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As per AP & MSNBC: "Storm's victims unlike most Americans" [Sep. 4th, 2005|09:31 pm]


Problems of Caste, Class & Race in the USA: New Orleans 2005

In yet another stumble for the US mainstream press in it's reporting of the disastrous aftermath Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans & surrounding areas, an AP story carried by MSNBC has put out an article with the very unfortunate title of: "Storm's victims unlike most Americans".

The actual point of the article was to discuss certain demographic data such as how patterns in car ownership, economics, etc. contributed to the plight of some of the people in the gravest distress. Sadly their title can only served to further emphasize some superficial variations between the American citizens currently suffering in the area and Americans citizens residing in other areas.


© 2005 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. Updated: 5:55 p.m. ET Sept. 4, 2005

"Census analysis shows how demographics of poverty contributed to disaster

People living in the path of Hurricane Katrina’s worst devastation were twice as likely as most Americans to be poor and without a car — factors that may help explain why so many failed to evacuate as the storm approached.

An Associated Press analysis of Census data shows that the residents in the three dozen hardest-hit neighborhoods in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama also were disproportionately minority and had incomes $10,000 below the national average.

“Let them know we’re not bums. We have houses. Our houses were destroyed. We have jobs. It’s not our fault that we didn’t have cars to leave,” Shatonia Thomas, 27, said as she walked near New Orleans’ convention center five days after the storm, still trapped in the destruction with her children, ages 6 and 9.

Money and transportation — two keys to surviving a natural disaster — were inaccessible for many who got left behind in the Gulf region’s worst squalor.

“It’s a different equation for poor people,” explained Dan Carter, a University of South Carolina historian. “There’s a certain ease of transportation and funds that the middle class in this country takes for granted.”

Catina Miller, a 32-year-old grocery deli worker who lived in the Ninth Ward, a poverty-stricken New Orleans enclave created in the 1870s by immigrants who were too poor to find higher ground, said she certainly would have liked to have left the city before the hurricane hit.

“But where can you go if you don’t have a car?” she asked. “Not everyone can just pick up and take off.”

Jack Harrald, director of the Institute for Crisis, Disaster and Risk Management at George Washington University in Washington, said emergency planners have known for years that the poverty and lack of transportation in New Orleans would be a significant problem, but the government spent more time and money preparing itself — rather than communities — for disaster.

“All issues were known,” said Harrald, whose institute had been scheduling a series of emergency planning community meetings through a partnership with the University of New Orleans. “But it was still a work in progress. ... There’s enough blame to go around for everybody.”

The AP analysis showed:

• Median household income in the most devastated neighborhood was $32,000, or $10,000 less than the national average.
• Two in 10 households in the disaster area had no car, compared with 1 in 10 in nationwide.
• Nearly 25 percent of those living in the hardest-hit areas were below the poverty line, about double the national average. About 4.5 percent in the disaster area received public assistance; nationwide, the number was about 3.5 percent.
• About 60 percent of the 700,000 people in the three dozen neighborhoods were minority. Nationwide, about 1 in 3 Americans is a racial minority.
• One in 200 American households doesn’t have adequate plumbing. One in 100 households in the most affected areas didn’t have decent plumbing, which, according to the Census, includes running hot and cold water, a shower or bath and an indoor toilet.
• Nationwide, about 7 percent of households with children are headed by a single mother. In the three dozen neighborhoods, 12 percent were single-mother households.

“It’s the same people who don’t have the wherewithal to get out of Dodge,” said National Guard Lt. Col. Connie McNabb, who was running a medical unit at the besieged convention center in New Orleans.

The disparities were even more glaring in large, urban areas. One of the worst-hit neighborhoods in the heart of New Orleans, for example, had a median household income of less than $7,500. Nearly three of every four residents fell below the poverty line, and barely 1 in 3 people had a car.

“I didn’t have much in there,” said Deanna Harris, a 57-year-old unemployed New Orleans resident, “but it was mine. “Now, this is what I’ve got,” she said, patting a plastic bag.

The Ground Zero victims of Mississippi have much the same story. In one Pascagoula neighborhood, where 30 percent of residents are minorities, more than 20 percent live in poverty.

In Alabama, where Katrina wasn’t as severe, one of the hardest hit areas was a downtown Mobile neighborhood, where the median household income is barely $25,000 and 1 of every 4 residents lives below the poverty line.

“There’s not a lot of interest in this issue, except when there’s something dramatic,” said Carter, the South Carolina historian. “By and large, the poor are simply out of sight, out of mind.”

Our Executive Producers have sent out the following e-mail to MSNBC about the problem.


To: letters@msnbc.com

Subject: To the Editor Re: Your article entitled "Storm's victims unlike most Americans"

While we find this to be in general to be an interesting article and we are also mindful of the need to have a short and "catchy" headline, may we respectfully suggest that perhaps more care could have been exercised in your choice of words.

I am sure that an examination of the totality of the lives of those suffering in this disaster in New Orleans would reveal that in fact they were quite "average" American citizens. There are enough people of hopeless ignorance, stupidity or even downright ill will saying inflammatory things that a respected organization such as MSNBC should be taking special care not to even give the appearance of supporting same.

In particular we note:

 Many urban dwellers, of all income levels, in places that provide a useful public transportation system are less likely to own cars than the national average.

 National disasters of have previously affected Americans who are not in a high to middle income bracket numerous times [people who live in trailer parks that are in hurricane and tornado prone areas are just two examples that come quickly to mind].

Since multimillionaires do not, as far as we know, tend to frequent trailer parks, I would assume that many of these people shown on TV then were "low income". However, we cannot recall a time when coverage of their travails focused so heavily on and repeated so frequently the fact that the victims were "poor folk".

 We fail to see how a discussion of the type of plumbing systems, number of toilets, bathtubs, etc. that the houses in the most affected areas may or may not have had prior to being destroyed in the hurricane can possibly have much bearing on evacuation planning or their current plight.

Again going back to the Trailer Park analogy, I'm quite sure that most of those homes did not have several palatial bathrooms either and yet I cannot recall a single story that spoke about the bathroom facilities that the victims may or may not have previously enjoyed.

The people of New Orleans are NOT "the other". They are you. They are your fellow citizens.

We do hope that you will take our comments seriously and that you will at least consider a change of title.

Thank you for your kind attention to this matter, if we can be of any assistance please do not hesitate to contact us.

Mr. Michael Ken Christie, Executive Producer
Mr. Anthony Ginn, Executive Producer
for Underground Media TV part of The New Talent Enterprises

It is the intention of Underground Media TV (UGMTV) to do a series of opinion pieces entitled "Problems of Caste, Class & Race in the USA: New Orleans 2005" on the response of the United States to Hurricane Katrina. These will discuss how this crisis has shown the current state of the social order in the United States vis-à-vis a true multicultural society.

Cross-posted to blackfolk and po_co