Normalizing The Unthinkable

by lizard

Taking your shoes off before boarding an airplane is just one small victory in normalizing the invasive measures of The State when it comes to “protecting” its wards, us.

And we all abide by this new security measure because a so-called terrorist tried to ignite a shoe bomb.

In the comment thread of my previous post about thinking the unthinkable, I linked to an article reporting how Sandy refugees say life in tent city feels like prison, and I highlighted this particular excerpt:

It is hard to sleep at night inside the tent city at Oceanport, New Jersey. A few hundred Superstorm Sandy refugees have been living here since Wednesday – a muddy camp that is a sprawling anomaly amidst Mercedes Benz dealerships and country clubs in this town near the state’s devastated coastal region.

Inside the giant billowy white tents, the massive klieg lights glare down from the ceiling all night long. The air is loud with the buzz of generators pumping out power. The post-storm housing — a refugee camp on the grounds of the Monmouth Park racetrack – is in lockdown, with security guards at every door, including the showers.

No one is allowed to go anywhere without showing their I.D. Even to use the bathroom, “you have to show your badge,” said Amber Decamp, a 22-year-old whose rental was washed away in Seaside Heights, New Jersey.

To me, that level of security seems excessive, almost punitive, as evidenced by the Sandy refugees feeling like prisoners.

To help me understand why these measures are necessary, the following comment was offered by the Polish Wolf:

Liz – read about the conditions in Haitian disaster camps after the earthquake, especially conditions for women, and you’ll see why that kind of security is easy to understand. Anytime you have a lot of strangers who recently experienced catastrophic life changes living together, you’re going to see the best and worst humanity has to offer. I imagine constant illumination and ID checks are part of that

Before I get to my racially-charged, hyperbolic retort, I need to acknowledge PW has a point. Catastrophic events bring out both the best and worst humanity has to offer.

That said, my response:

yes, in a post-crisis environment, “strangers” can be very dangerous, especially black people. once law and order disappears, the latent violence of black people rises to the surface, turning them into dangerous looters. I mean, look at Katrina. it makes total sense the National Guard would point guns at people trying to survive hellish conditions instead of trying to help them.

so in your mind, PW, it makes sense to force people to show ID in order to take a piss, because it’s all about security, right? and it makes sense to flood this “camp” with lights 24/7 because by the cover of darkness these animals may attack each other, rape women, and do god knows what to the Mercedes Benz dealership in the vicinity.

your mentality is right where they want it to be. sad.

The normalized ease in which extreme security and restriction are accepted as necessary, because “strangers” can be dangerous, is disturbing.

I’m not saying strangers can’t be dangerous, and awful shit doesn’t happen during disasters.

But in the immediate aftermath of a disaster, especially when impoverished communities are affected, The State response is one of security, not assistance.

This one report from a tent city in New Jersey stands as a microcosm of the larger State approach to people in crisis.


No, control.

Which explains why community run hubs are now being targeted by Bloomberg for eviction.

I’m sure the fact there’s Occupy Wall Street DNA in the recovery efforts of community hubs has nothing to do with it.

Below the fold, the call to action.



The mayor’s office is calling upon local police forces to “clear all outdoor sites” effective immediately. We are calling on all New Yorkers to advocate on behalf of these community run hubs that provide essential services to those whom the city and federal government, and support agencies, have under-served, neglected, or abandoned.

We call on the city, service organizations and police to support these crucial hubs by maintain location and services to community, offering tents, generators, and storage pods for supplies or finding free, nearby, and feasible medium to long term spaces where hubs can operate.

This Friday morning Staten Island police representing the mayor’s office have threatened eviction action against the crucial Staten Island hub at 489 Midland Avenue, in the heavily hit Midland Beach area. Aiman Youssef, a 42-year-old Syrian-American Staten Islander whose house was destroyed in the hurricane, has been running a 24/7 community pop up hub outside his property at 489 Midland Avenue since the day after the storm. He and a coalition of neighbors, friends and community members are serving hot food and offering cleaning supplies, non-perishables, medical supplies, and clothing to the thousands of residents who are still without heat, power, or safe housing. This popular hub is well-run, well-staffed, and has a constant hum of discussion, support, and advice as well as donations and pick ups and volunteer dispatch through another pop-up group, volunteers who call themselves “The Yellow Team.”

At the standing-room only Town Hall meeting at Staten Island’s New Dorp High School last night, Youssef was the first to raise his voice in the question and answer period. The community’s expression of extreme need and frustration with the lack of official support made for a contentious environment where city government officials offered few solutions. At one point borough president James Molinaro asked the audience “You wanna shut your mouth?” due to their increasingly loud demands for community support and housing solutions.

We ask all New Yorkers and Sandy supporters worldwide to not heed Molinaro’s demand, but to speak out as Youssef did. Ask the mayor’s office to support, not evict, the well-run community support hubs giving crucial services to New Yorkers in need.

—Demand the Mayor’s office end community hub eviction and instead support hubs with space and equipment
—Public Advocate’s office: (212) 669-7250 9am-5pm EMAIL:

  1. Stew

    While reading your posts, I try really hard to have an open mind and accept that there are different points of view and that all of them are valid. But this post has me wondering if you have a very distinct agenda rather than on opinion. In the first sentence of your response to PW, you imply that the word “strangers” means “black people”. I really don’t understand. I see a guy walking down the street and I don’t know him. He is a stranger. Whether he is black, white, brown or any other color has no relevance. Do you really think that PW was saying that the security measures were to protect the whites and their Mercedes Benz dealership? By the way, the guy down the street is a very successful man that happens to be black and he drives a beautiful BMW.

    • lizard19

      thank you for the comment, Stew.

      first, in the post I indicated my comment was hyperbolic, so if you want to understand the point I’m trying to make, look at the definition of hyperbole:

      the use of exaggeration as a rhetorical device or figure of speech. It may be used to evoke strong feelings or to create a strong impression, but is not meant to be taken literally.

      to clarify my point, when you start from the perspective that a post-disaster environment is full of threatening strangers, then yes, excessive security measures seem justified.

      my problem with federal relief efforts, and the media reporting that goes along with it, is the increasing tendency to focus on security threats, like looters, and there are definitely racial undertones regarding who gets depicted as being dangerous.

      to contrast federal relief efforts, the community hubs that have popped up don’t seemed as constrained by security concerns, despite being on the frontlines of providing help to people who need it.

      why are those efforts being shut down?

      I think the answer to that perplexing question is this: helping is secondary to security and control.

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