Ten years ago this August the most destructive and deadly hurricane to hit the U.S. since 1928 made landfall. Though it caused a lot of damage in the Gulf states, New Orleans was hit worst of all. Ten of thousands of New Orleans residents ended up displaced after all was said and done.
After ten years of rebuilding the population has returned to 90% of its pre-Katrina numbers. To mark the achievements today, President Obama visited New Orleans for a tour, a photo-op and speech to the press.
During remarks given in the Faubourg Lafitte area in Tremé near the French Quarter, the President said:
“Now, just because the houses are nice doesn’t mean our job is done. This is a community, obviously, that still has a lot of poverty. This is an area where young people still, too often, are taking the wrong path before they graduate from high school. This is a community that still needs resources and still needs help.”
“Still needs resources and still needs help” could not be more of an understatement. While from an overall perspective New Orleans is very nearly the city it once was, that’s not the case at all if you break it down by neighborhood.
The recovery has not been equal along racial lines. The poorest, and often blackest, of the neighborhoods were the worst hit. Being poor, they were also the least capable of rebuilding quickly. While some are better off today than pre-Katrina, others are very much not.
The following excerpt from the Washington Post sums it up rather well:
Nearly 80 percent of white residents of New Orleans say that Louisiana has “mostly recovered” since the storm, according to the survey from LSU’s Manship School of Mass Communication’s Reilly Center for Media and Public Affairs.
But nearly 60 percent of black people say the opposite — that the state has “mostly not recovered” in their view.
There used to be a vibrant African-American middle class pumping the heart of the New Orleans economy, but that beat has slowed. The black population is 200,000 less than pre-Katrina, but the white population is 20,000 higher. Those numbers are perhaps only a symptom of the problem, once you take a look around.
The Huffington Post has gathered a host of data that tells a more complete story than simply looking at New Orleans as a whole.
- In 2005 the median income disparity was $23,394 for African Americans compared to $49,262 for whites; in 2013 that changed to $25,102 for African-Americans versus $60,553 for whites showing that the income disparity has grown during “recovery.”
- Only 54% of African American males in the 16-64 age group were employed, compared to 78% for Caucasians.
- 50 percent of the city’s black children under the age of 18 live in poverty.
- New Orleans has the highest incarceration rate per capita in the country and nearly 90% of its prisoners are black.
While a lot of progress has been made in The Big Easy, there is a great need for more. More directed efforts to help the whole city recovery, not just the white middle-class.