Louisiana: Struck by Whitening


A new report concludes that Hurricane Katrina hit blacks harder than whites.

Thanks to the Kaiser Family Foundation for pointing out the obvious. That’s usually my job.

I’m not faulting the foundation or its report, Giving Voice to the People of New Orleans: The Kaiser Post-Katrina Baseline Survey. The Washington Post, which has helped sponsor other Kaiser surveys, ran a story about the report on May 10.

But many people have been saying this from the git-go. In October 2005, I noted in “Whitening Strikes New Orleans” that the storm’s devastation was creating a black diaspora that was being undercovered by most of the nation’s press. And at the same time as Katrina, the U.S. was pouring money into Iraq’s infrastructure while ignoring Louisiana’s.

Commentators like Anthony Asadullah Samad were talking about the storm back then in context of the racial history of Louisiana and the mindset of right-wing ideologues past and present. Samad excoriated “the far right” for “calling the poor and disenfranchised responsible for their own fates.”

The Kaiser report confirms the disproportionate damage suffered by Louisiana black people. Here’s an excerpt from the new report’s executive summary:

Across a variety of measures — from those tied to particular impacts of the storm to those that provide an estimate of basic life challenges — African Americans living in Orleans Parish stand out as disproportionately affected. They also stand out as more likely to feel aggrieved in the rebuilding process.

African Americans in Orleans Parish were particularly likely to report that their lives were still “very” or “somewhat” disrupted (59 percent) compared to their white neighbors in the parish (29 percent).

Similarly, and no doubt related, they were more likely to be living in areas that had an average of 2 feet or more of flooding (58 percent, compared to 34 percent of whites).

African Americans in the city were consistently more likely than whites to report setbacks in their quality of life since Katrina. In particular, they were more likely to report that their personal financial situation was worse than before the storm (47 compared to 32 percent of whites), and that their housing costs had gone up substantially (56 percent versus 42 percent).

The new Louisiana is destined to be whiter. And the black people who do remain will be even poorer than they were before. I guess that means more blues sung by fewer people.