Race and Vulnerability in America
Publication Year: 2010
Published by: Rutgers University Press
Title Page, Copyright Page
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This project—an analysis of the enduring significance of Katrina in American society—originated in a May 2006 conference organized by the then newly created Center for Race and Ethnicity at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey. Participants in that conference included the authors in this volume as...
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The mention of Hurricane Katrina conjures up more than just a violent storm that unleashed nature’s destructive force on an American city. Hurricane Katrina is now also recalled as a political event that issued a black mark on a presidency, an epic media story that produced collective trauma far beyond...
PART ONE. The Tangled Logic of Vulnerability
1. Who Sank New Orleans? How Engineering the River Created Environmental Injustice
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New Orleans is a special case in the story of vulnerability and environmental justice. The city lies on the hurricane coast, next to two lakes, and near the end of the immense Mississippi River. The lower third of Louisiana is made of river silt deposited over the ages. Federal river and hurricane levees have prevented...
2. Invisible Tethers: Transportation and Discrimination in the Age of Katrina
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New Orleans came into being as a transportation hub. Located between the Mississippi River and Lake Pontchartrain, the city first took shape as a trading post at the point of portage between these two bodies of water. There, goods and people traveling along the inland waterways of the continent’s longest river...
3. A Slow, Toxic Decline: Dialysis Patients, Technological Failure, and the Unfulfilled Promise of Health in America
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Hurricane Katrina made private illness experiences and health vulnerabilities shockingly public, and nothing more graphically captures this fact than the drama surrounding dialysis patients in the days after the storm. Their commonplace and everyday problems were thrown open to deeper scrutiny, framed...
4. The Ship of State: Framing an Understanding of Federalism and the Perfect Disaster
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The first images from New Orleans of African Americans stranded on highway overpasses and rooftops waiting to be rescued, and of black bodies decaying in filthy water below them, suggested that historic and structural racism had produced vulnerability by devaluing lives and devaluing a city. This initial story,...
PART TWO. Cultural and Psychic Legacies
5. Seeing Katrina’s Dead
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I surprise my students sometimes with the idea that a cultural historian looking back on the United States during the first years of the twenty-first century will find a people troubled by unburied bodies—dead bodies and parts of bodies in all the wrong places. For many months, pieces of bodies turned up around the...
6. Second-Lining the Jazz City: Jazz Funerals, Katrina, and the Reemergence of New Orleans
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Jazz, along with blues, shrimp gumbo, po-boy sandwiches, world-famous steakhouses in the French Quarter, and tantalizing desserts like Mama’s bread pudding and Café du Monde’s beignets, came to symbolize the pulsating life of New Orleans. Accessible to ships from Africa, Europe, Asia, Latin America, and the...
7. Racism, Trauma, and Resilience: The Psychological Impact of Katrina
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Since Katrina, I have worked with hurricane survivors and have trained mental health providers treating the victims of this catastrophic event. I have traveled to New Orleans and other cities in Louisiana and Mississippi and have been profoundly affected by the destruction that I witnessed as well as the psychological...
8. The Haunted Houses of New Orleans: Gothic Homelessness and African American Experience
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Among the most potent images of post–Hurricane Katrina New Orleans are those depicting the wind-wrecked, water-ravaged, molding, abandoned houses. Neighborhoods nearest the levee breaches, like the predominantly African American Lower Ninth Ward, were filled with street after street of such structures...
PART THREE. “Starting Over” in Post-Katrina America
9. Rebroadcasting Katrina: Blame, Vulnerability, and Post-2005 Disaster Commentary
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“What is clear,” writes sociologist Philip Kasinitz, “is that whatever national consensus eventually emerges on Katrina—what went wrong and who is to blame—it will have been largely forged in the media, and, perhaps by the media.”1 Across the board, commentators have identified the media (by which...
10. Protecting Our Assets: Private and Public Responses to Katrina
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Hurricane Katrina exposed a fundamental difference between private-sector and public-section preparedness and the divergent abilities within each realm to protect their assets and their people. For New Orleans residents in the last days of August 2005, the main concern for each and every one of the citizens...
11. The Labor Market Impact of Natural Disasters
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Hurricane Katrina reignited debates about social policy and the role of government, particularly with regard to addressing racial inequality.1 Media accounts as well as subsequent research have shown that African Americans bore the brunt of the storm, the failing levees, and the slow responses of local,...
12. The Katrina Diaspora: Dislocation and the Reproduction of Segregation and Employment Inequality
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The natural disaster spawned by the 2005 hurricanes illuminated the poverty, unemployment, and low earnings of many black residents of the Gulf Coast. The people who fled their homes to other locales faced the life-altering question of whether to return to their former cities or make a new life in the places to which...
PART FOUR. Tragedy, Recovery, and Myth
13. Katrina and the Myth of Self-Sufficiency
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I saw the deaths and was outraged. I felt the delays and started a book.1 A year later, I went on the radio to talk about it. That’s when “Jay” from St. Paul called in to make Katrina into the myth of self-reliance. I had just said something about how, a year into our 9/11-like sympathy and collective frustration, we were all...
14. Race, Vulnerability, and Recovery
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As rescue helicopters hover overhead and media cameras roll, a group of young people, all African American, stand on the rooftop of a house, holding a sign, “Help us!” In the storm’s aftermath, families huddle in the shadow of a highway overpass, seeking shelter beneath the road that might have led them,...
NOTES ON CONTRIBUTORS
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Page Count: 224
Publication Year: 2010