Predisposed to Disaster: Institutional Racism and Hurricane Katrina

I was only 9 years old when Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, so I do not remember that much about the coverage of the disaster at the time. My parents largely tried to shield me from the extreme tragedy that took place in the city. I knew that a hurricane had hit, and I knew that it was bad, but I had no conception of the extent of the damage and lives that were lost as a result of the storm. Over time, I began to learn more about the staggering effect of the hurricane on the city and its … Read more

“Not our Problem, Dude”

This past break, I spent some time in New Orleans. We decided to take a walking tour to learn more about the history of the city. Our guide asked, “What does NOPD stand for?” Without hesitation, we replied, “New Orleans Police Department!”. He immediately said, “Nope… It stands for ‘Not our problem, dude’.”  This obvious jab at the police department resonated with me, especially after reading about the racism revolving around Hurricane Katrina. As I walked around different neighborhoods, I noticed that some looked completely unharmed or renovated, and some where still very run down. Neighborhoods with predominantly Black residents consisted of … Read more

Hurricane Katrina: Facts We Lost in the Storm

In August of 2005, a devastating storm, Hurricane Katrina, shook up the southeastern United States in a way that no one could have predicted…. Or could they? Behind news stories through televised reports, newspapers, and social media, there was an unspoken controversy that many people did not know about – race and race relations between the authorities running the institutions (such as the FHA and FEMA) and the Black population in New Orleans. Through reading an article called, “Institutional Discrimination, Individual Racism, and Hurricane Katrina,” by Henkel, Dovidio, and Gaertner (2006), the class learned about an alternate narrative of the … Read more

Can’t escape the discourse surrounding racism: Spring break at Mardi Gras

For spring break this year I ventured down to New Orleans to visit friends and partake in crazy Mardi Gras festivities. I had not known a lot about the traditions or the meaning of Mardi Gras and carnival time before I arrived, but from the moment my plane landed I started to learn a lot. After speaking to my friend throughout the week and experiencing many aspects of Mardi Gras, I can surely say that it is not all rooted in the accumulation of beads. As many cities in America, New Orleans has very wealthy and very poor sections, as well as sections that reflect middle socioeconomic statuses. While driving through the city, structural racism and direct effects of slavery were clear. I would be driving down one street with beautifully regal homes and then would turn the corner onto another street that had small homes that looked run-down. There was a serious discrepancy between who lived in these houses, as well as who could afford to make repairs after Hurricane Katrina. I found out that this “patchwork” layout of the city was derived from the era of plantations in which slave owners would want their slaves to live close to them for easy access, but would not want them directly on their land. Once I learned of this urban planning technique, I saw the city very differently and realized that there are a lot more racial inequalities that stem from slavery and perpetuation of racial discrimination.

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The Daily Show’s Racism Satire Presents Racism Truth

http://www.thedailyshow.com/watch/mon-january-24-2011/bird-like-me

The link included in this post is an excerpt from The Daily Show. I don’t watch the show on a regular basis, but I find that I agree with a lot of the ideas and opinions that John Stewart and the other people involved in the show try to convey to their audiences. I stumbled upon this video, which is a satirical representation of an actual community in Mississippi called “Turkey Creek.” Turkey Creek is a historic black town that was founded by freed slaves in 1866, and has been an impoverished community for their descendants ever since. The video presents Turkey Creek as located in a very racist state that contributes nothing to help improve the town’s horrible conditions. Once the town’s background is introduced, the narrator discusses how the only organization who has offered help to the people of Turkey Creek is the Audubon society, which is an organization that is interested in the conservation and preservation of the environment. As you will see in the video, a black newscaster interviews a white man who is a spokesperson for the Audubon society and dissects what is truly in the interest for the organization. Their primary interest in helping Turkey Creek improved its community is to preserve an area for the birds. This blatant disregard for the lives of the residents of Turkey Hill, with the sole motive to help the birds with the secondary effect of helping the people, is the premise for the video and a way to open up discussion among people who refuse to see racism, intentionally or unintentionally, and who think that our country, and in particular the south, has overcome racism since the abolishment of slavery. Throughout the video there is discussion with some residents, as well as with the spokesperson of the Audubon society, and it is clear that racism continues to run deeply and structurally, as seen by the way the black residents are expected to live and the priority they are refused by surrounding towns and organizations. I found it to be enlightening, yet disturbing; especially the part when the Audubon society spokesperson stated that after Hurricane Katrina the society came together to make hundreds of bird houses for the community’s birds (as opposed to helping the residents of Mississippi and Turkey Creek who could not afford such renewal).

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Racism? What Racism?

When I started reading an article for this class last week and realized that it was about Hurricane Katrina, I was confused. To be honest, I did not know that Hurricane Katrina had anything to do with race. The only negative things that I heard about Katrina (besides, of course, the terrible damage that it did) was that the government took a long time to respond. When I learned about the hurricane in school, the main things that were discussed were what happened, the effects on people, what types of things I can do to prepare myself if I am ever in that type of situation, and how to help. Race was never even mentioned. And, at that point in my life, why should it have been? To me, at that stage, racism was gone, and that wasn’t the issue at hand; the issue was helping people who had lost everything. Now, years later, I know that in almost every situation, race will always be an issue at hand. Unfortunately, it is always an issue.

Read moreRacism? What Racism?