Race And Class In Katrina's Aftermath

You know we had our Mayor say something derogatory, his comments about 'not wanting Mexicans to get all the jobs'. I thought that was a horrendous thing to say at the moment, it didn't matter what color their skin was, or whether they spoke at all, we needed bodies here. I thought it was a time when our politicians should be facing the issue, seeing how to accommodate this manpower need versus immigration problems our country has. I felt it was about time a crisis like this would highlight this overall problem and perhaps get some action. I thought it was a good opportunity for our state and our area. It's perception not reality that drives racial problems. And if the perception is that the Mexicans are taking all the jobs, that's bad for overall relations because it all of a sudden pits one group against the other.

I think we need to get past all that and our politicians have to assume compassion and leadership at the same time. They need to say we have a city to bring out of the muck, we had a bad run last year, let's go forward. And everybody who wants to help is welcome.


National Urban League President

Former Mayor of New Orleans

There is slow progress. I mean, where there is progress it's because of the nerve, ingenuity and desire of individuals and community based institutions to help people return. The foot-dragging, and to some extent lack of coordination which has really slowed down the recovery, has taken place at all levels of government. And you've got to distinguish between Mississippi and Louisiana. Louisiana, of course, was far more devastated than Mississippi, but Mississippi was significantly damaged and Mississippi's recovery has moved ahead a lot faster it seems, although both are slow. I think you've got to place responsibility at all levels of government.

I believed from the very beginning that the government, the federal government, should have created a super reconstruction agency, a gulf coast authority, to help coordinate this. Because you've got so many government agencies trying to do so many different things that you just don't get a sense that everybody's on the same page and that's why it's been slow. But you can't take away the fact that there are many, many individuals who on their own, on their own motion, on their own volition are rebuilding their homes and rebuilding their lives.

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