In the latest edition of Contexts, a sociology magazine that presents sociological research for a wider audience, I found the following photo taken in New Orleans just after Hurricane Katrina hit:

racism in new orleans

If you click on the image you’ll see it full-sized. I couldn’t really tell what I was seeing at first, but the caption quickly made it clear:

Disaster research usually finds that people bind together to form an “altruistic community,” putting aside their differences to foster mutu­al recovery. The New Orleans story was more complex. While there was a good deal of altruism and what disaster researchers call pro-social behavior, there was also divisiveness. These cars were stacked between the Lower Ninth Ward, which was 67 percent African American, and St. Bernard Parish, which was 90 percent white. We do not know who built the barrier, but we do know it was people in St. Bernard. Both areas were devastated by the flood. Altruistic commu­nities are real enough, but deep-seated animosities, such as racial ten­sions, were not washed away by the floodwaters.

Racism is not a thing of the past in the U.S., not even after a natural disaster when you’d hope people would work together.

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3 Replies to “a shocking example of racism”

  1. I think my awareness about the continuing problems in New Orleans (and other parts of the South) resulting from Hurricane Katrina and the lack of attention given it after the fact has been raised by your continued attention on your blog. So, thank you!

    And when I saw that photo in Contexts I thought you’d appreciate it. I, too, really enjoy Contexts. It does a great job of simplifying the work we do as sociologists such that non-sociologists not only will understand it but find the real meaning behind it.

  2. Amazing story. And I love Contexts. I wish I had the money to buy subscriptions for everyone I know.

    I continued to follow the Katrina story closely all through the spring, mainly out of interest but also because I was TA-ing Jennifer’s undergrad health & inequality Capstone class. Things than happened during the hurricane, not to mention the lingering aftermath (Nola is still entirely devastated in parts), make me more ashamed to be an American than just about anything else I’ve ever experienced. We truly just don’t give a shit.

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