Facing South Flashback: Poor, Black, and Left Behind

By R. Neal

Almost exactly one year ago, the Facing South newsletter had this article by Mike Davis.:

The evacuation of New Orleans in the face of Hurricane Ivan looked sinisterly like Strom Thurmond's version of the Rapture. Affluent white people fled the Big Easy in their SUVs, while the old and car-less -- mainly Black -- were left behind in their below-sea-level shotgun shacks and aging tenements to face the watery wrath.

New Orleans had spent decades preparing for inevitable submersion by the storm surge of a class-five hurricane. Civil defense officials conceded they had ten thousand body bags on hand to deal with the worst-case scenario. But no one seemed to have bothered to devise a plan to evacuate the city's poorest or most infirm residents. The day before the hurricane hit the Gulf Coast, New Orlean's daily, the Times-Picayune, ran an alarming story about the "large group...mostly concentrated in poorer neighborhoods" who wanted to evacuate but couldn't.

This was about Hurricane Ivan. It would seem a year later that lessons were not learned.

News reports today say that 475 buses have been mustered to move the warehoused refugees from the Superdome to the Houston Astrodome, effectively making them someone else's problem. One hates to second guess overwhelmed officials, but one must also wonder why 475 buses could not have been mustered last Saturday before the storm. This is just one of the many questions that will be asked over the coming weeks and months.