The Long Shadow of Hurricane Katrina
August 29th marks the one-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina's destructive landfall in New Orleans. For five endless days the nation watched while 100,000 people, trapped by the floodwaters, struggled to survive. "They just left us here to die" remarked one woman in the Superdome. Her words captured the sentiment of many survivors -- that those too poor, too old, or too Black were just abandoned by the government.
Rarely have the savage inequalities of race and class in America been on such painful display. But faced with the biggest natural disaster in living memory, Bush and his crew responded by suspending prevailing wage laws, jettisoning affirmative action programs for federal contracting, and doling out billions to their political allies through no-bid contracts.
State and local officials were just as bad. For example, shortly after New Orleans was evacuated mayor Ray Nagin spirited off to Dallas to meet with “the forty thieves” – white business leaders pushing a corporate-led plan for reconstruction, with little room for the poor, Black folks who suffered so mightily during the storm.
One year later, rage and despair are still in plentiful supply. Once the floodwaters receded, New Orleans quickly fell out of the national spotlight. The city remains a war zone – with most of its infrastructure in shambles and the bulk of its population still scattered throughout the Diaspora.
Plans for real reconstruction are being smothered by corporate interests and white racism, and many social justice activists outside of the city think the “Katrina moment” has passed.
We think not. To mark the one-year anniversary, we have assembled this collection of articles by Solidarity members and friends to help us all understand the significance of Hurricane Katrina.
It remains to be seen if this disaster can be a catalyst for lasting social change, but as socialist-activists we know our role is to help build movements that make this a real possibility.