Black Diasporic Disasters and the Africanization of Poverty in Western Print Media: a Case Study of Hurricane Katrina and the Haitian Earthquake in the New York Times
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Thousands of poor, mainly black Americans were plastered across the news in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in August 2005. Correspondingly, after the devastating Haitian earthquake in January 2010, images and readings of black impoverishment were rife. I argue during both disasters, news media depicted both populations as Africanized, discursively linking blackness and black African-ness with impoverishment. I conducted a critical discourse analysis of eighty New York Times articles, comparing both cases and found that black subjects were homogenously depicted as both threatening and helpless, as “others from within” in coverage of Hurricane Katrina and “others from without” in coverage of the Haitian earthquake; the former being black others who pose an immediate threat by proximity to white majority populations, and the latter as black others whose implied inferiority helps bolster a sense of superiority amongst whites. I conclude that depictions of these essentialized and denigrated black others are problematic as they may inform the mistreatment and management of black populations worldwide.