My staff and I were recently in New Orleans for the commemoration of Hurricane Katrina. We visited the lower ninth ward and other areas as my mind reflected on the darken sadness of it all. The reality is that many of the displaced local residents will never come back. They cannot afford to return due to the 25% hike in rent and home ownership. There is a small mindset in the Gulf Coast region that elements responsible for the crime, drugs, and indolence should have been cleansed from the city long ago.
A year ago the Levees broke in New Orleans, permitting the mighty waters of the Gulf to wreak havoc and destruction on the city's ninth ward. In Katrina's wake, news cameras captured footage that seared painful images into the minds and hearts of countless Americans. The water destroyed all in its path, killing thousands and leaving many others stranded, fighting to survive. The nation watched in horror as elderly men and women struggled to free themselves from homes that had become submerged in contaminated water; as children called out for help whilst corpses of their neighbors floated by; as men, women and infant children remained trapped in the Superdome without food, water and life saving medications, unable to defend themselves against the antagonism of the city's thugs. The ubiquitous shocking images that came out of the Gulf Coast one year ago not only caused this nation to question the government's slow response, at all levels, but opened our eyes to the awful truth that in the wealthiest, most powerful nation on earth there are those who live in abject, debilitating, poverty, many of whom are black. While certainly disheartening, perhaps this solemn manifestation was Katrina's silver lining. It has provided us yet another opportunity to seriously address the complex issues of race and class which have haunted America’s urban and inner cities since her inception-issues that have torn them apart at the seams.
Why does it seem that a disproportionate number of Blacks are still in crisis? Katrina brought much needed attention to the plight of indigent Blacks in New Orleans, but such poor quality of life is not unique to the Gulf Coast. Millions of minorities endure the same plight all over this country regardless of race. The aforementioned numbers tell their story of failure and disappointment and beg the question: why, in the wealthiest nation known to men, does the situation for Blacks continue to be the harshest and so bleak?