, in the order in which they listed them, we can see how true this really is.
Every authority from the President, to FEMA, to the military forces on the scene, listed their priorities in this order: 1) Prevent looting, 2) Search and rescue, 3) Deal with the dead. First and foremost is the protection of property (or the prevention of “looting”). They even initiated a shoot to kill policy for the protection of property! And we know that it is the "most valuable" property which they will protect first. (For example they will protect a diamond necklace with greater force than they will a dixie cup). This is a system which puts property before people and the more valuable the property, the greater the protection.
When we understand that it is mostly poor African Americans who were stranded in New Orleans, we can already see the seeds of capitalist based racism in the very make-up of these priorities. That is, they have given a greater value to flood-damaged property than to poor African American people. As if this isn't enough, hidden beneath this surface bigotry is another even deeper form of class-racism that isn't quite as easy to pick up on. Who owns the most ‑ and most valuable ‑ property in New Orleans, or anywhere for that matter? It is the wealthy white business owners, not the poor African American working families who are struggling to survive. This means that it is the white owners who get priority in all matters regarding the securing and restoration of the city. The business owners were able to evacuate in a safe and timely manner, they will be able to afford to rebuild their homes and businesses and it is their property which is given priority even over the very safety of the good African American people who aren't quite as well off as they are and were therefore left to fend for themselves in this disaster.
This has always been the modus operandi in America. It is always "the privileged" classes who are given priority while the poor and people of color are considered to be second and third class citizens at best. Americans try to fool themselves with the naive idea that racism is a thing of the past; but we have just witnessed a form of Capitalistic, institutionalized racism which is in a large part responsible for the deaths of thousands in New Orleans. One of the most frightening things about this is that it is such an inherent part of the capitalist system that most people are blind to it. Here the metaphor of not being able to see the trees for the forest is most appropriate.