12.23.2008

read a.c. thompson's "katrina's hidden race war" in the nation

This story is getting a lot of well-deserved attention. Allan posted it in comments here, but I wanted to make sure everyone who reads this blog sees it.

This week in The Nation, please read A. C. Thompson's "Katrina's Hidden Race War".

After Hurricane Katrina, white vigilante groups patrolled New Orleans, blockaded streets, and shot at least eleven black men.
The existence of this little army isn't a secret--in 2005 a few newspaper reporters wrote up the group's activities in glowing terms in articles that showed up on an array of pro-gun blogs; one Cox News story called it "the ultimate neighborhood watch."

Herrington, for his part, recounted his ordeal in Spike Lee's documentary When the Levees Broke. But until now no one has ever seriously scrutinized what happened in Algiers Point during those days, and nobody has asked the obvious questions. Were the gunmen, as they claim, just trying to fend off looters? Or does Herrington's experience point to a different, far uglier truth?

Over the course of an eighteen-month investigation, I tracked down figures on all sides of the gunfire, speaking with the shooters of Algiers Point, gunshot survivors and those who witnessed the bloodshed. I interviewed police officers, forensic pathologists, firefighters, historians, medical doctors and private citizens, and studied more than 800 autopsies and piles of state death records. What emerged was a disturbing picture of New Orleans in the days after the storm, when the city fractured along racial fault lines as its government collapsed.

Herrington, Collins and Alexander's experience fits into a broader pattern of violence in which, evidence indicates, at least eleven people were shot. In each case the targets were African-American men, while the shooters, it appears, were all white.

The new information should reframe our understanding of the catastrophe. Immediately after the storm, the media portrayed African-Americans as looters and thugs--Mayor Ray Nagin, for example, told Oprah Winfrey that "hundreds of gang members" were marauding through the Superdome. Now it's clear that some of the most serious crimes committed during that time were the work of gun-toting white males.

So far, their crimes have gone unpunished.

The organization Color of Change is organizing a campaign to tell Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal and state officials to investigate the shootings, as "Louisiana's broken law enforcement agencies have refused to investigate these crimes."

At Color of Change, you can watch Thompson's video on his report, and sign a petition demanding that Jindal, Louisiana Attorney General Buddy Caldwell, and the US Department of Justice investigate the shootings. Sign the petition here.

Thanks to Allan and Dean G for the links.

8 comments:

partisanhobo said...

Thanks for continuing to blog about Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath. This is one of the most important events of our generation and it's way too under-discussed. The race issues as well as the planning and policy issues deserve all the thoughtful attention they can get.

deang said...

During the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in '05, I attended an organizing meeting for people considering going to New Orleans to help out. There were speakers there who had just returned from N.O. and they told us that the police had certain parts of the city blocked off, ostensibly because of "violent looters." When these aid workers actually got into the city and talked to residents, they heard that what was actually happening was that whites were being allowed to travel around in the blocked-off areas shooting any blacks they saw. Police were said to be doing it, too.

I am so glad this story is finally being investigated. I would add that you should probably avoid reading the comments on sites where this story is posted. They are filled with the most sickening white racists, trying to divert attention from the story by blaming blacks for every crime imaginable.

L-girl said...

whites were being allowed to travel around in the blocked-off areas shooting any blacks they saw. Police were said to be doing it, too.

I remember Allan telling me about reports of that on DU.

I'm also amazed and relieved that the story is getting out there.

This is one of the most important events of our generation and it's way too under-discussed.

I agree.

For me it's always been Exhibit A on the US's downward spiral. The privatization of rebuilding and disaster preparedness ties into Naomi Klein's Shock Doctrine, too. Katrina and the aftermath is in many ways a microcosm of what's wrong with the US.

JakeNCC said...

The man who spent two days with us touring Nola and the aftermath of Katrina was African-American and he talked about the white areas of the area that were guarded by militias after Katrina including Jefferson Parish and Uptown New Orleans. He made it clear though that there were also black neighbourhoods where people had to take up arms to protect themselves from the lawlessness. There were alot of bad people that took advantage of the hurricane to loot and harm others. I mean lets be clear the city was looted from top to bottom, malls were burned down, the historic monastaries were looted. Our guide said there wasnt a single store of any kind in the downtown area that wasnt looted completely. Fires were set all over the city. Let's also be clear that among this mayhem the perpetrators and the victims were of all colours but prodominately black because that is the demographic. There is no doubt that there were murders in Algiers but good luck in them prosecuting whites or blacks for that matter for anything that happened. In a recent CBC documentary on the Canadian couple who went to Nola to set up a medical clinic after Katrina and were shot (the wife killed) in a home invasion they asked the police chief how many murders were there in 2006. He said 162. They asked how many had been solved. He said none.

JakeNCC said...

I've spent a couple of hours googling katrina stories. I'm facinated by the city and the whole katrina story ( btw i'm working a night shift and not very busy or productive thus the googling ). There is a series of articles from Time magazine--http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,1606587,00.html --

that presents the crime problem and the racial issues in post-Katrina New Orleans.

Here's what is bothering me. Since Katrina there have been about 500 murders in the city, the vast majority of the victims were African-American, all precious souls to someone. Yet not only is there very little media attention to the individual who was murdered unless they were famous or white like Canadian Helen Hill or if they were killed by whites. I must admit I don't understand all the nuances of race relations in the states. Where is the outrage at the police and justice system that ignores these other unpublisized murders. Where is the email button asking the Governor to investigate ALL the murders in New Orleans. A whole generation of young black men are dying down there and it seems their lives don't matter unless there is some inter-racial component to it. Am I making sense? Laura you are our American expert. Is the kind of racial divide that I read in The Nation article common all over America, just in the south, just in cities or is Nola just a very sad unique situation?

L-girl said...

JakeNCC, perhaps you don't realize how many murders take place in US cities, every year, all the time. The majority of victims are underclass, and representative of the underclass of that city, be that African-American, Latino, or white. 99% of them are unpublicized.

This is what it is in the US.

The population of Toronto is 2.5 million. There are less than 100 murders in Toronto in any given year.

A US city of comparable size is (roughly) Houston (2.2 mil) or Chicago (2.8 mil).

Murders in Chicago in 2007: 442.

Murders in Houston in 2005 (couldn't quickly find more recent): 336.

The great majority of these are completely unpublicized.

What happened after Katrina, I think, deserves special attention. But is that racism peculiar to New Orleans? The first thing that comes to mind is, Do you even need to ask? Of course it's not.

As far as where is the outrage, there's plenty of it, but unfortunately it's mostly among people who are powerless to do anything about it.

L-girl said...

A whole generation of young black men are dying down there

This was a big cry during the 1980s, when drug-related and gang-related violence was very high. (It fell mostly because the population fell.)

These days I've read and heard that many African Americans find the "black men are dying" idea offensive, as it equates inner-city crime, gangs and violence exclusively with young African-American men.

There is a large African-American middle class in the US, or put another way, the middle class in the US is integrated. Millions of Af-Am families own homes, live in "good" neighbourhoods, don't have kids in gangs, send their kids to university, etc. etc. While many cime and poverty-related deaths are Latino, Asian, white, depending on the makeup of the city.

redsock said...

Since Katrina there have been about 500 murders in the city, the vast majority of the victims were African-American, all precious souls to someone. Yet not only is there very little media attention to the individual who was murdered unless they were famous or white like Canadian Helen Hill or if they were killed by whites.

The media does not give a shit. And thus the public does not give a shit. Or maybe it's the other way around. Either way, it's not note worthy or news worthy. That's simply the way it is.

There have been over 4,200 US troops who have died in Iraq (including 167 confirmed suicides). You'd think those men and women would get more attention than a nobody who got shot in the poor part of a city? But how many of those 4,216 got any media attention outside of their home town?

People put Support The Troops and Never Forget stickers all over the fucking place, but the fact is: NO ONE CARES.

(How many thousands of Americans die because of lack of health care? I think it's 20,000 a year. But that never gets talked about.)

Meanwhile, the NY Post is putting shirtless picture of Obama on the front page. And this becomes the day's hot cable news story.