It Just Isn’t That Simple

From Scout:

I have been meaning to write about this for some time. I’ve held off until more Katrina bodies would be found and identified making more definitive stats to be available. However it appears that may take some time as 146 bodies are yet to be identified and officials are now turning to a Bosnian lab for help. Yet conclusions are being drawn which I think need to be addressed now.

Knight Ridder is the most recent to report that demographics of the Katrina death toll shows “poor and black residents didn’t suffer inordinately compared with others.” The LA Times and Newsmax have done similar reporting. Numerous rightwing blogs have commented on this as being an indication that race, racism or social injustice did not play a role in Katrina.

I believe that the Katrina death toll alone is a poor gauge of determining the impact of Katrina on the poor or African Americans. It tells only one part of the story. This kind of analysis neglects to tell the story of the survivors. In fact the outrage over the federal response was due to all of the world watching thousands of predominately black faces stranded for days on roofs, in the dome and the convention center. We watched helplessly and wondered would these people, having survived the storm, become fatalities as they waited for food, water and evacuation. Lives were at stake and those lives were in far greater numbers that of African Americans. In that week after Katrina struck I believe it is fair to say these groups indeed suffered in greater proportion which was made worse due to a poor government response.

In addition to this short term suffering, the Times Picayune reports African Americans will have suffered in greater proportion in the long term….

That Katrina’s floodwaters affected black residents more severely than white residents is a matter of statistical fact. Using flood maps and block-by-block data from the 2000 census, city consultant Greg Rigamer estimates that about half of the city’s white citizenry experienced minimal or no flooding. By comparison, fewer than a quarter of black New Orleanians were so lucky.

Given that discussions of shrinking the city tend to focus on abandoning flood-prone areas, a reduction in the city’s size would likely have a disproportionate effect on areas largely populated by black residents.(emphasis mine)

If the controversial smaller footprint plan is implemented, blacks will lose homes and whole neighborhoods in far greater proportion than whites. If it is not implemented they still face the hardship of displacement from flooded homes and the task of rebuilding or starting over elsewhere in greater proportion to whites.It is simplistic to look at the death toll to make judgements of Katrina’s effects. Yet many are doing so as though they have found a smoking gun that will completely re-tell the story of Hurricane Katrina. Typical of this is this blogger’s headline of “Everything You Learned About Hurricane Katrina Is Wrong.” Well NO it’s not. Nothing about Katrina is simple and I hope people will remember that.