It’s been ten years since Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast, killing more than two-thousand and displacing at least a hundred thousand more. The storm, the third deadliest in U.S. history, caused billions of dollars in damages and forever changed the region.
Thursday, President Obama toured Tremé and the Lower Ninth Ward, two predominantly Black communities that were among the hardest hit by the storm.
— Valerie Jarrett (@vj44) August 27, 2015
— Doug Mills (@dougmillsnyt) August 27, 2015
— Esquire Magazine (@esquire) August 27, 2015
While he discussed the city’s recovery, the president also touched on the stark inequalities that still remain in the Big Easy.
“Our work will not be done when a typical Black household earns half the income as white households in this city. The work is not done yet,” President Obama said. “Our work is not done when there’s still too many people who have yet to find good, affordable housing, and when there are too many people, especially African-American men, who can’t find a job.”
The president’s comments echo the results of a new report released by the National Urban League of New Orleans that found 10 years after Katrina hit the city, Black residents are still suffering.
- Though Blacks make up just 32% of Louisiana residents, they comprise 67% of the state prison population and 90% of New Orleans’ prison population.
- In 2011, 99% of all young people arrested in New Orleans were Black
The unemployment rate for Black New Orleanians is 13% compared to 6% for whites.
- In 2013, the median income for Black residents was $25,102, compared to $60,553 for whites.
- Just 27% Black residents held management and professional related occupations, compared to 60% of whites.
As President Obama rightly concluded, Hurricane Katrina “started out as a natural disaster” but “became a man-made one — a failure of government to look out for its own citizens.”
Addressing residents in the Lower Ninth Ward, an area where only half the housing units are occupied, the President spoke frankly about the slow recovery for Black residents and the troubling conditions they faced even before the storm hit.
“What that storm laid bare was another tragedy — one that had been brewing for decades,” President Obama said. “New Orleans had long been plagued by structural inequality that left too many people, especially poor people, especially people of color, without good jobs or affordable health care or decent housing. Too many kids grew up surrounded by violent crime, cycling through substandard schools where few had a shot to break out of poverty. And so like a body weakened already, undernourished already when the storm hit, there’s no resources to fall back on.”
Friday, former President George W. Bush–who called Katrina one of the darkest moments of his presidency–spoke in New Orleans, touting the city’s recovery and praising its charter schools.
“The storm nearly destroys New Orleans, and now New Orleans is the beacon for school reform,” Bush said at Warren Easton Charter High School. “You’ve achieved a lot over the last 10 years, and with belief and success and a faith in God, New Orleans will achieve even more. The darkness from a decade ago has lifted, the Crescent City has risen again, and its best days lie ahead.”
The 10 year commemoration of Hurricane Katrina will continue through the weekend when former President Bill Clinton is scheduled to visit the city.