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Hurricane will be used to drive out the black poor

This article is over 16 years, 4 months old
Mike Davis spoke to Socialist Worker about the divisions of race and class exposed by hurricane Katrina
Issue 1967
A 1960 protest against racism in Louisiana
A 1960 protest against racism in Louisiana

I’m surprised that in all of the press coverage of Hurricane Katrina there is no mention of Hurricane Ivan, which hit New Orleans, Louisiana, about a year ago.

Then as now the city was evacuated, but as the affluent white people fled the “Big Easy” in their SUVs, the old and car-less — mainly black — were left behind in their below sea level shotgun shacks and ageing tenements to face the watery wrath.

There was outrage that the poorest had been left to die. Promises were made that evacuation procedures would be put in place, so that if a hurricane were to strike again then no one would be left behind.

One year later and the city has been abandoned, and again no provisions have been made for the poor to survive.

Over the last generation, City Hall and its entourage of powerful developers have tried to push the poorest segment of the population across the ­Mississippi river.

Historic black public housing projects have been razed to make room for upper income townhouses and a Wal-Mart.

The ultimate goal seems to be to create a tourist theme park — with chronic poverty hidden away in bayous, trailer parks and prisons outside the city limits.

Now the destruction of housing will mean that many of the poorest who have finally been evacuated may be prevented from returning.

The poor black community has the right to stay in this city. These are the same communities that gave the city its meaning and its beauty.

The city has a long history of fighting for civil rights. The victims of today will become the activists of tomorrow.

They will see people fight ­ferociously to stay in the city. If the local authorities are not willing to rebuild for the poor, then we will see a historic battle.

The Bush administration through wilful neglect abandoned the poor of New Orleans to die. This has to be the least natural of disasters.

There are areas of Alabama and Mississippi governed by black African Americans who are questioning Bush over his response.

They are saying that this situation is a test of the limits of the civil rights won for black Americans.

Mike Davis is a socialist writer and activist. He is a professor of history at the University of California, Irvine.

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