A couple tidbits:
That has nothing to do with me being white. If the blacks and Hispanics and Jews and gays that I work with and associate with were there with me, it would have been that much better. That’s because the people I associate with – my Tribe – consists not of blacks and whites and gays and Hispanics and Asians, but of individuals who do not rape, murder, or steal. My Tribe consists of people who know that sometimes bad things happen, and that these are an opportunity to show ourselves what we are made of. My people go into burning buildings. My Tribe consists of organizers and self-starters, proud and self-reliant people who do not need to be told what to do in a crisis. My Tribe is not fearless; they are something better. They are courageous. My Tribe is honorable, and decent, and kind, and inventive. My Tribe knows how to give orders, and how to follow them. My Tribe knows enough about how the world works to figure out ways to boil water, ration food, repair structures, build and maintain makeshift latrines, and care for the wounded and the dead with respect and compassion.
There are some things my Tribe is not good at at all. My Tribe doesn’t make excuses. My Tribe will analyze failure and assign blame, but that is to make sure that we do better next time, and we never, ever waste valuable energy and time doing so while people are still in danger. My Tribe says, and in their heart completely believes that it’s the other guy that’s the hero. My Tribe does not believe that a single Man can cause, prevent or steer Hurricanes, and my Tribe does not and has never made someone else responsible for their own safety, and that of their loved ones.
My Tribe doesn’t fire on people risking their lives, coming to help us. My Tribe doesn’t curse such people because they arrived on Day Four, when we felt they should have been here before breakfast on Day One. We are grateful, not to say indebted, that they have come at all. My Tribe can’t eat Nike’s and we don’t know how to feed seven by boiling a wide-screen TV. My Tribe doesn’t give a sweet God Damn about what color the looters are, or what color the rescuers are, because we can plainly see before our very eyes that both those Tribes have colors enough to cover everyone in glory or in shame. My Tribe doesn’t see black and white skins. My Tribe only sees black and white hats, and the hat we choose to wear is the most personal decision we can make.
That’s the other thing, too – the most important thing. My Tribe thinks that while you are born into a Tribe, you do not have to stay there. Good people can join bad Tribes, and bad people can choose good ones. My Tribe thinks you choose your Tribe. That, more than anything, is what makes my Tribe unique.
I am so utterly and unabashedly proud of my Tribe, that my words haunt and mock me for their pale weakness and shameful inadequacy.
I made my decision by about 9:30 eastern on September 11th, 2001. I have never regretted it.
It takes courage to fight oncoming storms. Courage.
Courage isn’t free. It is taught, taught by certain tribes who have been around enough and seen enough incoming storms to know what one looks like. And I think the people of this nation, and those of New Orleans, specifically, desire and deserve some fundamental lessons in courage.
Because we are going to need it.