Here’s a scenario for you to ponder:
A young black man walks the streets of New Orleans after the storm. There is no food. There is no water. There are no relief supplies to be found, despite promises that they would have come — should have come — by now. He knows people around him are dying. He steps into a deserted property.
What word comes to your mind? “Thief”? “Looter”?
How about “Hero”?
Eighteen-year-old Jabbor Gibson jumped aboard an abandoned school bus and took control. But he didn’t go on a joyride. In what Houston station KRGV-TV calls “an extreme act of looting,” Gibson helped load 100 people — complete strangers — into the bus and drove them to the Houston Astrodome, where they received a less than pleasant welcome at first.
“If it werent for him right there,” one passenger told authorities, “we’d still be in New Orleans underwater. He got the bus for us.”
Authorities eventually allowed the bus’s passengers into the Astrodome. But Gibson could face charges for stealing the bus. “I dont care if I get blamed for it,” Gibson said, “as long as I saved my people.”
In fairness to the Houston station, it is still looting: he did take something that didn’t belong to him. But is there anyone out there who thinks he should face charges, given the circumstances? Is there anyone who thinks he should have left the bus (and the 100 people whose lives he may well have saved) alone?
There is no difference between “looters” who steal food and “looters” who steal television sets. They’re all stealing. There should be a big difference, however, in how the law deals with the two.