- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 4, 2005

From combined dispatches

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice yesterday said the federal response to Hurricane Katrina was not slowed by racial insensitivity.

“Nobody, especially the president, would have left people unattended on the basis of race,” the administration’s highest-ranking black said as she toured damaged parts of her native Alabama.

Later, during a service at the Pilgrim Rest African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church outside Mobile, Miss Rice nodded in agreement as the Rev. Malone Smith Jr. advised the congregation, “Wait for the Lord.”

“There are some things the president can do; there are some things the government can do,” Mr. Smith told about 300 worshippers during a rollicking two-hour service. “But God can do all things. I want you to know he’s never late. He’s always on time.”

Miss Rice later echoed the call for patience. “The Lord is going to come on time — if we just wait,” she said.

It was a sort of homecoming for Miss Rice, an Alabama native and granddaughter of a Presbyterian minister.

Her visit came as some black leaders, including the Rev. Jesse Jackson, have complained bitterly about the slow response to the disaster, whose victims have been disproportionately black and poor. They have said racial injustice was a factor in the government’s slow relief effort.

“How can that be the case? Americans don’t want to see Americans suffer,” Miss Rice said. “Nobody, especially the president, would have left people unattended on the basis of race.”

Mr. Jackson complained that television and press coverage of the disaster was racist for calling storm survivors “refugees” and showing images of blacks looting in New Orleans.

Using “refugees” to describe the people evacuated from storm-ravaged areas “is insulting, it is racist, it does not describe American citizens,” Mr. Jackson said. “If you characterize them as refugees, it is someone other than citizens.”

The veteran activist accused the press of a double standard in its coverage of chaos in New Orleans.

“With a black person, it is called looting; with a white person, it is called finding food,” he said.

Bruce Gordon, president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, said any recriminations over the storm response can wait.

“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,” Mr. Gordon said.

In Maryland yesterday, Claude Allen, a leading official in hurricane recovery efforts as senior domestic policy adviser to President Bush, decried racial discord and appealed for national unity.

“Pray that God would prevail against efforts to divide this nation,” Mr. Allen asked 2,000 fellow members of Covenant Life Church in Gaithersburg. “This is not a situation of black or white, rich or poor. This storm was indiscriminate in who it took, and we as a people must pull together.”

Mr. Allen, who is black, accompanied the president on his tour of the stricken region. Pray “most of all for peace, because people are trying to find places to lay the blame, and this is not a time for that,” said Mr. Allen, who was invited by senior pastor Joshua Harris to address the church.

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