Thursday, April 16, 2009

This is pretty much what I was trying to express

A thoughtful and articulate comment to this post:

me said...

I question the argument that Katrina was "color" blind in the sense that it affected blacks and whites the same. First, as a previous blogger points out, blacks were disprortionatley living in low areas because elevation costs more. When blacks first had an opportunity to buy where they pleased (1968 Fair housing Act) virtually all the above-sea level land was taken (the sliver along the river). They migrated first to the 9th ward and then their children to the East. All the studies showed that if you were black you were much more likely to have suffered severe flooding. So Katrina potentiated pre-existing racism--and the data indicate that color made a difference in who was most likely to be impacted by Katrina.

Second, whites had distinct advantages because of family networks and previous discrimination in housing and employment. The average extended black family found itself dispersed around the country: grandma had lived in the ninth ward; their middle class chilren in the East. In contrast, whites in flooded areas had relatives on how ground where they had purchased homes when blacks could not. Within a week after the flood, my block uptown had at least three families who had been flooded and were loaned homes or sharing homes. Because they did not have to leave, they held onto their jobs and began rebuilding their homes immediately. In contrast, blacks returning to New Orleans had no relatives to stay with as they attmepted to put their lives together; indeed, they were not allowed to stay overnight in the East even in gutted homes (the Vietnamese community for some reason had a special dispensation). In addition, resources and wealth affected how the storm impacted people. One poll showed that the majority of blacks who were in the shelters had no savings, though 2/3 were employed.

Bottom line is that because of racism past and present, any natural disaster will have a differential impact on African Americans in general and the poor specifically. This is important to acknowledge because it is not just a question of who suffered more (and some suffered tremedously) but that the recovery policies that were based on "common suffering" or "we were all in the same boat" failed to recognize that some groups had special needs if they were to return. One example is that renters suffered much more than home owners: they were not ensured a place to return; they were not compensated for contents of their homes, and most important, neither the BNOBC or the LRA allocated a penny in their initial plans to rebuild rental housing--while 70% of blacks rented. The rental policy was either just plain old racism to make sure the city was majority white and more affluent, or it was a byproduct of the notion of "common suffering"--that we all experienced Katrina the same way.

Of course Katrina was color blind--but the implication that its effects were race and class neutral is mistaken. Disasters potentiate old inequalities. We were not "all in the same boat" as Clancy Dubos once wrote: some of us were in the boat, some were clinging to the side, and some were adrift in the sea. By not addressing the inequalities during the recovery, we created racial distrust and anger. The first step to reconciliation of blacks and whites is acknowledging how Katrina affected us in different ways--and second that no one tried to prevent whites from returning, but there was a broad movement to prevent blacks from returning. One glance at the BNOBC map will tell you that virtually all black neighborhoods--rich and poor, were slated for demolition. While all the plan's targets were not black, all blacks were targets. That's an important difference

13 comments:

Anonymous said...

All that about structural effects of past and present racism is true, for the most over (well over 90 percent).

But the case is overstated. One look at the ULI/BNOB map and I still don't see any green dot over the 7th Ward, or Central City.

I thought what was interesting about the blog post from way back, meanwhile, was the idea that it was racism that allowed black to build in those neighborhoods. Now it's destruction of those neighborhoods that's racist? If "me" is the same as the "other blogger," he is contradicting himself.

(And note that I don't say whether I agree with the original stance or not. People grow attached to their homes, have spent money and time and lives invested in them. Neighborhood ties are important, etc. I'm agnostic. A part of me thinks that if legit alternatives in the affordable housing had been accorded, if housing buyouts had been complete and fair, then closing at least parts of lower lying areas with histories of repetitive flooding would have been OK. But most of what I heard was unfunded pie-in-the-sky stuff.)

E said...

I think it's really easy to cherry-pick African American neighborhoods that weren't 'green-dotted' in order to "prove" the point that the plan isn't "racist" by whatever metric you happen to be using to determine the appropriateness of that label.

But when you take a look at the plan ON BALANCE, I think it's pretty hard to argue that the AA population wasn't saddled with a disproportionate burden. In fact, I think it's inaccurate to argue that point - and counterproductive to efforts to forge coalitions around progressive policies.

That's the point here.

Tim said...

Orleans parish is also majority black, so all else being equal, one would expect more deaths and damage in the black population than others. What is the proportion of death and destroyed homes when compared to the racial composition of the city? And what about St. Bernard Parish? 100% of homes there were flooded. Is there a racial component in that?

Peace,

Tim

Anonymous said...

Cherry pick? It's flatly stated here that the green dot plan was going to lead to the destruction of "virtually all" black New Orleans. This is a disappointingly shoddy, defensive reply.

I didn't even get into the Vietnamese part. There are middle class, predominantly black neighborhoods that exist in NOLA East that are doing fine right now. And they obviously, dramatically more more affluent than Village d L'est, or so rumor has it.

Me said...

E, I don't think 90% of the public has seen BNOBC "greenspace Map" or the Times-Picyune article that announced it on January 11, 2005. Keep in mind that only a small percentage was back and had newspaper service. There's a good reason why the Times-Picayune pulled the article and the graphic from the blog site and the graphic is not even available in Nexus search. Read the headline and the first few paragraphs and there's no question what was going to happen. As the Wall Street Journal commentator said on January 12, 2005, the goal was to return the city to its 1878 borders!

mcbrid35 said...

See page 31 (the "Parks and Open Space Plan") of this document for the green circle diagram

http://www.bringneworleansback.org/Portals/BringNewOrleansBack/Resources/Urban%20Planning%20Final%20Report.pdf

It's completely available.

There were six circles, in the following neighborhoods:
1) Broadmoor
2) Lower Ninth Ward
3) Roughly St Anthony, Filmore, Dillard
4) St Roch/7th Ward
5) two circles in New Orleans East

And all those who believe in conspiracy theories (the Times-Picayune "pulled" the graphic! They're in on it!), please read this contemporaneous article from the Gambit in March, 2006:

http://bestofneworleans.com/gyrobase/Content?oid=oid%3A35828

The green circles were the product of idiocy by the BNOBC urban planners, who were completely clueless. I know this because I actually spoke with them.

Matt

E said...

matt's correction is important. will address later.

Damian said...

E, I'm glad you're keeping this good discussion going. I'll be back online a bit more next week [groans from all in attendance] and hope to comment then.

One very quick point: Remember when I said I don't like going to protests because I can't control who's going to try to dominate the agenda? Someone posted an insightful comment on that topic here [http://nolafugees.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=295:share-my-work-ethic&catid=19:Investigations&Itemid=10026], about the more-humorous-than-useful "teabag protests".

He explains how I usually feel at protests better than I probably could. See you all soon, I hope.

Me said...

McBrid:
The "land use" document map looks nothing like the Times-Picayune graphic and does not carry the screaming headline: 4 MONTHS TO DECIDE. It's a public record and they can't copyright it and that's why it is available to the public. Let's not blame this on the ULI: they were taking orders from the BNOBC. The "greenspaces" were inconsequential; it was the budget on page 14 for "buyouts" and "demolition" of most of the housing that got everyone's attention.

My question is why is this denigrated as a "conspiracy theory" when the goal of reducing New Orlean's black population is stated in the Wall Street Journal on September 8, 2005? I believe James Reiss when he said that was the goal of the Dallas meeting. His last act as RTA chairman was to propose that they drop all lines to the East and Ninth ward--let's give him credit for consistency.

The Times-Picayune repeatedly endorsed the BNOBC plan to limit the size of the city to 220,000 by demolishing black neighborhoods. There was no "conspiracy" to reduce the black population--there was an open movement. I heard it everyday on the street from white friends and neighbors (let's say ex-friends). Anyone else hear this?

As for the Times-Picayune, I cannot think of one other article that they have pulled from the nola site. I found it amazing that the only "katrina grapics" that were pulled from the graphics site were the month of January 2006. I don't consider that a conspiracy--I consider that covering your tracks.

Francine Stock said...

This is quite an interesting discussion. I looked back at the so-called Green Dot map (the T-P graphic)
http://www.flickr.com/photos/xxno/3462922546/in/set-72157605903424976/

and do believe it mis-represented the BNOBC plan for Parks and Open Spaces.
http://www.flickr.com/photos/xxno/3460966105/in/set-72157605903424976/

The original BNOBC graphic shows dashed lines forming circles for "Potential areas for future Parkland." These were blotted in solid green in the T-P graphic which called them "approximate areas expected of {sic} to becomes parks and greenspace."

You may think I'm splitting hairs, but by filling in the circle the T-P artist made a choice to create a bolder statement. When I saw this graphic I thought it was a bad plan. What kind of planner would suggest big green circular parks? It made no sense. But it was actually a bad graphic not a bad plan.
If you read the initial plan, the stated intent of the BNOBC was to create additional parkland in the city to serve all neighborhoods. "Many neighborhoods do not have either in sufficient quantity or quality. These parks should planned
and designed to perform many functions. They are not just open spaces; they can be part of a citywide system that connects neighborhoods to employment, and
neighborhood to neighborhood."

Daily walks through Audubon Park on my way to work are a significant part of my mental and physical fitness. I would love to see more parklands connecting our neighborhoods.

mcbrid35 said...

The Times-Picayune graphics and article from January 11, 2006 have not been "pulled." They are right here:

graphic:

http://www.nola.com/katrina/pdf/planmap.pdf

article:

http://www.nola.com/news/t-p/frontpage/index.ssf?/base/news-4/1136962572109650.xml&coll=1

Graphic also available here:
http://peoplegetready.wordpress.com/2006/01/12/bnob-plan-maps/
(from which the T-P graphic is linked)

and here:
http://b.rox.com/2006/01/11/four-months/

and here:
http://michaelhoman.blogspot.com/2006/01/my-neighborhood-has-4-months.html

I guess the Times-Picayune did a pretty cruddy job "covering up" the entire BNOB plan.

Let me ask "me," did you even bother - once you discovered this omission in the T-P Katrina graphics page (found here: http://www.nola.com/katrina/graphics/) - to ask the T-P to restore to the graphics, or why they were pulled in the first place? I did. I'll let you know what the answer is too before jumping to the conclusion they were "covering their tracks."

That's one other thing I don't get about your constantly evolving arguments. You said at first:

"One glance at the BNOBC map will tell you that virtually all black neighborhoods--rich and poor, were slated for demolition."

And then you said:

"I don't think 90% of the public has seen BNOBC "greenspace Map" or the Times-Picyune article that announced it on January 11, 2005. Keep in mind that only a small percentage was back and had newspaper service. There's a good reason why the Times-Picayune pulled the article and the graphic from the blog site and the graphic is not even available in Nexus search."

But when I glanced at the actual greenspace map at the BNOBC site - and provided the link - showing that not "virtually every black neighborhood" was targeted, you then said:

"The "land use" document map looks nothing like the Times-Picayune graphic and does not carry the screaming headline: 4 MONTHS TO DECIDE. It's a public record and they can't copyright it and that's why it is available to the public. Let's not blame this on the ULI: they were taking orders from the BNOBC. The "greenspaces" were inconsequential; it was the budget on page 14 for "buyouts" and "demolition" of most of the housing that got everyone's attention."

So the greenspace map wasn't important, or it was? And the T-P somehow hid the plan from citizens that were out of town by printing it on the front page of their paper? And the T-P pulled the electronic versions (which presumably those folks without subscriptions didn't see either) to cover up their complicity, even though it was really the print version that was the one that mattered?

I'm terribly confused. Your arguments seem to rest on quaint ideas of people only getting their information from a single printed source - the T-P - despite widespread coverage of the BNOB plan release across multiple media and major national and regional newspapers such as the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Houston Chronicle and (later part of your own argument) the Wall Street Journal, as well as the Associated Press and Reuters. Not to mention tens of thousands of messages on the nola.com forums in the months after the storm (before they descended in to their present state).

Anyway, you say "it was the budget on page 14 for 'buyouts' and 'demolition' of most of the housing that got everyone's attention."

First off, I don't know what exactly you're talking about here. There is a budget in the BNOB plan, but it is on page 57. It includes two separate line items:

"Heavily flooded/damaged home acquisition - $12 billion

"Demolition and site remediation - $700 million"

The first line item is what eventually became the Road Home program.

The second line item was actually a wild underestimate. Demolition and debris removal ended up costing well over $1 billion, and just 5500 homes were demolished with federal dollars in nearly four years.

Frankly, "me," you've got so many facts and theories jumbled up and misremembered that I'm not sure why anyone should believe your theories. And I'm not sure why Eli would elevate them to a blog entry of their own.

Anonymous said...

Can I ask something?

What was the official number of deaths of "blacks"?

What was the official number of deaths of "whites"?

Per capita, per each?

Thanks.

Me said...

McBrid:
1. For the sake of the readers, the link you posted for the "BNOB" plan is a power point presentation, not the final report. They had different language, formatting, and budgets. Any experienced researcher would know the difference. E has the final report.

2. I took the time (wasted) to check your links: your proof that the Times-Picayune had not taken down the "4 months" article? A link to their "paid archive" with a teaser paragraph. That's your "proof" that the Times-picayune did not pull the article from NLOA.com? This is suppose to be a progresive blog dedicated to serious and honest dialogue.

Finally, you still refuse to answer the question: was there a plan to reduce the black population? I don't think you do. Do you think the BNOBC plan was racist? I don't think you do. And I don't think you intend to answer either question.