Housing and Civil Rights in NOLA

21 12 2007

Just as New Orleans became the flash point for what poverty looked like in the United States in the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, it is quickly becoming a new locus for the civil rights movement. Post-Katrina debates over education, the treatment of criminal defendants, the right to vote, and the wage theft and hazardous working conditions endured by immigrant workers have revealed an ugly stew of social inequality and systemic injustice.

But the question of housing affordable housing has become the most salient in NOLA today. I am not going to pretend I have intimate knowledge of what has transpired in NOLA before or after Katrina, but this video offers a modest glimpse into the struggle of Katrina victims seeking to assert their rights.

Watch it.

Some of the news reports have noted that many of the city’s residents are divided on the issue and that most of the units designated for demolition are in fact vacant. That said, the issue does not seem to be whether or not these particular housing units should be destroyed, but the commitment to public assisted and affordable housing in general in New Orleans, and the right of return by many of the internally displaced people.

It seems this is another indication of how from the beginning, poor people, especially poor black people, have been marginalized from the rebuilding process, and the rest of the country has thought of post-Katrina recovery as a state and local concern, not the nation’s problem.

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