Race And Class In Katrina's Aftermath

"It's an interesting thing. We were just talking about the mayoral election the other day and how Ray Nagin really used race to win. The first time he was elected, he basically was elected by a white business constituency, and then after Katrina it was his political gambit to try change the constituency and turn race into his political card, which really in the South that's really a pretty typical thing. I'm from Memphis and we have a black Mayor who basically during election time, spouts off those same racial cues. I don't want to place a value on that, I don't know if it's good or if it's bad, it just is what it is. And so to some extent it might be the system itself. If you want me to say someone that I blame for failing to rebuild New Orleans, there's plenty of criticism for Ray Nagin. A lot of people have noticed since the election that he's basically disappeared. He's not there to make people feel better, he's not there to show that the city is working really hard. The lights in City Hall turn off at five o'clock essentially. It's just not there, there's no presence. Then there are the facts that while New Orleans is looking better, I was surprised that when I came back here a couple of weeks ago the progress that has been made since June, but it's just not enough, there's no rebuilding. I don't know where to place the blame, but a lot of it is just different levels. It's very hard for a lot of the most not well off people to come back purely because of economics even though they might want to and the mayor just hasn't done a terrific job of both enticing people back and making sure they have a place to come back to."

Class problems have always existed and there's really not much you can do about it. Basically we'll always experience it as long as capitalism is structured the way it is, but you can do things to alleviate those problems. Make sure that people have jobs. Most people want to work, there are very few people who will just sit around and slouch. It's just a hard problem to solve, there's not one solution, there's not one cure all. It's very hard to get people from vastly different worlds to communicate effectively and constantly. Two types of people have two different types of backgrounds and it's very difficult to engage in that sort of long term dialogue that's necessary to affect even minor changes. Community service that Tulane students are engaged in is extremely important. Tulane, I believe, has completely reorganized they way that they do community service. It's now also a graduation requirement for students coming in this year. It's not like there's this southern mindset, the kind of stereotypical that there are two worlds that will never come together in terms of race, that doesn't exist, even though the remnants of that type of segregated area might still exist. I can imagine people thinking of New Orleans as a white aristocracy, civil war remains, that's not the case at all. I don't have any ideas because it's just that complicated. We have to rebuild the city. A rising tide brings everyone up type thing."

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