Friday, October 14, 2005

If Your Black, Don't Come Back

Just Democracy Blog Article

It’s the war between the Jacksons, and we know which side we’re on! In a meeting with the editorial board of the Houston Chronicle, HUD Secretary Alphonso Jackson castigated the Rev. Jesse Jackson for elevating the issue of race in the Katrina disaster. He also suggested that the reconstructed New Orleans would be smaller and whiter than before, questioning whether the mostly black Ninth Ward should be rebuilt at all.

“I wish that the so-called black leadership would stop running around this country, like Jesse and the rest of them, making this a racial issue,” Alphonso Jackson whined to the board. But AJ’s remarks about rebuilding only reinforced the sense that the victimization of the city’s black citizens at the hands of the federal government is far from over.

As reported in the Houston Chronicle on September 28th by Lori Rodriguez and Zeke Minaya, AJ predicted that only 35-40 percent of the returnees would be black, as compared to 67 percent prior to Katrina. “I’m telling you, as HUD secretary and having been a developer and a planner, that’s how it’s going to be,” he said.

At the very best, the policies suggested by AJ and the administration are a form of hyper-gentrification – using the forced exodus as an excuse to permanently displace the poor. But we can’t help thinking of strongman Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe, cleansing his cities of the poorer shantytowns and forcing the citizens to disperse throughout the country – all because the people who lived there were more likely to be in the opposition.

This is the real battle of New Orleans – the one for which we all need to enlist. There are a number of initiatives underway to counterbalance the government’s malevolent attempt at social engineering. Both of the country’s major labor federations – the AFL-CIO and the newly-formed Change to Win – have undertaken efforts to ensure that displaced residents of New Orleans have a role in defining and rebuilding the city. Change to Win has joined with Jesse Jackson’s Operation PUSH to implement a major training program to ready evacuees for reconstruction jobs.

Meanwhile, ACORN and other community groups are organizing to challenge the wealthy, white vision that prevails in government circles. ACORN’s statement asserts that: “Low- and moderate-income people and people of color – who make up the majority of New Orleans' population – must have a say in all major decisions about the city's reconstruction, as well as in decisions about the fate of their own homes. ACORN members are deeply worried that without strong standards with regard to fair housing, and a "right of return" for those who want it, the city's housing stock will be rebuilt at prices low- and moderate-income people can never afford.

“Rebuilding plans for New Orleans must include: decent, affordable housing for all low- and moderate income residents and ‘first source’ hiring agreements and living wage requirements for all reconstruction projects so that area residents get first priority for employment. These jobs should include health insurance, adequate health and safety standards, and guaranteed union organizing rights at all agencies and contractors.”
To which we say amen.


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