August 29, 2005 will forever be etched in our collective memory as the beginning of one of the worst natural disasters in United States history, particularly for poor, elderly and people of color in New Orleans. In addition to what peaked as a Category 5 storm, the massive failure of NOLA’s levees, subsequent flooding of most of the city, and deadly, often politically motivated decision-making that marred the local, state and federal response guaranteed that there would be widespread loss of New Orleanian lives, homes, neighborhoods and culture.
And then there was the aftermath: The Superdome. The refusal of insurance companies to cover flood damage. The calculated police shootings of six black men on the Danziger Bridge and accusations of an actual policy of shooting alleged looters. The thousands of toxic FEMA trailers distributed and then resold to poor people. The news that people incarcerated at the Templeman III prison had been effectively abandoned and some being treated at Memorial Medical Center had been killed. The demolition of major public housing projects. The firing of thousands of public school teachers and the transition into a majority-charter system. And the list goes on. And on.
The story of Hurricane Katrina can never be fully told. But one thing is for certain: The impact and perception of the storm and the rebuilding of New Orleans breaks down quite dramatically according to race. We took a look at some of the numbers behind the alarming story of race and recovery in New Orleans.