Yesha Callahan

President Obama, George W. Bush Visit New Orleans 10 Years After Hurricane Katrina, But Black Residents Are Still Suffering

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It’s been ten years since Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast, killing more than two-thousand and displacing at least a hundred thousand more. The storm, the third deadliest in U.S. history, caused billions of dollars in damages and forever changed the region.

Thursday, President Obama toured Tremé and the Lower Ninth Ward, two predominantly Black communities that were among the hardest hit by the storm.

While he discussed the city’s recovery, the president also touched on the stark inequalities that still remain in the Big Easy.

“Our work will not be done when a typical Black household earns half the income as white households in this city. The work is not done yet,” President Obama said. “Our work is not done when there’s still too many people who have yet to find good, affordable housing, and when there are too many people, especially African-American men, who can’t find a job.”

The president’s comments echo the results of a new report released by the National Urban League of New Orleans that found 10 years after Katrina hit the city, Black residents are still suffering.

The State of Black New Orleans report found:

  • Though Blacks make up just 32% of Louisiana residents, they comprise 67% of the state prison population and 90% of New Orleans’ prison population.
  • In 2011, 99% of all young people arrested in New Orleans were Black
    The unemployment rate for Black New Orleanians is 13% compared to 6% for whites.
  • In 2013, the median income for Black residents was $25,102, compared to $60,553 for whites.
  • Just 27% Black residents held management and professional related occupations, compared to 60% of whites.

As President Obama rightly concluded, Hurricane Katrina “started out as a natural disaster” but “became a man-made one — a failure of government to look out for its own citizens.”

Addressing residents in the Lower Ninth Ward, an area where only half the housing units are occupied, the President spoke frankly about the slow recovery for Black residents and the troubling conditions they faced even before the storm hit.

“What that storm laid bare was another tragedy — one that had been brewing for decades,” President Obama said. “New Orleans had long been plagued by structural inequality that left too many people, especially poor people, especially people of color, without good jobs or affordable health care or decent housing. Too many kids grew up surrounded by violent crime, cycling through substandard schools where few had a shot to break out of poverty. And so like a body weakened already, undernourished already when the storm hit, there’s no resources to fall back on.”

Friday, former President George W. Bush–who called Katrina one of the darkest moments of his presidency–spoke in New Orleans, touting the city’s recovery and praising its charter schools.

“The storm nearly destroys New Orleans, and now New Orleans is the beacon for school reform,” Bush said at Warren Easton Charter High School. “You’ve achieved a lot over the last 10 years, and with belief and success and a faith in God, New Orleans will achieve even more. The darkness from a decade ago has lifted, the Crescent City has risen again, and its best days lie ahead.”

The 10 year commemoration of Hurricane Katrina will continue through the weekend when former President Bill Clinton is scheduled to visit the city.

  1. August 28, 2015 - Reply

    White folks made a killing in NOLA because of Katrina. The little black wealth that did exist magically got transferred to white capitalists who had just enough money in the bank to swoop up dirt cheap property after black folks were ruined and ran out. Does anybody know what percent of folks who ended up relocating to Texas and other states during the storm ever came back to NOLA?

    • August 28, 2015 - Reply

      @Me

      Teach Sister.

    • August 28, 2015 - Reply

      @Me

      Agreed. I researched the history of black people in New Orleans. Hurricane Betsy caused similar carnage and influenced white flight. The lower 9th ward was systematically cut off from the rest of the city via redlining and discrimination. The predominantly black neighborhoods were on the lowest level in terms of sea level. Some locals believe the levees were destroyed purposely.

      • August 28, 2015 - Reply

        @Chazz A

        I wouldn’t be surprised if it was. If not purposely, definitely negligently. They probably purposely let them get so bad thinking it’s just black folks that would be affected if anything did happen.

  2. August 28, 2015 - Reply

    Hurricane Katrina represented many things. I remember it like it was yesterday. I was 21 years old and I was to be 22 later on during that year. The disaster represented the failure among all levels of government to protect and to adequately help American citizens. The victims of the storm were slandered as “refugees” many in the media and by racists. Glen Beck disrespected the victims too, which is why I have no respect for Beck at all. There was total neglect by many government entities for days. Roving, white vigilante groups harassed and assaulted black people in New Orleans. Privatized Blackwater people were in the streets and guns were illegally confiscated by authorities in New Orleans. Also, heroes (of every color) stood up to help the suffering, rescue victims, and gave food plus water to human beings.

    After 10 years, things have changed and other things have remained the same. The massive economic inequality in New Orleans is part of our call during this century to really address poverty. Katrina dispersed thousands of our Brothers and our Sisters nationwide while select corporations have gentrified many areas of New Orleans. Capitalists have made a killing at the expsnse of dead bodies and the accumination of our wealth and land in the city. There has been a massive increase of rent costs 10 years later and affordable housing is a serious problem today. Rents in New Orleans have doubled from an average of $488 a month before Katrina to $926 today, Black culture will always be a part of New Orleans as our people played a huge rule in the culture, music, cuisine, and soul of the city of New Orleans.

    The greatness of jazz is forever etched in New Orleans’ consciousness. Today, further investment in the city’s infrastructure is needed. Not only that, we need a further effort to fight for the economic rights of the poor and working class people of New Orleans. Poor people are suffering. George W. Bush coming to New Orleans is ironic since he was one of the many people responsible for the disastrous government response in the first place (that event represents the reactionary, extremist nature of the Bush Presidency). The President talked with people and gave his speech.

    We know that neoliberal policies, Empire, and gentrification won’t work to help the masses of black people. There should definitely be a revolutionary, reconstruction plan in the region (done by all levels of government), so black people can develop into the next level. Everyone agrees that we have a long way to go. In the Lower Ninth Ward, where the President gave his speech, only 36 percent of the pre-Katrina population has returned. Therefore, we know that many brave activists are helping people in the city of New Orleans now. They need our solidarity and our support. We want not only New Orleans to be great. We want justice too (as crooked cops killed innocent, unarmed black people near the Danziger bridge back in 2005. We want those cops convicted and sent to prison).

    #Never Forget Katrina

    • August 28, 2015 - Reply

      @truthseeker2436577@yahoo.com

      You make a good point about Bush. Funny how he couldn’t interrupt his day for NOLA in 2005, but wants to come back & “celebrate” 10 years of recovery with NOLA. He needs to go back into hiding. His presidency should make him live in shame for the rest of his life.

      • August 28, 2015 - Reply

        @Me

        In my mind, it’s like Bush returned to the scene of the crime in a perverse way. He came to brag about charter schools since thousands of teachers were fired in NOLA and New Orleans is dominated by charter school educational services. I totally agree with you that Bush should feel shame. Immediately after 9/11, he had a 90+ percent approval rating. He squandered his opportunity to make America better.

        • August 28, 2015 - Reply

          @truthseeker2436577@yahoo.com

          Preach! That’s a great way to put it.

          • August 28, 2015 - Reply

            @Me

            Thank you Sister.

      • August 28, 2015 - Reply

        @Me

        Reminds me of that damn article a few years ago catching up on him. He was somewhere secluded painting pictures of presidents or dogs or something. Fuck that guy and his middle school talent i dont care what he’s up to unless its off a cliff media!

      • August 28, 2015 - Reply

        @Me

        right; the nerve of him!! when he clearly could have done so much more for the city. Just atrocious how the (the lower socio-economic class that were greatly affected) were treated.

  3. August 28, 2015 - Reply

    In my Kanye West voice “George Bush don’t care about black people “

    • August 28, 2015 - Reply

      @Mary Burrell

      Amen Sister.

    • August 29, 2015 - Reply

      @Mary Burrell

      Sadly This year also marks the 10th anniversary since we last saw the Kanye West that cared about black people LOL

  4. August 28, 2015 - Reply

    I watched Spike Lee’s “When the levees Broke” again and every time the scene of dead bodies comes up, I get mad as hell. For a country such as the US, with it’s wealth and power, to stand by while dead bodies float down the streets, is not only an extreme tragedy but also a complete disregard for human life. The Bush/Cheney gang as well as FEMA should have been held accountable but that was far fetched since they made millions off of the disaster.
    Although hurricane Katrina was a freak of nature at its peak, with 175 mph sustained winds, I still believe that the storm was manipulated some how (NASA referred to it as an electric hurricane).
    Whats even more disturbing is the Koch Industries involvement before and after the storm. There is an article on the Huff revealing the evil manipulation of the Koch brothers.

    • August 28, 2015 - Reply

      @Chazz A

      Spike Lee has shown the truth. Also, Spike Lee has another documentary that deals with Katrina and the BP disaster on the Gulf Coast too. The BP disaster was about BP polluting waters, which harmed people and killed wildlife. I read that many of the FEMA locations had poisons in them too. The Bush/Cheney team was shopping, celebrating in a baseball game, etc. while people were dying in the streets of New Orleans. What made me angry was about how the cowardly racists were blaming the black people and the poor when they were victims of a natural disaster. Koch Industries being involved in corporate exploitation doesn’t surprise me. The Koch Brothers were involved in aiding three strikes laws back during the 1990’s. Malik Rahim, who is founder of Common Ground Relief, is one of the heroes of Katrina.

      • August 28, 2015 - Reply

        @truthseeker2436577@yahoo.com

        Right. The negative impact of the elites greed at the expense of human lives has put this country in serious jeopardy. It is becoming more difficult for America to maintain its global image amidst the hypocrisy.

        • August 28, 2015 - Reply

          @Chazz A

          I agree. America can’t lecture any nation on morality and democratic rights when they have executed massive neglect and disrespect towards it own citizens for a very long time. The 1 percent’s greed is truly parasitic.

          • August 28, 2015 - Reply

            @truthseeker2436577@yahoo.com

            Co signed. No doubt.

  5. August 28, 2015 - Reply

    brownie, you’re doing a heck of a job …..

  6. August 28, 2015 - Reply

    President Obama and the Democrats have done no more for the African descended people of NOLA than Bush did.

    • August 29, 2015 - Reply

      @Kamala Jones

      Obama wasn’t president when Katrina took place. He didn’t become president until 4 years later. He may not be an angel, but he also is not the reason black NOLA folks are where they are right now. By the time he came into office, NOLA was already ravaged by white greed.

      • August 29, 2015 - Reply

        @Me

        Exactly. Not to mention that many black people have legitimately critiqued Obama on various issues for years. The disaster of Hurricane Katrina (in 2005) should be blamed on the political establishment during the Bush administration.

        • August 29, 2015 - Reply

          @truthseeker2436577@yahoo.com

          Don’t forget to add B. Jindal too Truth! You noticed how incredibly absent and quiet has been this week…

          • August 29, 2015 - Reply

            @binks

            Thanks for reminding me Sister. 🙂 Jindal cut many services in the state of LA. He has been very silent.

      • August 29, 2015 - Reply

        @Me

        Exactly! As a native I can say there is too much politics within the city and state that is holding NOLA back. There are some people trying to fix those shady politics or get around them but it is still deterring progress or slowing it down. But I agree with the article of there is a LONG way to go to get New Orleans back as a whole especially among our community from housing, education, crime, employment, rebuilding (there are still parts that look like Katrina just it yesterday), etc. You can see who wants to the city, though before Katrina you couldn’t get half of them to move there…side eye….but after they are trying to push us out of the cit altogether or out of certain areas.

    • August 29, 2015 - Reply

      @Kamala Jones

      EXACTLY! People going in on Bush when Obama has been president for a while now. What has he done for them?

      • August 29, 2015 - Reply

        @_a_

        Exactly. I love most of my Black people but I can’t stand that most of us follow the crowd. We have a million and one excuses for what we haven’t received in exchange for our votes under Obama. It’s sickening.

  7. August 29, 2015 - Reply

    It reminds me of ethnic cleansing in relation to the black people. I know the storm was a natural disaster but there was glaring the differences made between the black people and the whites. The white people in the middle class neighborhoods are faring better than the poor black people in the 9th ward. This was about economic social class and race.

    • August 29, 2015 - Reply

      @Mary Burrell

      Great Points. The storm was originally a national disaster. Later, it became a man-made disaster when many people suffered via neglect, negligence, and a disgraceful response by various governmental agencies. classism, and racism certainly is a serious problem in New Orleans. I watched where one person said that people in the 9th Ward have to talk buses in long distances to go into Walmart to just get groceries.

      • August 29, 2015 - Reply

        @truthseeker2436577@yahoo.com

        I saw that too. This one brother was trying to have a grocery store to help the people in that community.

        • August 29, 2015 - Reply

          @Mary Burrell

          Exactly. There is a huge amount of economic inequality and other racial discriminatory policies in New Orleans plus in other locations nationwide. There are sick people who are openly exploiting the situation to allow poor people and black people to suffer. The Lower Ninth Ward has not received adequately resources to rebuilt (it was the last region in the city to receive electricity, etc.) while the French Quarter and other areas are massively rebuilt. The Sanchez Center in the lower Ninth Ward was only opened in May of 2015. Today, there are 100,000 less African American living in New Orleans than in 2005.

  8. August 29, 2015 - Reply

    George Bush never should have shown his face. He was giving zero damns about the black people.

  9. August 29, 2015 - Reply

    I was watching MNSBC and a survivor described a horrible scene about seeing a dead child’s body in the water, and she talked about the little girl’s hair was freshly combed with lots of little barrettes in her hair and how she asked would someone please get the baby out the water. And they said No m’am we are only concerned about the living. That is chilling. I can’t fathom this nightmare.

  10. August 29, 2015 - Reply

    10 years later and in some aspects it still feels like yesterday physically and personally. This week we had a lot of ceremonies, celebrations, second lines, presidential visits, etc. but I hope people take away what was highlighted that we still need assistance to thrive especially the black community within the city and the surrounding areas. The storm not only highlighted federal issues but a lot of local issues as well. I am personally still shocked how certain parts of Louisiana has been built up but the biggest and major money maker that is New Orleans is still lacking in many ways as highlighted. I love this damn city and I think it isn’t reaching its level of potential to rival other majors cities personally I would LOVE to see an explosion of a Black Renaissance and Mecca and young educated people (native or transplants) within the city.

    • August 29, 2015 - Reply

      @binks

      I would love to see another black wall street.

      • August 29, 2015 - Reply

        @Guest

        I would too! And I can see one in New Orleans because I think the atmosphere and vibe could support one. But we need more entrepreneurs, creative/artsy types, black owned business and more black individuals interested in politics and government to run down here to help further that goal here and among other major black populated cities as well. I definitely think we have the people and blueprint for another Black Wall Street.

  11. August 29, 2015 - Reply

    Katrina was one instance where I didn’t realize just how in bad shape black people in America are. It resembled a third world country.

  12. August 29, 2015 - Reply

    I come from what Americans would call a “Thirld World Country and have lived through a few Hurricanes and a poor as we are we would never treat our people like that
    I remember DAYS before the storm struck just sitting in shock saying ” aren’t they going to do something as I could see what was about to unfold and the Great USA seemed so unperturbed and nonchalant
    It was also my first realisation How racist America was and how little they cared about black and poor people
    Especially when you realise that the USA mobilized help halfway around the word(like in 24 hrs ) when the 2004 Asian Tsunami hit quicker than they did for their own citizens
    The Bush administration should have been charged with depraved indifference

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