chapter  12
15 Pages

Race in New Orleans since Katrina

ByJ. Phillip Thompson

On August 29, 2005, Hurricane Katrina struck southeastern Louisiana with winds of 100-140 mph and heavy rain. Storm surges left most of the city of New Orleans flooded, some parts beneath 20 feet of water-1300 people lost their lives, 380,000 people were displaced from the city, 105,000 (of 188,000) housing units in the city suffered severe damage. The Bring New Orleans Back Commission, formed by the Mayor soon after the storm, marked many formerly vibrant neighborhoods as “areas for future parkland.” The reasons for the flood in New Orleans go deep into the city’s history. They are tied to the hubris of traditional élites against nature (the mighty Mississippi River), and their haughtiness fed by an even older tradition of human exploitation (slavery) that was a prime source of the poverty and vulnerability to the flood gripping large numbers of the city’s residents. If we are to imagine a just New Orleans, this history must be considered and social reconstruction must precede physical reconstruction.