A thoughtful and articulate comment to this post:
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