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April 26, 2006

Class Cleansing Disasters  Politics

In the immediate aftermath of Katrina, I wrote that New Orleans was going to be subject to a deliberate policy of ethnic cleansing. Black neighborhoods were going to be razed and replaced by a Disney-fied New Orleans for yuppies. Some readers thought that was over the top: surely, once the smoke cleared, poor Blacks would be allowed to return to the city.

Guess again. From the New Orleans Times-Picayune, yesterday:

U.S. Housing Secretary Alphonso Jackson shed little light Monday on the future of public housing in hurricane-battered New Orleans, but said that "only the best residents" of the former St. Thomas housing complex should be allowed into the new mixed-income development that replaced it.

In a wide-ranging interview with reporters, Jackson was asked about the relatively small number of apartments in the 60-acre River Gardens development in Uptown that have been set aside for former residents of St. Thomas. Jackson estimated it was 18 percent to 20 percent, although housing advocates said it is less.

"Some of the people shouldn't return," Jackson said. "The (public housing) developments were gang-ridden by some of the most notorious gangs in this country. People hid and took care of those persons because they took care of them. Only the best residents should return. Those who paid rent on time, those who held a job and those who worked."

The blunt-spoken Jackson, who is black, acknowledged his comments might be seen as racially offensive because virtually all of the former St. Thomas residents were African-American. He told a white reporter, "If you said this, they would say you were racist."

He went on to say, "I don't care what color they are, if they are devastating a community, they shouldn't be allowed to return." [...]

[Housing Authority of New Orleans] spokesman Adonis Expose also confirmed Monday that the agency is considering a long-rumored policy change that would require all public housing residents in New Orleans to have a job or be in a job-training program.

Eight months after Hurricane Katrina, the future of the 10 public housing complexes in New Orleans remains an open question. Times have never been tougher for low-income people, as a shortage of rental housing after Hurricane Katrina has seen rents rise to historic levels.

While HUD has reopened some complexes, such as Iberville, most remain closed and surrounded by fencing. Eager to return, former residents have marched in protest to force the government to open more, but HUD has refused. [Emphasis added]

These are American citizens who want to return to their homes, but the Federal government thinks it gets to decide who's good enough to come home. Where are the rest supposed to live? In government camps and trailer parks, forever? Maybe ethnic cleansing isn't exactly the right term. It's more like class cleansing, though in New Orleans, as in much of America, that turns out to be pretty much the same thing.

Posted by Jonathan at April 26, 2006 09:53 PM  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb


I guess all the poor gangbangers can go to Baltimore, Philadelphia or LA and brighten those cities with their presence.

New Orleans is enough of a dump even in the best of circumstances. It doesn't need their help.

Posted by: Derek at April 27, 2006 04:49 PM