Katrina: A Reason to be Angry*
By Jessica Desvarieux
Jessica Desvarieux, TRNN Producer: Welcome to The Real News Network. I’m Jessica Desvarieux in Baltimore.
This week marks the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. It also marks the eighth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. And a new report found that African-American New Orleans residents continue to be disproportionately affected by high unemployment. Nearly half of them are unemployed. And, also, African-American households are earning 50 percent less than their white counterparts. Meanwhile, much of the city public education and housing has been privatized or demolished. That’s from the Katrina Pain Index of 2013 by Bill Quigley.
Now joining us to talk about this is Greg Palast. Greg Palast is a BBC investigative reporter, and he investigated for Democracy Now! the real causes behind Hurricane Katrina in a film called Big Easy to Big Empty.
Thank you for joining us, Greg.
Greg Palast, BBC Investigative Reporter: Glad to be with you.
Desvarieux: So, Greg, what is the connection between this 50th anniversary of the March on Washington and the eighth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina?
Palast: Plenty. For those who know Greg Palast is an investigative reporter–most people know that I uncovered that Katherine Harris knocked tens of thousands of people off the voter rolls of Florida in the 2000 election, thereby handing the election to George Bush. People were illegally called felons when their only crime was voting while black. It was an ethnic cleansing of the voter rolls.
When Martin Luther King stood up before the Washington Monument 50 years ago this week, he said, I have a dream that black folk in Alabama and Mississippi and in the South will be able to cast a ballot. Well, 50 years later, we’re still asking that question. Of course, we’ve eliminated the white sheets and the Ku Klux Klan as a threat. It’s now spreadsheets and ethnic ethnic cleansing.
Now, I did the investigation of the ethnic cleansing of the voter rolls of Florida. And, by the way, that spread to Louisiana and Georgia. But I also look at the ethnic cleansing of another town, New Orleans, for Democracy Now!. And what I found was just stunning. You have to put these two things together. You have to put the ethnic cleansing of the voter rolls of Florida together with the ethnic cleansing that happened and is going on in New Orleans and Louisiana, with Hurricane Katrina just a cover, an excuse. That’s all it is.
And what you take away from this is that King’s dream was announced 50 years ago, but eight years ago in New Orleans is when the dream drowned. And here’s what I mean. I’ve discovered that Louisiana State University’s Hurricane Center sent an emergency request to the White House more than a year before the levees broke, before Katrina, and Dr. Ivor van Heerden, the deputy of the Hurricane Center, contacted George Bush’s senior counsel at the White House. They had a long discussion. He said, New Orleans is going to drown–not maybe, not will. We don’t even need a hurricane. And, by the way, Hurricane Katrina never, never touched, never touched New Orleans. It went 30 miles east. It was simply a storm surge. And he said, we cannot handle even a storm surge in New Orleans. The levees are too low. The levees are built wrong. And not only that, but we have–but you built a canal for the oil companies which is bringing the Gulf of Mexico right to our doorstep. This city is going to drown unless you bring in the Army Corps of Engineers to correct this. But the Army Corps of Engineers, remember, in 2004 was in Iraq. They weren’t there for the American people. They were there, you know, to blow up bridges and then rebuild them over the Tigris River. Read on>>>
- Eight years after Katrina – The Katrina Pain Index 2013
- Nearly 100,000 people never got back to New Orleans
- A million people were displaced. More than 1,000 died.
- There are 86,000 less people on the Census
- the city’s job base has declined 29%.
- 53 % of African-American men in the New Orleans area are employed now
- An African-American male in New Orleans earns on average $31,018
- A white American male in New Orleans earns on average $60,075
- Whites have experienced an 8% increase in middle- and upper-income households
- Blacks have experienced a 4% decline in middle- and upper-income households
- Renting a place to live in New Orleans has risen 43%
- Poverty rate in New Orleans is 2% compared to the national average of 16%
- Rate f imprisonment in New Orleans is 912 per 100,000 – four times higher than the national average of 236 per 100,000
- 84% of those imprisoned are African-American
- New Orleans area lost 948 square miles of coastal wetlands.