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Conservatively liberal, moderately well-educated, and highly opinionated...

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Monday, December 19, 2005

Some perspective

The T-P published a series this weekend about the NOPD Districts, and their various trials in the city immediately following Katrina. They are all worth reading, but the piece about the 5th District contains an interesting paragraph:

As Katrina bore down on the Gulf Coast that Sunday afternoon, Capt. John Bryson, then the 5th District commander, saw a worrisome hurricane tradition playing out in the streets of the 9th Ward. "People were out there barbecuing. They had ice chests everywhere. People were having a great old time," said Bryson, who sent officers with bullhorns through the area warning residents to get out

I call this out because it highlights an unspoken aspect of what happened in New Orleans. It’s certainly only a part of the story, but it’s supported somewhat by the State’s statistics, analyzed this weekend by both the NY Times and the LA Times. In the NY Times piece, they wrote:

Of the 126 people who were not in a nursing home or hospital, yet did not evacuate, only 25 families said transportation was an issue - although there could be many more such victims, because the Times study was less likely to include the homeless or those with no driver's license or other official documents. Others said the victims refused to leave because they had survived earlier hurricanes, were worried about their property or pets, or were simply obstinate. At least one victim tried to leave town, got stuck in traffic, and returned home.

This is important to understand. The media has painted a picture of a New Orleans full of people who would have left if they could – victims failed by the system and the government. Yes, of course there were people who truly did not have options and would have evacuated if they could, but that is not the whole story. The MSM has done a terrible disservice to everyone with their bias.

There are a lot of poor people in New Orleans – but in that most unique of American cities, even poverty is subjective. Consider, for instance, this man:

Porter earned about $40,000 a year, said his boss, Cal Johnson of Littlejohn's Funeral Home. He also earned rental income from two homes he owned in theLower 9th Ward, his son said."He was not a pauper by any means," Johnson said of Porter. "He lived quite well."

How many other places (in the U.S.) consider $40K a year to be well-off?

It is just not true that the storm visited blacks, or the poor, disproportionately. The bottom line is that the levees failed in a city that was predominately black and poor. Period. Katrina did not discriminate, but destroyed lives and property across all class and color lines. About the only group that can be clearly identified as having died disproportionately is the elderly – a sad but unsurprising finding. Racially, though, Katrina killed more whites (in proportion to the city’s demographics) than blacks, the MSM notwithstanding.

I doubt the mists will ever be completely cleared from Katrina’s stories, but slowly – inexorably – the sad truths are coming out.