Race And Class In Katrina's Aftermath

What could be done is that the federal government could take a much more aggressive role in 1) filtering resources directly into the gulf region, 2) making certain that there is a strong relationship between local, municipal and state government, and the federal government, in the delivery of resources. Three, I think that there could be a greater emphasis upon programs that will have long term effect on the economic rehabilitation of the region. Fourthly, I think what's very important is to understand that while New Orleans may no longer be the "Chocolate City" of old, it is at least a peanut butter city now in the sense of browns and blacks coming in stronger numbers, browns because of the work opportunities there, Latinos and the like. Which means that the Vietnamese fishers who live there, the Native American fishers and farmers, along with the Latinos and African-Americans constitute a very strong minority presence and there's a strong possibility that the government could enable those populations to become more strongly tied to the local economy and it would be reciprocally helpful. It would help the local economy in terms of the jobs that need to be filled that very few people want to fill and on the other hand it could boost the prospects of those working class and working poor people by giving them a decent wage and allowing them to rebuild the infrastructure of the communities that they find dear.

More broadly what should be done is that this nation has to have a conversation about race, class, and poverty. Obviously you can't force people to think about these issues in one particular fashion, but you can invite them to become critical about the means toward the American dream that we have adopted. Are we doing the right thing? Why are so many people who are poor locked out of that American Dream, and it's not because they are lazy or dumb or stupid or disinclined to work, it's because we've failed as a nation to provide opportunity to the most vulnerable. So a real conversation on poverty would be helpful.

One of the tragedies of New Orleans is that there is such concentrated poverty and poor black communities are stocked with poor black schools. Which mean that poor black people in poor black neighborhoods who attend poor black schools have a poorer level or standard of existence. If we can address those issues, a lot of the problems can be addressed.


Hurricanes Katrina and Rita were colorblind. Lives, hopes, dreams and neighborhoods were destroyed, regardless of race or class. But the fact remains that lower income people, as well as seniors living on small fixed-incomes, are often more vulnerable to the losses caused by major natural disasters because they often lack the means to afford long-term displacement, family relocation, job interruption and loss of income, not to mention medical care and uncompensated property damage.

The effects of these catastrophic hurricanes sadly demonstrated so many of life's inequities, but out of the destruction and suffering people did come together and they forged common bonds that cut across racial, class and regional lines.


NAACP President & CEO

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