Racism and Hurricane Katrina

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As Hurricane Katrina ravaged the South and drowned large parts of New Orleans this past September, the ugly reality of our nation's continuing problem with class, poverty, and race became apparent. Many Americans began to question the possibility of racism being a deciding factor in the fate of many New Orleans citizens who were black and who lived in the poorest, most low-lying portion of the city, the Ninth Ward. Many, including First Lady Laura Bush, denounce critics who say race played a role in the federal government's slow response to the victims of Katrina. While it is possible that the government's slow response to the disaster was not directly due to racism, there are many unanswered questions suggesting the protection of the city…show more content…
By that I mean white people. They were just picking [white people] out of the crowd. I don't know why we were treated the way we were, but it was like they didn't care." While racism in the handling of the disaster was evident to many Southern blacks, some believe that poverty was a contributing factor. Not only were 90% of the citizens of New Orleans black, they were also extremely poor. It is not surprising that much of the world has been shocked by the destruction in New Orleans and the ongoing failures exposed at almost every level of government. While it is almost impossible not to be appalled by this series of events, veterans of the environmental-justice movement are not surprised by what happened. In fact, they say that this disaster has confirmed what they have thought all along. They believed that blacks in New Orleans were much more vulnerable and less protected by environmental problems than white folks in areas close to the city. They maintain that the people in power – who included Mayor Ray Nagin, an African-American himself – viewed the city's poor, black residents as expendable. Robert Bullard, director of the Environmental Justice Resource Center at Clark Atlanta University, has been leading a research project of official responses to environmental disasters. He believes that "blacks and other people of color are all too often overlooked in such crises," he told Liza
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