Book Reviews | Gordon Campbell | News Flashes | Scoop Features | Scoop Video | Strange & Bizarre | Search

 


Race Played Major Role in Hurricane Survival

BETWEEN THE LINES Q&A
A weekly column featuring progressive viewpoints
on national and international issues
under-reported in mainstream media
for release Sept. 12, 2005
http://www.btlonline.org

Class and Race Issues Played Major Role in Who Survived Hurricane

Interview with Darryl Malek-Wiley, Sierra Club’s environmental justice staffer in Louisiana, conducted by Melinda Tuhus

Listen in RealAudio: http://www.btlonline.org/wiley091605.ram (Needs RealOne player or RealPlayer)

In the wake of Hurricane Katrina's destruction of cities and towns along the Gulf coast, some media outlets have pointed out that the poor and mostly African American residents of New Orleans suffered disproportionately -- with fewer resources to call upon to flee the approaching killer storm. Other outlets have focused attention on looting and violence, painting the whole black community of New Orleans, comprising almost 70 percent of the city's population, of being responsible for their own plight.

The regions hit by the hurricane, including New Orleans, are made up of some of the poorest communities in the U.S. People living in the worst hit areas of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama had incomes $10,000 below the national average, owned fewer cars and had significantly less health insurance coverage than other Americans.

Derrick Malek-Jones is the Sierra Club's environmental justice staffer in Louisiana. He's lived in New Orleans for 20 years, and worked with the city's poor and minority residents to oppose the concentration of pollution-generating industries in their neighborhoods. After being evacuated to Texas, he spoke with Between The Lines' Melinda Tuhus about the issues of race and poverty effecting problems with evacuation and the task ahead of rebuilding New Orleans.

DERRICK MALEK-JONES : We see the very few folks who are very upset and have started looting, but that’s the media clip that gets repeated time and time again on CNN and Fox and other media networks. It seems like they’re making criminals out of everybody in New Orleans if they’re African American, when that’s not the fact. You have to understand that New Orleans is one of the poorest cities in America; 30 percent of the folks are below the poverty level. This storm hit at the end of the month, when a lot of people’s welfare checks, support, had not reached them. They’d gone through their savings and they could not physically pay for gas to get out of town, if they had a car that was able to get out of town. I think that whole issue is being portrayed as, that’s the way they want to act, rather than this is something that’s just environmental injustice.

BETWEEN THE LINES: What do you think about officials’ describing those trapped in the city as “those who chose not to leave?”

DERRICK MALEK-JONES : I have been part of the LEPC – Local Emergency Planning Committee in New Orleans – in the past, and know the emergency directors, and they just said, from their point of view, they didn’t think they could evacuate everybody who needed to be evacuated that did not have transportation. And this is stuff they told me years ago; they just didn’t have the financial resources or the physical buses, to get everybody out.

BETWEEN THE LINES: The wetlands around the city have been all but destroyed, which increased the impact of the hurricane. Do you see that destruction connected to environmental racism in any way?

DERRICK MALEK-JONES : The wetland destruction in Louisiana is not a new thing. It started in the 1950s when they started to do oil and gas exploration in the water offshore in Louisiana. And the energy companies built a whole series of canals cutting across our coastal wetlands, and destroyed millions of acres of wetlands. So Louisiana’s wetlands have basically been a sacrifice zone for America’s energy needs. And with a healthy wetland, without cuts, our scientists have said that for every mile of healthy wetlands buffer, you get one- to two-foot reduction in storm surge. Rebuilding the wetlands in Louisiana has been one of the premier environmental concerns, and an environmental justice concern also because a number of the folks who make a living off the fisheries in Louisiana are native American, Vietnamese American, Cajun American, so there’s a whole range of folks who make their living off the sea, and the wetlands are the nursery ground for all the different fish and shrimp and oysters, so there’s sort

BETWEEN THE LINES: Some federal officials called last week for just abandoning the city. What do you think of that?

DERRICK MALEK-JONES : New Orleans is a unique city in that it is below sea level. That’s something we all lived with. But it’s also a culturally rich and architecturally rich city -- buildings built in the late 1880s, early 1900s -- beautiful buildings architecturally originally, and then have fallen into disrepair because people don’t have the money to keep things up. So, it’s a mix of architectural styles and designs that is a cultural heritage for America. And to hear statements that we should just bulldoze everything and turn out the lights is just astounding to me. What we in the Sierra Club are talking about and trying to come up with is a new vision for New Orleans, a new vision for the Gulf of Mexico. Since we have so much destruction, we need to think about how we can take that 30 percent of New Orleans population that doesn’t have a job and put them to work rebuilding their community -- not bringing in contractors from Brown & Root, or wherever the big Republican contractors that make millions and

BETWEEN THE LINES: Do you think the city could be rebuilt still below sea level?

DERRICK MALEK-JONES : I think we could rebuild the city of New Orleans where it’s at. It’s just an engineering issue. The levees, we’re talking about breaches in just a couple of places. So, I think it’s technically able to rebuild, and I think morally, we need to rebuild New Orleans. And we need to rebuild that cultural history of New Orleans as a city of the world, and I don’t think, as a country, we can just let that go away.

For more information, call (415) 977-5500 or visit the group's website at http://www.sierraclub.org

***********

Melinda Tuhus is a producer of Between The Lines, which can be heard on more than 35 radio stations and in RealAudio and MP3 on our website at http://www.btlonline.org. This interview excerpt was featured on the award-winning, syndicated weekly radio newsmagazine, Between The Lines for the week ending Sept. 16, 2005. This Between The Lines Q&A was compiled by Melinda Tuhus and Anna Manzo.

***********

TO DONATE

Help make a difference against the corporate media's blackout of news and viewpoints like those in the interview above by helping us distribute to a wider audience in 2005! Please send your donation to:

Squeaky Wheel Productions, Inc. P.O. Box 110176 Trumbull, CT 06611

If you’d like to donate online, visit our website at http://www.squeakywheel.net/mediacampaign.html

*** Please note: If you would like your donation to be tax-deductible, please make your check out to our fiscal sponsor, The Center for Global Communications Foundation Inc. (or The Global Center) and send to the above address. ***

***********


© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
Top Scoops Headlines

 

Werewolf: Living With Rio’s Olympic Ruins

Mariana Cavalcanti Critics of the Olympic project can point a discernible pattern in the delivery of Olympics-related urban interventions: the belated but rushed inaugurations of faulty and/or unfinished infrastructures... More>>

Live Blog On Now: Open Source//Open Society Conference

The second annual Open Source Open Society Conference is a 2 day event taking place on 22-23 August 2016 at Michael Fowler Centre in Wellington… Scoop is hosting a live blog summarising the key points of this exciting conference. More>>

ALSO:

Buildup:

Gordon Campbell: On The Politicising Of The War On Drugs In Sport

It hasn’t been much fun at all to see how “war on drugs in sport” has become a proxy version of the Cold War, fixated on Russia. This weekend’s banning of the Russian long jumper Darya Klishina took that fixation to fresh extremes. More>>

ALSO:

Binoy Kampmark: Kevin Rudd’s Failed UN Secretary General Bid

Few sights are sadder in international diplomacy than seeing an aging figure desperate for honours. In a desperate effort to net them, he scurries around, cultivating, prodding, wishing to be noted. Finally, such an honour is netted, in all likelihood just to shut that overly keen individual up. More>>

Open Source / Open Society: The Scoop Foundation - An Open Model For NZ Media

Access to accurate, relevant and timely information is a crucial aspect of an open and transparent society. However, in our digital society information is in a state of flux with every aspect of its creation, delivery and consumption undergoing profound redefinition... More>>

Keeping Out The Vote: Gordon Campbell On The US Elections

I’ll focus here on just two ways that dis-enfranchisement is currently occurring in the US: (a) by the rigging of the boundary lines for voter districts and (b) by demanding elaborate photo IDs before people are allowed to cast their vote. More>>

Ramzy Baroud: Being Black Palestinian - Solidarity As A Welcome Pathology

It should come as no surprise that the loudest international solidarity that accompanied the continued spate of the killing of Black Americans comes from Palestine; that books have already been written and published by Palestinians about the plight of their Black brethren. In fact, that solidarity is mutual. More>>

ALSO:


Get More From Scoop

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Top Scoops
Search Scoop  
 
 
Powered by Vodafone
NZ independent news