Does tragedy trump race?

According to recent study by Carnegie Mellon University and Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, people did not show much racial bias when giving financial help to Hurricane Katrina victims.

According to What Determines Giving to Hurricane Katrina Victims: Experimental Evidence on Income, Race, and Fairness (54 pages, PDF), on average, charitable giving to Katrina victims is not affected by the perceived race of the recipients.

This is interesting to me. Have we come a long way now? Are people less racist? Or was the tragedy of Katrina enough to get people to look past their race and find commonality on a human-to-human level?

One more interesting thing: does anyone know what this means?

Caucasians who say they do not identify with their ethnic group

It’s a term/phrase I’ve never heard/read before.

One Love. One II.


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About Garlin Gilchrist II

I am the City of Detroit's first ever Deputy Technology Director for Civic Community Engagement. My job is to open up the city's public data and information for the consumption and benefit of all Detroiters. I currently live in Detroit, my hometown, with my beautiful wife Ellen and our twins Garlin III and Emily Grace. I'm from Detroit. I created Detroit Diaspora, and was formerly the National Campaign Director at I also co-hosted The #WinReport on "The Good Fight," a an award winning, nationally syndicated radio show that was one of Apple's Best of 2013. After graduating with degrees in Computer Engineering and Computer Science from the University of Michigan, I became a Software Engineer at Microsoft. By day, I helped build SharePoint into the fastest growth product in the company's history. On my personal time, I sought out opportunities to connect my technical skills with community building efforts across the country. This led to my co-founding The SuperSpade: Black Thought at the Highest Level, a leading Black political blog. I served as Social Media Manager for the 2008 Obama campaign in Washington, and then became Director of New Media at the Center for Community Change. I spent two years creating and implementing a strategy for the Center to take it's 40 years of community organizing experience into the digital age. I speak before diverse audiences on effective & responsive government, empowerment in revolutionary new organizing spaces, increasing civic engagement & participation through emerging technologies and protecting civil rights in the age of the Internet. Full bio here.

7 responses to “Does tragedy trump race?”

  1. tonyc says :

    Human do-goodism? Perhaps it was do-goodism that played the largest role in the Katrina catastrophe. Lest we forget, many Americans were literally shamed to act. Many gave! Some took folk in. Others did nothing. I truly believe that humanity, more exact, affluent Americans felt terrible for the awful experience so many were enduring, so I’m refuse to mutter my thoughts to think they we’re genuine. I think the report has merit. I just thumbed thru it!

  2. Garlin II says :


    I think that your point is true. What I’m getting at is how interesting it is that the “do-goodism” as you call it “guilted” people into doing things for people outside of their own race. To me, that kind of gives merit to the validity of moral/emotional Civil Rights arguments, at least when framed alongside terrible events.

    One Love. One II.

  3. ellen says :

    but isn’t that how it always is? when i read the last two comments, i thought the notion of “do-goodism” and acting out of guilt in regard to Katrina is no different that the “Save the Children in Africa” funds.

  4. Garlin II says :

    I agree ellen, that is what happens most of the time. I guess what’s frightening to me is the implication that it takes something on the level of Katrina or genocide to get people to help Black folks. Why is humanity not seen until people die?

    One Love. One II.

  5. ellen says :

    to take it a step further, garlin, black folks don’t help black folks and white folks don’t help white folks. it is an issue bigger than race. it is an issue of being self absorbed. it is an issue of compassion, or lack there of. it is an issue of ignorance. it seems that people are unwilling to step outside of their immediate worlds long enough or to care enough to be proactive instead of reactive.

  6. Garlin II says :

    Very, very true ellen. I wonder if people have always been this way. I wonder if people took interest in others because they wanted to, not because they felt guilty and therefore obligated to.

    Why is it that compassion is so “unattractive?” The easy thing to blame would be america’s me-first style of capitalism, but I don’t think that’s it; non-capitalist societies (e.g. China) are just as likely to not give a damn.

    One Love. One II.

  7. Brandis T. says :

    Tragedy trumps race. Its the one moment where the only thing that is not trivial is LIFE and life alone! In my humble opinion…

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