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What Happens to a Race Deferred

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posted on Sep, 4 2005 @ 01:31 PM
THE white people got out. Most of them, anyway. If television and newspaper images can be deemed a statistical sample, it was mostly black people who were left behind. Poor black people, growing more hungry, sick and frightened by the hour as faraway officials counseled patience and warned that rescues take time.

What a shocked world saw exposed in New Orleans last week wasn't just a broken levee. It was a cleavage of race and class, at once familiar and startlingly new, laid bare in a setting where they suddenly amounted to matters of life and death. Hydrology joined sociology throughout the story line, from the settling of the flood-prone city, where well-to-do white people lived on the high ground, to its frantic abandonment.

The pictures of the suffering vied with reports of marauding, of gunshots fired at rescue vehicles and armed bands taking over the streets. The city of quaint eccentricity - of King Cakes, Mardi Gras beads and nice neighbors named Tookie - had taken a Conradian turn.

"This is a pretty graphic illustration of who gets left behind in this society - in a literal way," said Christopher Jencks, a sociologist glued to the televised images from his office at Harvard. Surprised to have found himself surprised, Mr. Jencks took to thinking out loud. "Maybe it's just an in-the-face version of something I already knew," he said. "All the people who don't get out, or don't have the resources, or don't believe the warning are African-American."

Unusually poor (27.4 percent below the poverty line in 2000), disproportionately black (over two-thirds), the Big Easy is also disproportionately murderous - with a rate that was for years among the country's highest.

Once one of the most mixed societies, in recent decades, the city has become unusually segregated, and the white middle class is all but gone, moved north across Lake Pontchartrain or west to Jefferson Parish - home of David Duke, the one-time Klansman who ran for governor in 1991 and won more than half of the state's white vote.

Shortly after I arrived in town two decades ago as a fledgling reporter, I was dispatched to cover a cheerleading tryout, and I asked a grinning, half-drunk accountant where he was from, city or suburb. "White people don't live in New Orleans," he answered with a where-have-you-been disdain.

But the divides in the city were evident in things as simple as access to a car. The 35 percent of black households that didn't have one, compared with just 15 percent among whites.

"The evacuation plan was really based on people driving out," said Craig E. Colten, a geologist at Louisiana State University and an expert on the city's vulnerable topography. "They didn't have buses. They didn't have trains."

New York Times

I wonder if the Help would arrive any time sooner if the people that were stranded in this Flooded City were White Folks. Rich. White. Healthy. But, they have fled the city with their expensive Cars and have gone to live in their Second house or their Second apartement. Where was the Evacuation Plan for the Poor People? The Old? The Sick? The Immobile? Where were the Trains, the Buses, the Boats that would drive to them to safety? There were none! Actually nobody even cared for them. What IF Katrina was a Level 5 Hurricane? What IF another Hurricane slams the Gulf Coast in this 3 Months? How many more dead bodies need to float on the water for the american people to realize that Their Goverment does not CARE about Their PEOPLE?

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