Friday, April 26, 2013

“Poor and black = low, wet, and maybe dead.”//Hurricane Katrina

In New Orleans, the 2011 Census declared that the city is 60.2% black and 32% white. According to the Journal of American history, before the 1970s New Orleans was mostly white. After that, the black population grew steadily due to integration efforts and other benefits that the city offered to blacks after legislation passed establishing more civil rights. They moved into neighborhoods abandoned by the white middle class. The white middle class, especially families motivated to claim better schools and escape the integration in New Orleans' public schools, left for the outskirts, places like Kenner, Metairie, and New Orleans East. New Orleans East became a complicated situation for whites, when philanthropists helped create suburban neighborhoods for blacks. In response whites left and from then on New Orleans East has been predominantly black.

In the heart of New Orleans, the city has historically favored whites in land distribution. Blacks could only go where whites no longer wanted to live. Whites claimed the higher land, whereas blacks settled with the land that they left, which of course was more prone to flooding. Central New Orleans varies in elevation. The French Quarter is stationed on high ground and is largely business area. Uptown is on high ground and has always been occupied by upper to middle class whites. In general, upper-Middle class neighborhoods usually lie in high ground areas. Some middle class white neighborhoods did occupy lower areas like in . Poorer neighborhoods that vary between middle class whites, middle class blacks, and poor blacks were predominantly located on lower elevation. Exceptions exist and some neighborhoods are located near levees on higher land. For poor blacks though, they were and are located predominantly low level areas. Many neighborhoods are located near canals that link up to the Gulf of Mexico. During Hurricane Katrina, the canals had storm surges that inundated the neighborhoods with water.  

When the projects were integrated in the 1960s, whites left and the projects became nearly all black. According to the Residents Characteristics Report in 2008, compared to the rest of the nation's housing projects in which African Americans compose 46% of the projects, African Americans compose 95% of projects in New Orleans and 80% in Louisiana overall. The projects are mostly located in Uptown, Downtown and into St. bernard Parish, and in the West Bank. These are the areas that experienced some of the highest levels of mortality during Hurricane Katrina.
This picture demonstrates the deaths that occurred as a result of Hurricane Katrina. Many happened in predominantly black neighborhoods including the projects and overall, black deaths comprised 66% of all deaths. The neighborhoods that experienced the most deaths were located near canals that pushed water in. Articles, newspapers, and journals who watched as New Orleans drowned observed this trend before the number were officially out causing headlines like the journal World Watch News, "Race and the High Ground" with the subtitle, "Poor and Black = low, wet, and maybe dead."

I consider what happened during Katrina as an overall product of the racist system in America. Not only are blacks limited to less favorable neighborhoods in comparison to whites, but they also have to be located in areas more likely to experience natural catastrophes. Hurricane Katrina illuminated how the racism permeates modern society.

1 comment:

  1. I forgot to include the links to my sources! They are: