The Atlantic shares several articles (Should We Call It ‘Looting’?) wondering if racism is involved in the use of the word “looting” in Haiti.
Several of the pieces they share are quite good, though would have to be modified for English Language Learners.
I particularly liked a short post from the Chicago Tribune, titled Are the ‘looters’ in Haiti really that much different from you and me? The writer asks:
What wouldn’t you do if members of your family were dying? If you thought you could save them with a little humanitarian freelance redistribution of resources?
As several of the writers mention, this brings back memories of Katrina. In fact, in our ninth-grade mainstream English classes, we give students the assignment to respond to the famous two pictures of an African-American man “looting” a grocery store, and a white couple “finding” food in a grocery store..
Looting needs to be used much more carefully in natural disasters. I heard it used on a radio show today about an orphanage that was having groups of people (characterized as gangs) come in and take water and other supplies. This is the only plausible use of the word during the Haiti crisis that I’ve heard so far.