I knew it would only be a matter of time, but I didn’t realize it would occur this quickly. Driving in to work this morning, I was listening to talk radio host Chris Core’s discussion about the California wildfires when he played a clip from CNN’s commentator Jack Cafferty.  In the clip, Cafferty read e-mails he had received from viewers in which they noted that poor black folks were left to die in New Orleans while rich, white folks were evacuated safely in California.

Without question, government failed the residents in New Orleans. While eager to blame President Bush for everything, the primary responsibility for providing for the safety of residents in southern Louisiana was at the state and local levels, rather than with the federal government. Rather than heed the warnings issued by local officials in New Orleans to evacuate with an impending hurricane, many residents ignored the admonition to leave — some to their peril. Many of these warnings, I should add, were issued by the mayor of New Orleans, Ray Nagin, who happens to be black. Hard to really point the finger of racism when many black residents ignored the pleas of the city’s black mayor to evacuate, but I digress.

California, rather than the federal government in the instant case, has primary responsibility for protecting its residents as fires rage out of control across the southern portion of the state. As a native Californian, I can tell you that the state is very well prepared to deal with three natural events that occur on a fairly regular basis: earthquakes, mudslides and wildfires. When local emergency responders tell residents to get out, people in California get out, particularly with the unpredictable nature of the Santa Ana winds that can change the direction and intensity of a fire in seconds.

So please, let’s not play the racism card every time Mother Nature sends a hurricane, fire or earthquake our way. One enduring lesson we can all take away from both the wildfires in California and the hurricane which struck the Gulf Coast years ago: If the authorities tell you to get out, please leave. Rather than blaming others if you fail to heed warnings of impending danger, please direct the blame where it belongs by looking in the mirror. Racism is a problem that needs to be eradicated to be sure, but sometimes personal responsibility, rather than pointing the finger, will address many ills real or imagined.