* Come Hell or High Water: Hurricane Katrina and the Color of Disaster by Dr. Michael Eric Dyson Basic Civitas Books, February 2006 $23, ISBN 0-465-01761-4
In one of the first books published about this catastrophe, Dr. Dyson, the high priest of getting folks told, applies his awesome intellect, storehouses of facts and rapier-like pen to resolving the puzzlement we all shared in watching the Katrina disaster unfold. Watching it as our own summer vacations waned, we wondered: How could anything like this happen in this millennium, in this America?
Never mind who was to blame and even that it was mostly black people we saw wading and wandering in muck--why were they left waiting and for what? How and why did it happen, and how do we fix the problerns that allowed it to happen? Dyson, a prolific author and professor at the University of Pennsylvania, tackles all these questions. First, he explains how the New Orleans that we might envision mostly as a playground for the white and well-to-do--if we think of it at all--came to be 67.9 percent black. Then, he asks, how were so many of those black people left so far behind, physically and economically? And why were they so obviously impoverished and geographically vulnerable?
In offering some answers, Dyson does not merely point fingers. When he does though, he includes himself, other affluent blacks, the black officials in charge and the black religious establishment, along with the whites who in that apocalyptic failure were the face of what was supposed to be the government of all. "The deeper we dig into the story of Katrina, the more we must accept culpability for the fact that the black citizens ... were treated by the rest of us as garbage," writes Dyson.