Katrina and race.

PositionFROM READERS - Letter to the editor

Your issue on New Orleans/Katrina was one of the best and most comprehensive treatments of the subject I've seen.


Too much of the media are obsessed with the localized destruction to look at the larger environmental picture. Unfortunately, even in your magazine, there seems to be a confused message, between building a new green "Cajun Venice" and rebuilding--and repeating--the mistakes of the past. Do we really want to jam the poor back into the ecological soup bowl of the Ninth Ward, etc., when it is even more socially and environmentally degraded than it was pre-Katrina, just because, as Eric Mann put it ["Race and the High Ground in New Orleans," September/October 2006], it was a "majority black city ... a year ago?" Frankly, squeezing the black poor into their old city when they've already moved on to other communities is not only counterproductive, it smacks of reservationism, disrespect for peoples' ability to recreate their lives, and disrespect for nature's warning that things cannot continue on their present course. Of course, the dislocated must be helped financially and otherwise to get back on their feet, but I think it would be better to pay them not to move back to New Orleans so that we do not have just another ghetto.

Of course, wealthy developers should not be allowed to build in vacated areas below sea level either. These areas should be turned into "replenishment parks" where the [Mississippi River] delta can start to rebuild itself over time and just maybe repair the damage from decades of mismanagement. It's time to work with nature instead of against it.

If the same short-sighted approach is used in the future as was used in the past, New Orleans and much of the Gulf coast will eventually subside into the Gulf, or be so infiltrated by seawater that it becomes truly unlivable. And if we spend all our resources on shoring up New Orleans in what will ultimately be a lost cause, where will we get the money when downtown Manhattan, southern Florida, etc., have similar problems someday? It's better to learn how to make New Orleans a green city of the future than a "chocolate city" of the past.


New York City, U.S.A.

Eric Mann premised his article ["Race and the High Ground in New Orleans"] on some cherry-picked data regarding the relationship between race and topographic elevation in New Orleans. The teaser in the table of contents ("Poor and black = low, wet, and maybe dead") is simply wrong.

African-American flood victims outnumbered white flood victims in New Orleans by a 3.8-to-1 ratio. Before Katrina, African-Americans outnumbered whites citywide, by a 2.4-to-1 ratio. Accounting for these proportions, African-Americans comprised 67 percent of the pre-Katrina population and 76 percent of the flood victims; whites made up 28 percent of pre-Katrina population and 20 percent of flood victims; and those of Asian and Hispanic ancestry comprised 2-3 percent...

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