I just read a first-rate piece by Jack Shafer in Slate about the media’s silence about this fact: most of Hurricane Katrina’s victims are African American.
It’s definitely affecting the buzz I’m hearing about the looting and lawlessness –like, this sort of bad behavior didn’t happen after Hurricane Andrew, or after 9/11 –implication being that Whites behave better in catastrophe, forget the fact Hurricane Andrew didn’t maroon a million people without food or water, and 9/11 happened in a business district.
The Slate piece links to an interesting map which shows the percentage of African Americans by county –pretty close to Katrina’s path of destruction. Outside of Washington DC, Louisiana and Mississippi have a higher percentage of African Americans than any other state. (30.8% and 35.6% respectively. By contrast, only 12.1% of the US population is African American.) In New Orleans, 67.3% of the city’s population is African American. Only one other US city has a higher percentage of African American residents: Detroit.
It’s hard not to wonder what the response would be if the racial situation was reversed…if New Orleans was a white, rich city. Would the levees been repaired with greater haste? Would there have been a better emergency plan?