Ethnic Cleansing in New Orleans
Clearing House "
-- -- It was a year ago that hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast
region of the USA, and left a path of death and destruction in
her wake. Well over a thousand human beings lost their lives in
the floods that followed the tempest. Who can say how many
people lost hope in the aftermath of that terrific storm?
Had Katrina hit an area of the country crowded with golf courses
and country clubs the result would have been different. People
with wealth and property matter in America; those without do
not. America is a land where sharp divisions of class play an
important role in deciding one’s fate. People are not treated
equally here; although few will openly admit it in print. We are
not supposed to bring up class warfare and other embarrassing
traits stemming from capitalism. After all, we call ourselves a
democracy, don’t we?
America’s imperial leader, George Bush—the murdering thief who
stole two elections, was playing golf in Arizona on that fateful
day a year ago. The cadaverous vice president was fly wishing in
Wyoming. Condoleezza Rice was shopping for shoes in New York—a
single pair of which cost more than a typical welfare family’s
entire monthly budget.
A year later the commercial media is dutifully revisiting the
story, as if to sell the public on the notion that they—a
defacto extension of the government—actually care about
America’s poor; they do not. America remains a racist nation
that was built upon slave labor, and the exploitation of
immigrant workers. Racism can be found anywhere but, thankfully,
it does not exist everywhere. Not all Americans are racists.
However, racism flourishes in the White House, and every branch
of government is poisoned by the malignancy of bigotry.
The truth is that wealthy white Plutocrats are in control of the
government, and they don’t give a damn about anyone they cannot
exploit; and that is the observation of a white man.
Because of my race I know that I enjoy advantages and privileges
that black men and women do not. I neither ask for nor expect
preferential treatment, but I know that I am accorded them on
the basis of my skin color. It should not be like this.
A great war—the civil war, was fought in the 1860s to settle the
race question in America for once and for all.
History tells us that the south lost the civil war; however, the
evidence suggests otherwise. The battle for equality is without
end. In the good old days of Jim Crow and segregation, and
before that—Negro slavery, the southern economy was built
entirely upon slave labor. In those days rich white men ruled
the country and lived in mansions, while their slaves lived in
broken down shacks; and they still do. No longer is racism as
overt as it was in the days of chattel slavery, but it is
continues to flourish and multiply.
Racial bigots continue to control the government—especially in
the south, while forging both domestic and foreign policies. The
people running the government value wealth and property, and
disdain those who have neither. Witness what happened to New
Orleans’s poor in the aftermath of Katrina.
Hurricane Katrina provided the federal government an opportunity
it has long sought—to radically alter the demographics of New
Orleans. Thousands of poor black families—those who did not
drown, were forced from their homes and will never be allowed to
return. Throughout the Gulf Coast Region the homes of the poor
were razed by bulldozers and earth moving machines in order to
make way for the developers. It is out with the black, in with
the white; in with the rich and out with the poor.
Homes affordable to low income families will be replaced by
lavish gated communities for the wealthy, shopping malls and
resorts. We do not ordinarily hear about this on the network
news, nor do we read about it in the daily newspapers or
In effect, New Orleans was ethnically cleansed by the
government; the same government that abandoned the poor and went
on vacation when Katrina made landfall. New Orleans’s mostly
black low income population was scattered across the nation and
left to fend for themselves, like seeds from a dandelion
dispersed by the wind. They were treated like criminals and
punished for being black and poor. But what does one expect from
a government that evokes imminent domain to demolish low income
housing across the country, and turns it over to developers for
private gain? When has privatized wealth ever served the public
It is becoming more apparent that only those with high incomes
and property have inalienable rights. Everyone else is subject
to eviction and refugee status at a moment’s notice. Money
matters, people do not.
Those who know their history will recognize the familiar
patterns of Plutocracy at work. That is how the government has
always treated the poor, just as it has always exploited the
working class and sent them to die in wars not of their making.
How could any but the ignorant and foolish dare call this
Katrina was a category three storm when she came ashore late
last August. Thousands of poor people lost their lives; millions
more lost their remaining faith in their own government. The
truth is that the poor have no representation in government.
That same government wastes $1.9 billion of our tax dollars
every week in an illegal war and occupation in the Middle East;
and there are more to come. Can there be any doubt where its
George Bush, ever vigilant to exploit a good photo op, recently
boasted that he has visited the Gulf Coast region eleven times
since Katrina struck. Bush so loathes the working poor that he
thinks they cannot tell the difference between a photo op and
genuine concern backed by thoughtful action. The world saw
Bush’s cavalier disregard for America’s poor on August 29, 2005;
and they have seen it every day since. A few rounds of golf in
Arizona meant more to him than the lives of all of those
But the poor are not Bush’s people; they contributed nothing to
his presidential campaign or to the Republican Party. Neither
are they the demographic who cast their votes for him on
election day. The people of New Orleans know who Bush
represents. We see with clear eyes that poor people are
disposable, while the rich are indispensable.
By contrast, when Hurricane Ivan, a category five storm struck
Cuba—not a single human life was lost—not one! And Cuba is a
nation, thanks to U.S. economic sanctions, that has only a
fraction of America’s resources.
The commercial media, of course, will allow Bush his photo
opportunities; they will do a few feel good human interest
stories about rebuilding New Orleans for a day or two, leaving
the impression that the people are being taken care of; but they
will not tell you the story that most needs to be told. They
Charles Sullivan is a photographer and free-lance writer living
in the hinterland of West Virginia. He welcomes your comments at
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