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Race, Hurricane Katrina, And The Aftermath

1344 words - 5 pages

“George Bush doesn’t care about black people.” these are the words that Kanye West spoke during a Hurricane Katrina fundraising concert. Not only did the sentiment expressed with those words resonate with many Americans watching the concert that day, but observing the post Hurricane Katrina aftermath some would go a step further and argue that the United States government doesn’t care about black people. Although there were several events in the history of this country that would lead one to the same conclusion it was the disproportionate suffering and devastation experienced by African Americans in New Orleans not only during Hurricane Katrina but long after the storm had passed that leads many to conclude that the United States does not care for its African American citizens.
Long before the storm hit New Orleans there was already a divide in the city. The city seemed to be divided by race with affluent whites living in the cities nicer neighborhoods which unsurprisingly just happened to be located at higher altitudes. While less affluent African Americans tended to reside in neighborhoods at lower altitudes. According to a report titled Race, Socioeconomic Status, and Return Migration to New Orleans After Hurricane Katrina, the segregation in the city had been historically low compared to the rest of the country however “by 2000, the standard index of black–white segregation showed New Orleans to have reached, and even gone a bit beyond, the national average” (Fussell, Elizabeth) When the storm hit 2005 the effect that this seemingly unnoticed difference was magnified as it became apparent that the difference in altitudes would lead to extremely different outcomes for the residents in the different neighborhoods. According to the guest speaker, Noemi Klein in the Democracy Now special report titled, Disaster Profiteering: Purging the Poor in the New New Orleans, because African Americans tend to be less wealthy and to have lower incomes than White Americans, African Americans were less likely to live in the more expensive areas that are at higher elevations. Instead African Americans because of the economic differences were more likely than White Americans to live in lower lying areas of the city which were more affected by the ocean swells and sea wall breaches caused by Hurricane Katrina. It would seem as Klein put it, “wealth buys altitude”. And the numbers seem to resonate this sentiment, “A block-by-block analysis of census data and flood maps reveals that about half of the city’s white residents experienced serious flooding, compared with three-quarters of black residents.” (Fussell, Elizabeth)
But the differences in altitude amongst races were not the only evidence of institutional racism brought to light by Hurricane Katrina. Many also point to the slow response of the federal government and President George W. Bush as proof of the continued race problem in America. According to an article by Peter Drier, “The Bush...

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