Bush aides meet with concerned black leaders, while NAACP head says time not right for ‘finger-pointing’
JACKSON, Miss. – President Bush’s top advisers met Saturday with black leaders concerned about the administration’s slow response to blacks suffering from Hurricane Katrina, while the head of the NAACP said it was not time for “finger-pointing.”NAACP President Bruce Gordon said that any recriminations over how the government treated Gulf Coast residents can wait until the mostly poor and black victims are given the care they desperately need.”Right now, the NAACP is in what I call a life-saving mode. We are not in a finger-pointing mode and until every life has been stabilized and every life has been saved, we will devote all of our energies for that purpose,” Gordon said.Gordon and Mississippi NAACP officials spoke at a news conference in Jackson hours after Bush administration officials including Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff met with black leaders in Washington about allegations that indifference to black suffering slowed the response.White House press secretary Scott McClellan said the group discussed how to evacuate, save and sustain lives, create temporary housing and ways to work with community and faith-based groups to handle the long-term needs of the displaced.Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, Democrat of Maryland and past chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, said he believes the administration was partly interested in offering assurances that any missteps in getting relief to the victims would be corrected.”I think a lot of people in the African American community – and others, by the way – share Bush’s view that the results of his efforts have been unacceptable,” Cummings said after the White House meeting.Gordon said the NAACP will monitor how federal officials provide relief in New Orleans and the Gulf Coast while offering assistance to displaced residents and those in need.”Once we are satisfied that some level of stabilization has occurred, then we are going to figure out what happened,” Gordon said. “Because are there discrepancies? Yes.”The Rev. Jesse Jackson and some black elected officials have said racial injustice was at the root of the federal government’s disaster response.Jackson on Saturday criticized the Federal Emergency Management Agency, calling its rescue efforts a “colossal disaster.” He also said the government failed to put together a coordinated effort to address the crisis and should be held accountable.”There was no national emergency evacuation plan for Americans in the line of danger,” Jackson said at his Rainbow/PUSH Coalition headquarters on Chicago’s South Side.Vail, Colorado
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