it’s class, stupid

May 7, 2006 by

What happens when you only ask the rich and privileged what should be done about the poor, underprivileged neighborhoods of New Orleans after Katrina? Surprise, surprise, you get answers that only benefit the rich and privileged. And the guilt can be laid on both sides of the political aisle.

Liberal Bad Faith in the Wake of Hurricane Katrina

“I think the city will be smaller and I’m not sure if that’s the worst thing in the world. I think we have an opportunity here to have a win-win. I think we have an opportunity to build a very different kind of city, a city with a much greater mix of incomes. And, at the same time, we have the opportunity, if we have the right principles and we have the right tools to give many of those low income families the ability to live in neighborhoods, whether in the city, whether in the suburbs, whether in other parts of the state or in other parts of the country, live in neighborhoods where they have access to good schools, safe streets and quality jobs.” Bruce Katz, who was chief of staff for the Department of Housing and Urban Development in the Clinton administration

What Katz and other political big shots are not admitting is that there is no effort to ensure the existence of low-income housing in the new New Orleans. None. ACORN and other advocacy groups and grassroots activists in New Orleans have championed “the right of return” for even its poorest citizens displaced by Katrina. According to the National Low Income Housing Coalition, over 140,000 units of housing were destroyed, the majority of them affordable for low-income families. But the Housing Authority of New Orleans has shut down its public-housing operations, and informed landlords of people assisted by federal rent vouchers that government rent subsidies for impacted units have been suspended indefinitely. According to Mike Howells, an organizer with a local human rights group, “sensing an opportunity to enhance the fortunes of real estate interests and to dump a form of public assistance that mainly benefits poor working class locals, Washington and local authorities are using Hurricane Katrina as a pretext for effectively gutting government subsidized housing in New Orleans.”

These Ivy League sons of privilege blather on about how moving people out of ghettos has a beneficial impact on families, sounding a lot like Barbara Bush at the Astrodome. What all the Washington decision-makers have failed to do is actually ask the poor what they want, or care. Power and privilege=personhood to these folks, and if you have neither, then your fate should obviously be determined by your “betters”. Nevermind that your extended family has a century or more of tradition and culture all bound up in one place, where every street had a cousin, aunty or friend’s house, where the streets rang out sometimes with gunfire, but sometimes with tambourines and brass bands and the chants of the Injuns too. There are no Mardi Gras Indian parades in Houston. There isn’t a Mawmaw or uncle or cousin on the next block in Atlanta.

Tell me again how the city is better off with its culture gutted; Disneyfied, ossified, and equated with Bourbon Street? Tell me again how the poor are so much better off elsewhere? Better yet, stop and actually ask the people of New Orleans whther they want to move back, instead of assuming you know what’s best for them from your antiseptic air-conditioned office in DC, mmkay?

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