Race And Class In Katrina's Aftermath

I think there needs to be more of a sense of urgency at every level of government. And I think that, for example, in New Orleans it's inconceivable to me that a year after Katrina they've not come up with a comprehensive rebuilding plan, that they're still fighting over who will be in charge of the plan, they're fighting over who in fact will oversee the plan, what the contours and the specifics of the plan are going to be. And that's because there's a battle in New Orleans that was started right after Katrina when a number of business leaders really pursued a course that I thought was morally wrong. And that was a course to shrink the city to prevent certain neighborhoods from being rebuilt. It just so happens that not all of those neighborhoods, but a majority of those neighborhoods were African-American neighborhoods. That provoked, I think, a very expected and necessary response where people said no that's not right, I have just as much of a right to return and rebuild my home and my neighborhood as you do. So that's been the tension. It's been a tension somewhat of race, it's been a tension of class, it's been a political tension, it's been a fight amongst neighborhoods. I have said from the beginning, it's my view, that all neighborhoods should have and equal opportunity to rebuild and that government should not unilaterally redline or write off any neighborhood in this process.


NAACP Legal Defense Fund

I think that any honest assessment of the events over the last year since Katrina has to lead to the conclusion that we haven't done the job that was contemplated or necessary either with respect to New Orleans or the region itself or with respect to the broader issues of race and class that were exposed by Katrina and that people talked about in it's immediate aftermath. In fact I think what we're left with is a new phrase that describes the phenomena that has always afflicted this country and that phenomena has been the kind of periodic awakenings to the continued problems of racial injustice and inequality. I think we can call them Katrina moments.

The underlying issues themselves of race and poverty that president Bush acknowledged when he stood in Jackson square and made the statements that the problems exposed by Katrina were rooted in generational discrimination and a legacy of slavery and segregation. Those problems are not being seriously addressed by this country.

Now New Orleans itself I think we have to say that the rebuilding effort there is woefully inadequate. In fact there are those who use Katrina as an opportunity to engage in a land grab power grab and to remake New Orleans in a new image. The right of return for all of the people displaced by Katrina should be guaranteed for those who want to come back home.

We (NAACP) were engaged very heavily with the municipal elections that were held in the spring time to guarantee the right to vote to all the displaced New Orleanians wherever they were and that was an uphill battle and uphill task. My concern was not whether one candidate or another was going to win or loose but it was to guarantee their rights as citizens to vote no matter where they were.

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