Thursday, September 22, 2005
Diasporic Deja Vu
"The beleaguered of New Orleans will be hit as disproportionately hard by the reconstruction as they were by the storm. New Orleans ranked 64th among the 70 biggest U.S. cities in median income before Katrina, and for many of its citizens the situation now is the mirror image of the one that faced sharecroppers in 1927. This time the city's elites are making it clear they don't want the poor back. Topography is demography in New Orleans--the poor are concentrated in the lowest-lying areas, the rich in the highest--and there is talk of letting the Ninth Ward revert to the marsh it once was, to serve as a flood containment pool in storms. Needless to say, there's no talk of compensating the former citizens of the Ninth for their displacement.
The Wall Street Journal, as usual, has been more candid in its coverage than the rest of big media. On September 8, in a page one feature titled "Old-line Families Escape Worst of Flood and Plot the Future," it quotes James Reiss, spawn of a prominent Uptown brood, thus: "Those who want to see this city rebuilt want to see it done in a completely different way: demographically, geographically, and politically. I'm not just speaking for myself here. The way we've been living is not going to happen again, or we're out." Lest he be thought insensitive, Reiss adds, "We understand that African Americans have had a great deal of influence on the history of New Orleans." The key word there is history."
Steve Perry from this week's cover story for City Pages Katrina and the lessons of the 1927 flood: The Diaspora, Blowing Down the Road