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New Orleans: After April’s Primary Election

When it comes to New Orleans post-Katrina, most discussions that involve race in the progressive community (and elsewhere) are on the wrong track.

  • Most of the residents in the Lower Ninth Ward were homeowners

  • Widespread damage throughout the city consists of 10s of thousands of “flooded homes still standing.”  Yes, most of these homes are owned by African Americans.  However, these owners are typically working and middle class.  Many square miles of white neighborhoods are similarly damaged, including those that house upper/middle class and working class people.  Homeowners of all races and classes scrambled for their lives to attics and roofs.  Those that died in their homes can be found in all kinds of neighborhoods.   

  • A lack of national commitment to preserve the voting rights (and voice) of residents impacted residents of all kinds of background.   It wasn’t only the black and poor who had obstacles voting.   

  • Mayor Nagin of New Orleans was elected before Katrina without a majority of black voters.   Many white voters might choose him in the runoff in May, above the white candidate he is running against – Mitch Landrieu (the state’s lieutenant governor and brother to U.S. Senator Mary Landrieu). 

  • The father of Mitch Landrieu was the Mayor of New Orleans in the 1970s, presiding over desegregation of the city’s public facilities.   Although Landrieu is white, his name carries trust to many black voters.   The Nagin/Landrieu showdown isn’t the stereotypical “showdown” between black and white voters.   Landrieu made it into the runoff because he has lots of black political support.

  • The absentee ballots cast in the April primaries of New Orleans reflect the pre-Katrina racial diversity of the city.   Two-thirds of the absentee ballots were from black voters, which is consistent with the city’s black population before the hurricane.   

The reality at hand in New Orleans is that many tens of thousands of residents in that city, belonging to all races and economics classes of people, who are now at greater environmental and economic risk due to Katrina.  What can we do to address that?   

Posted by Quintus Jett on May 1, 2006 at 08:01 PM | Permalink


Evening Quintus - great to have you join us tonight. It seems that our current administration has turned it's back on many of our citizens of all backgrounds and economic status. It's particularly disturbing to know that in the event of a natural disaster - our government won't be there. Thus to answer your question - what can we do - I suggest what I've seen happening here locally - real grassroots involvement in our own lives - taking control - aggressively forming coalitions, becoming more self sufficient, and voting to keep political and economic control locally and at best regionally. Nationally we are in the pits.

Posted by: Bbo | May 1, 2006 8:09:45 PM

Hi Bob. Thanks for having me.

You brought up an interesting point about the trend of holding individuals accountable for things that would reasonably be the responsibility of government. You mentioned it with respect to immigration, due to today's events, but I can see the same thing in New Orleans too.

Posted by: Quintus | May 1, 2006 8:12:45 PM

Let's head up to the "Responsibility" posting for continuing discussion. Thanks Quintus...

Posted by: Bob | May 1, 2006 8:16:21 PM

Hi, Q! Since I'm posting after the interactive session, I'm posting here so the comment goes to you rather than to Jessica.

Thanks for so thoroughly laying out the stats and explaining away some of the misconceptions. I liked Renee's comparison of how different folks think "You're on your own" or "We're all in this together." Personally, I'm a "we're all in this together" supporter. We're stronger as a community; we can 'weather' more storms that way. History shows that when folks band together that's when they achieve their goals; individually anyone of us can be wiped out easily but together we are strong.

Posted by: Charlene | May 3, 2006 9:36:42 PM

The problem with just depending upon our local networks is apparent in the case of New Orleans. When you wipe out an entire community via a storm event, the local network cannot support itself. The past prides of the US were in recognizing that regional devastations can happen but with the enormity of the US we can provide support and absorb those losses nationally, reducing the hurt locally/regionally. In my opinion, this is one of the crowning achievements of the US and similar style governments. We must regain control of our government away from the greedy individuals and corporations that are diverting our tax dollars to line their own pockets instead of making our country and its citizens safe, happy and healthy.

Posted by: Charlene | May 3, 2006 9:37:37 PM

In addition, I agree that we should always look to build our local community networks because locally/regional networks will be organizationally and motivationally quickest in response. Please remember that we have not seen the last of storms that will swamp American cities.

Identifying emergency routes, prioritizing drainage systems and drainage systems to make sure that our drainage systems and dams are capable of withstanding larger storms. These are considerations for the future plan that Bob mentioned. Let's not forget: alternative energy and smart growth (low impact developments).

Posted by: Charlene | May 3, 2006 9:38:01 PM


If you've waded thru my earlier comments, I've got a couple questions.

1) What can the rest of the country do to help New Orleans get the support they need to reconstruct or renovate at a quicker pace?

2) My next questions are related to a comment of yours in the blog on Monday night, see below.

Quintus wrote:
In my view, most of what we call "the evils of the Market" is really Social Darwinism and not a market at all. Adam Smith didn't like capitalists colluding against the interests of consumers either...

Can you please explain social darwinism..i'm assuming it's an evolving social principle but i'm not familiar with the phrase and showing even more ignorance on this subject, who was Adam Smith?

Thanks to Quintus for his expertise and Bob for running the guest blog.

Posted by: Charlene | May 3, 2006 9:45:56 PM

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