Race And Class In Katrina's Aftermath

I think the first thing that has to happen is we have to realize that New Orleans basically was built on the backs of wage laborers, people who were very low income is what made the city go. This place was about tourism and it was about restaurants and things like that and those workers are not back here yet. And not only are they not back here yet, even if they did come there's no place for them to stay. So the first thing that the city really needs to address is rental housing and low income and affordable housing. We've always had a little trouble with that in New Orleans, but now we have it really bad because almost all of the affordable housing stock was wiped about by Katrina and quite frankly the city can't run unless there is affordable housing for people who work here. I've had many clients who are say the immigrants who have come in from Mexico and other places, Honduras to do to work here and the only reason they can work here is because they are willing to live in gutted out houses basically flooded out, gutted out houses with no services and work all day and then live in that place at night. So really we need to encourage people who have skills or even unskilled people to come back. There's no trouble finding them jobs and the thing is, how do we help them get back into housing so that they can help build New Orleans? I think that's the first priority.

COKIE ROBERTS

ABC News Political Commentator, Native of New Orleans

I don't think much progress has been made and I think the subject has been dropped pretty quickly. But there are little pockets of people doing very positive things whether it's in Houston in Atlanta with the evacuees or whether it's in New Orleans and on the Gulf Coast where you see an unbelievable outpouring of individuals working with the people who were affected by the storms and that part of the American spirit is incredibly heartening.

One day when I was there for Save The Children on the Golf Coast where that organization is putting together all the daycare centers because of course you can't go back to work unless you have a place to put the kids, there was a church group from Chicago down working on the school that had been blown away in Bay St. Louis and that school was 100 percent integrated. No issue about black and white there in Mississippi, So I think that you see lot's of little wonderful positive moments but nothing on an organized and certainly not on a National scale.

DR. BEVERLY WRIGHT Director, Deep South Center for Environmental Justice Dillard University

"I see very little progress made except for the resolve of the people who live here who are definitely trying to get their houses fixed. In the area of environmental cleanup I would say the progress is basically stalled. Historically, African Americans and people of color have gotten very little assistance in terms of protection from the federal government as it relates to environmental exposure. And the response that we're getting from EPA is that the city of New Orleans is a clean bill of health, but when you look at their own numbers you know that it's not the case so it's almost like history is repeating itself. You take a city that was 72% black with a large number of people who own property being African Americans and the environmental response is what it's always been, absolutely nothing, denial about contamination and no assistance with dealing with contamination problems.

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