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Scatterings of Katrina

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Title:
Scatterings of Katrina experience, loss, and the free-market
Creator:
Rodman, Frank Christopher
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Language:
English
Physical Description:
vi, 142 leaves : ; 28 cm

Subjects

Subjects / Keywords:
2005 ( fast )
Hurricane Katrina, 2005 -- Social aspects -- Louisiana -- New Orleans ( lcsh )
Disaster victims -- Louisiana -- New Orleans ( lcsh )
Disaster victims ( fast )
Social aspects ( fast )
Louisiana -- New Orleans ( fast )
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bibliography ( marcgt )
theses ( marcgt )
non-fiction ( marcgt )

Notes

Bibliography:
Includes bibliographical references (leaves 139-142).
General Note:
Department of Anthropology
Statement of Responsibility:
by Frank Christopher Rodman.

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|University of Colorado Denver
Holding Location:
|Auraria Library
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All applicable rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier:
518020010 ( OCLC )
ocn518020010
Classification:
LD1193.L43 2009m R62 ( lcc )

Full Text
SCATTERINGS OF KATRINA: EXPERIENCE, LOSS AND THE
FREE-MARKET
by
Frank Christopher Rodman
B.A., Metropolitan State College of Denver, 1992
B.A., Metropolitan State College of Denver, 2001
A thesis submitted to the
University of Colorado Denver
in partial fulfillment
of the requirements for the degree of
Master of Arts
Anthropology
2009


This thesis for the Master of Arts
degree by
Frank Christopher Rodman
has been approved
by
Steve Koester
1 /to / Vl
Date


Rodman, Frank C. (B.A., Economics, B.A., Philosophy)
Scatterings of Katrina: Experience, Loss and the Free-Market
Thesis directed by Professor Steve Koester
ABSTRACT
Hurricane Katrina was a catastrophe of national significance
for the United States of America. The catastrophe was only in part
natural; human decisions made before, during and after the events of
August 2005, contributed greatly to the degree and scope of the
disaster. Key as well to this event and its aftermath, was the contextual
situation in which this disaster took place. The prevailing neoliberal
environment in place at the time of the landing of Hurricane Katrina
along the Gulf Coast in late August of 2005, itself proved to be a
critical component with regard to both how state and local, and
especially the federal government, responded both initially as well as
in the post-Katrina period. This work is a descriptive, exploratory
study of how the neoliberal environment intersected with the lives of
persons directly affected by Hurricane Katrina and its after effects.
This abstract accurately represents the contents of the candidate's
thesis. I recommend its publication.
Signed
Steve Koester


DEDICATION
I dedicate this thesis to those persons now scattered across the
United States as a result of Hurricane Katrina, including and especially
the three subjects whom I interviewed for this work. I also dedicate
this work to my parents, who taught me to care.


ACKNOWLEDGEMENT
My thanks to Steve Koester, my advisor for this project, whose
advice was always both thoughtful as well as crafted for the type of
project that I undertook, to Jerry Wulff who helped me with formatting
and has always been willing to lend a hand or give advice, and to
Connie Turner, whose knowledge of the bureaucracy, words of
encouragement and constant assistance helped to make graduation day
at last a reality.


TABLE OF CONTENTS
CHAPTER
1. INTRODUCTION..........................1
Purpose of the Study............2
Scope of the Study..............2
2. THEORETICAL CONTEXT
What Is Neoliberalism?.........14
Support for the Neoliberal Agenda: Gramscian
Common Sense and the Protestant Ethos.24
3. METHODOLOGY..........................33
4. ETHNOGRAPHIC INTERVIEWS..............36
5. ANALYSIS............................114
6. CONCLUSIONS.........................134
BIBLIOGRAPHY..........................................139
vi


CHAPTER 1
INTRODUCTION
Hurricane Katrina was one of the greatest catastrophes in
American history, devastating 90,000 heavily populated square miles of
the Gulf Coast region of the United States as it made landfall along the
coast on August 29th, 2005. By the evening of 29th, many residents of
New Orleans began to give thanks that the city seemed to have been
largely spared, as the hurricane had made landfall hours earlier, several
miles to the east. Landmarks such as St. Louis Cathedral and the mansions
of the Garden District had largely been preserved from the power and
intensity of the hurricane. Little did they know however, that
neighborhoods such as the Lower 9th Ward, Lakeview, Hollygrove,
Gentilly and New Orleans East were being submerged under water, as a
result of levee breaks throughout the city that began to fail during and
after the brunt of the storm (Brinkely:xv). By September 2, 50,000 people
located on rooftops and other places, waited for assistance in spite of the
fact that no comprehensive plan was in place by which to assist such
1


victims. Early estimates indicated an initial death toll of 1,336 persons
across the region (Bates 2007:16), however, more were to die after the
winds and the storm had passed through. The disaster was a catastrophe
only in part natural; it was also in part due to misguided ideological belief
combined with human decision making, as well as the lack thereof, that in
turn had led to great death and destruction throughout the region.
Purpose and Scope of the Study
Hopefully, this project is more than just an analysis of how some
dealt with the devastation wrought by hurricane Katrina. What is
especially hoped for in this project is that it might reveal that individuals,
with their own personal stories and contexts, underwent one of the greatest
domestic tragedies in American history; individuals who are unique and
have unique experiences and stories tell. All too often it is easy to get lost
in the statistics of an issue, and forget that persons as special as ourselves
have undergone such events. A main goal then of this study, is to
emphasize the humanity of persons who were affected by the hurricane of
2


August 2005 that landed along the Gulf Coast of the United States.
As well, it will be acknowledged that such persons underwent their
trials within an environment of a so called free-market philosophy with
regard to how economic resources are organized and distributed, including
approaches to natural and other type disasters that have occurred in the
United States in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Those unique
persons who underwent the devastation wrought by Katrina in this
context, will then be given another look, through the analysis of the
juxtaposition of their individual lives and experiences against and under
such circumstances, looking for differences as well as similarities of
experience through the lenses of race, class, age, education and other
categories that might apply in such settings. A Critical Theory approach
will be used throughout the study, as well as in the final analysis of
findings and inferences resulting from data collection and participant
observation.
3


Research Question How did the prevailing neoliberal
environment in the United States intersect with the experience of
persons who underwent the disaster of Hurricane Katrina in 2005? This
type of question, a how question, is qualitative in nature, and therefore
requires a methodological response appropriate to such an inquiry. An
ethnographic methodology was used in order to obtain the depth of
investigation necessary so that an answer to such a question as raised
through this project might begin to emerge. In answering this question, it
is important to examine and understand the environment or context in
which such a question is asked. Therefore the history and context of
neoliberalism is also examined within this project, including a specific
historical interpretation of an American ethos surrounding capitalism and
the tree-market, an ethos with its origins within Lutheranism and
specifically Calvinism and the Calvinistic doctrine of predestination. A
doctrine of predestination provides justification for who is to be favored
for success and salvation, and who is not. Such thought has been used to
provide both justification and legitimization for the circumstances that
both rich and poor find themselves in, particularly in the United States,
4


where there has been a tendency to not evaluate present conditions as
being the result of historical events that have led to such current states of
affairs. Lastly, an analysis of how context and agency have interacted
upon on one another with regard to these victims of Katrina living in the
neoliberal state, will also be addressed in the final sections of this thesis.
Overview of Devastated Areas of New Orleans, October 2007
After deciding to take up some aspect of the Hurricane Katrina
disaster as the subject of my thesis in the summer of 2007,1 had decided
to take a trip to New Orleans in October of that year in order to witness
first-hand what might be left of the devastation that had been wrought
upon that city. Although I had done a fair amount of reading from various
books, periodicals and journals about the state of the city two years after
the event of Katrina's landfall, I was not prepared for what I witnessed in
that city upon my arrival in October 2007, particularly within certain
sections of the city. I was especially not prepared for the extensive
damage that was still present throughout great sections of the city, most
5


notably the eastern portions of New Orleans. Although New Orleans East
was now considered to be up and going again, it was almost impossible to
turn a block without seeing the orange X's on some portion of a building,
or a building in a partial state of collapse, or boarded up businesses and
moldy watermarks high upon the walls of box stores such as the
abandoned Toys R' Us store in New Orleans East. Although considered to
be a more commercially developed area of what might be called black
New Orleans, working and middle class New Orleans East is in large part
below sea level (Bourne 2007), and suffered extensive damage during the
breaking of the levees, much of which is still visible as of this writing. The
area however, has managed to come back to some extent, and although
some businesses remain boarded up, many others have continued to
operate as they did prior to Katrina.
In residential, largely non-commercial areas of New Orleans
though, such as the 9th Ward, the Lower 9th Ward, and the adjacent St.
th
Bernard's Parish, the story is quite different. Especially in the Lower 9
and in St. Bernard Parish, the devastation was akin to a sort of nuclear
disaster in which crumbling homes and structures are now almost
6


th
completely abandoned, up to 90% in the Lower 9 so that what remains is
essentially a ghost town in which an occasional remaining resident will
either drive or walk by one of the few remaining commercial
establishments such as the small comer stores. This area was described to
me as jumping with life and activity by a Lower 9 resident at one of
those few remaining local comer markets left to service the remaining
population in the area. Military police from the National Guard patrol the
streets of the ward from a nearby Guard base, Jackson's Barracks, located
in St. Bernard Parish, and provide the ultimate example of an incredibly
heavy police presence that I had noted all throughout the greater Orleans
Parrish. I could not believe that what I was witnessing had occurred in
America, two years prior. The scene looked largely as if Katrina had
landed only two weeks ago rather than two years before in many ways.
What sort of system could leave such a major, important, culturally vital
and relevant part of the United States of America in such a state, years
after the storm had washed through?
7


Observations about New Orleans
One of the things that has always stood out for me regarding my
two trips to New Orleans (the second occurring in August of 2008) is how
the races within the greater metro area seem to be separated; not
necessarily in the legal sense, but most definitely in the social and
physical sense of the word. You have the city itself, New Orleans, over
90% African-American, with its surrounding majority white suburbs as
indicative of this situation. There are many areas of the city in which the
sight of a white person would be highly unusual, while in more
commercially developed areas such as Chalmette and Metairie, the
sighting of a black person is something as well that is quite rare. It is
perhaps not too strong of a word to use in that one feels a sense of a quiet
apartheid, as one travels throughout the metro area. In some areas, such as
the 9th Ward, the only white persons to be encountered are the occasional
members of National Guard units patrolling the area (it is a rare sight
indeed to see NOPD police patrols in the area, even though a police
station is located well within the 9th Ward). In two visits to the Chalmette
8


area approximately a year apart, I saw only one black person, a female,
th
working behind the deli counter of a small local market. In visiting the 9
t|_
Ward, both the still populated upper area, or the almost vacant lower 9
section, one senses a deep feeling of isolation from the rest of the city.
There are no services in this area, other than the aforementioned
occasional comer grocery markets, which are actually more of a
convenience store in size. During rush hour, with the traffic rushing down
N. Clairbome on its way from New Orleans proper to the suburbs of St.
Bernard Parrish, it would be inconceivable for any of the cars to pull off
on a side street; there would be no reason to, and to do so could potentially
be dangerous, especially as night falls in the area. One sees the suburban
bound vehicles rushing though this area; never stopping other than for a
light, and never turning down a side street. Such a state of affairs feeds
well into the sense of isolation present within this part of the city.
One of my subjects, Emily, experienced herself the role of an
outsider in the 9th Ward, as a census taker working within the area several
years ago. She was accosted by a local woman who questioned her for
being in the neighborhood, even though Emily herself is a light-skinned
9


African-American woman, noting that she was not from the immediate
area. Emily, after a time eventually befriended this woman, who later
turned out to be of great assistance in gaining entry into local homes in the
area for the purposes of taking the census. This makes the point that some
areas of New Orleans remain so apart from the rest of the city that even
other city residents stand out within such areas. Such isolation is
reminiscent of something out of Camus, as in his novel The Plague, where
the city of Oran in French Algeria is eventually cut off from the rest of the
world as the plague extends itself throughout that city. One can only
wonder at what sort of plague has isolated areas such as the 9th Ward from
the rest of the world, an isolation felt even more today with the depleted
population and devastation wrought there by Katrina.
Notes and Reflections, New Orleans, October 2007
I just got back from a four-day trip to New Orleans a few days ago. I've
long wanted to go there, even before Hurricane Katrina, but more recently
I've wanted to go there to see how things have changed, or not changed, in
the past two years. One of the nicknames for the city is The Big Easy,
which seems somewhat fitting with its long and not so crystalline history,
but The City That Care Forgot may perhaps be the most fitting of its many
nicknames right now. I was prepared for some sense of devastation in at
10


least parts of the city, from following accounts of the rebuilding process
going on in the media. What I was not really prepared for however, was
the scope and extent of the damage that still remains, even two years later.
Even in the so-called more developed parts of the city, it seemed that
every time you turned a comer, or came upon the next block, you would
still see the remnants of Katrina. Roofs partially collapsed on top of
apartment buildings. Walls on buildings and shopping centers, collapsed.
Entire shopping centers, boarded up. Grocery stores boarded up. And the
now infamous red X's, listing the numbers of bodies found in houses, still
found on houses and buildings throughout the city. Some of these, I
believe, are left in place, almost as badges of honor, in effect saying,
Yeah, we survived Katrina. We are still here. Some are still on buildings
now long ago abandoned. This is the better part of the city, or more
specifically of Orleans Parrish proper. As you travel out to the Ninth
Ward, the now famous Lower Ninth Ward, and adjacent St. Bernard
Parrish, you see that the Ninth Ward has partially come back, (but seems
still poverty stricken, with many abandoned homes, in a tightly packed
and at times, dangerous area), while the Lower Ninth Ward, which has
now become infamous, seems to have been at least at one time a decent
working-class area with small homes and lawns (and less cramped than
the Ninth Ward), is now 90% abandoned, with its former residents strung
out across the country today. The Lower Ninth is probably the most
impacted and affected area of New Orleans as a result of the devastation
of Katrina, and it looks there as if the storm and flooding had went
through mere months, and not years ago, now.
St. Bernard Parrish, adjacent to the Lower Ninth, is a predominantly
white community, which although affected in much the same way as the
Lower Ninth was, seems to be in a better state of recovery, even though
many abandoned homes still exist in neighborhoods there as well. This is
most likely because these people had things like insurance on their homes,
whereas in the Lower Ninth Ward (as I was told by a resident) many
homeowners had passed down their property from generation to
generation, which presumably has led in at least some cases to lack of
paperwork on home ownership, which is needed in order to receive
government as well as non-profit aid and assistance. Combine all of this
11


with the infamous political and power structure of New Orleans and
Louisiana, something that did not just arise, but has long been an intrinsic
historical component of this area, and you have big, big problems. I asked
a Lower Ninth Ward resident at a local market still running, what, in his
opinion, could be done. He looked over his neighborhood, taking several
seconds, to say, I don't know, I don't know.... In being there, I knew
what he meant. The scope and extent of the destruction seems so large, so
incomprehensible, that in many ways one is just struck dumb as to what
can really even be done. My own suggestion was that what was needed
was a massive, Federally-driven rebuilding project; something on a scale
never before seen in our country. I truly believe that such a project could
serve as an economic stimulus to the city and the region, and that the
Federal government is the only entity large enough to undertake such a
project. It would be on the level of how our national highway system was
built, a large, centrally planned project aimed at rebuilding one of
America's greatest cities. The Lower Ninth Ward resident responded to me
that this would be wonderful, but that it also was in fact, only a fairy
tale, something that was not going to happen. The political will is not
there for what is really needed, and I'm afraid that the man was
devastatingly right, in his assessment of the situation.
I later bought some t-shirts in the French Quarter in New Orleans,
on Bourbon Street. I was the only person in the gift shop at the time,
except for the store clerk. As I picked up a t-shirt that said, Rebuild New
Orleans on it, inside of a fleur-de-lys symbol, I held up the shirt to look at
it, and the female Vietnamese clerk behind me began to sob, and then cry
quietly. It took me several seconds after this, to be able to turn around
myself, and face her in order to pay for my items. It seems that emotions
are running quite high, even still, in the city that care forgot.
It is now two years later after the storm, and not all that much has
really changed. It seems that the city and its trauma have largely been
12


forgotten by the rest of the world. Yet some still struggle to advance the
case for New Orleans, from activists to just every day citizens. One of
these, Bill Quigley, a New Orleans attorney and activist in the struggle to
save New Orleans in the post-Katrina period, states that, What is
happening in New Orleans is just a concentrated, more graphic version of
what is going on all over our country. Every city in our country has some
serious similarities to New Orleans. Every city has some abandoned
neighborhoods. Every city in our country has abandoned some public
education, public housing, public healthcare, and criminal justice. Those
who do not support public education, healthcare, and housing will
continue to turn all of our country into the Lower Ninth Ward unless we
stop them (Klein 2007:421).
13


CHAPTER 2
THEORETICAL CONTEXT
What Is Neoliberalism?
Neoliberalism, as the word itself indicates, refers to a resurgence
of liberal ideas that were set forth during the Enlightenment, and
particularly those ideas which had to do with the economic organization of
society in its 'proper' economic and political context. The political context
of this equation places emphasis upon the supremacy of the individual and
the protection of the rights of the individual, which are guaranteed and
furthered via a political-economic system that employs ffee-market
dynamics as the optimal method by which to allocate resources throughout
society. Although modem neoliberalization was ultimately bom from the
severe circumstances of the 1970's crisis of accumulation, and derived
from an embedded liberalism that had served the U.S. since the end of
WW II (Harvey 2005:189), these modem roots themselves grew from a
resurgence which took place during the mid-20 century in the United
States, of the liberal economic ideas of those such as Adam Smith as well
as with the contributions of persons such as the Austrian political
14


philosopher Friedrich Von Hayek, Ludvig Von Mises, the economist
Milton Friedman and the formation of the Mount Pelerin Society in 1947
(Harvey 2005:20). Their adherence to and promotion of, the works of
neoclassical economics and its main proponents during the 19th century,
Alfred Marshall, William Stanely Jevons and Leon Walras, ensured the
displacement of the classical works of Adam Smith, David Ricardo and
Karl Marx, (while yet retaining the belief in the hidden hand of Smith in
economic affairs), and their ideas eventually were opposed to those as put
forth later by John Maynard Keynes and his theory of state
interventionism in response to the multiple crises of the 1930's (Harvey
2005:20). This eventual ideological defeat of state interventionism was to
have disastrous consequences when hurricane Katrina landed along the
Gulf Coast in the fall of 2005.
15


Von Hayek and the Battle for Ideas
The Mount Pelerin Society and other groups of powerful interests
associated with Von Hayek and others, fearing the potential for the
establishment of a mixed economy in the United States, worked
throughout the post-war period as an opposing force to such possibilities;
however it was not until the 1970's that the ideas of these early neoliberal
figures began to see a real potential for implementation. Through think
tanks such as the Heritage Foundation in Washington and the Institute of
Economic Affairs in London, as well as a growing influence within
academia, specifically at the University of Chicago through the work of
Milton Friedman and his colleagues, the realization of the neoliberal
agenda began to take shape (Harvey 2005:22). With the award of the
Nobel Prize in Economics to Hayek in 1974 and Friedman in 1976, the
bona fides of neoliberal theory were soon established. A subsequent crisis
of stagflation through the Carter years in the United States saw as a
solution the possibilities for deregulation, but it was not until 1979 that
neoliberal policy began to truly take shape, both in Britain as well as the
16


United States (Harvey 2005:22).
Margaret Thatcher and Britain
May of 1979 saw the election of Margaret Thatcher in Britain, who
brought along advisors who counseled her in the workings of monetary
policy as a cure to Britain's current stagflation, advocating monetarist
supply-side solutions to such issues. She advocated the abandonment of
Keynesian interventionist policies, in an overt dismantlement of the
welfare state in Britain, including the privatization of public enterprises,
and worked to establish a business climate favorable to foreign investment
from abroad, particularly from Japan (Harvey 2005:23). Thatcher as well
famously declared during this time that there was, 'no such thing such as
society, only individual men and women', later adding families as well
(Harvey 2005:23). Thatcher began her program of change not so much
with the support of the traditional ruling classes in Britain, the aristocratic
traditions of the military, judiciary and London's financial elite, but rather
with the support of the entrepreneurial class of nouveau riche who
included such figures as Richard Branson and George Soros (Harvey
17


2005:31).
OPEC Oil Shock of 1973
The OPEC oil embargo of 1973 produced a hike in the price of oil
which greatly enriched the wealth and power of the Gulf states, including
Saudi Arabia. This emergent wealth in the region was reinvested,
apparently through strong persuasion, back into U.S. investment banks
which were suddenly flooded with an excess of petrodollars. With an over
excess of capital for investment, a solution was found wherein these
monies would be reinvested into governments, considered a relatively safe
investment (Harvey 2005:27). The U.S. government after 1973 began to
actively seek the liberalization of international credit and financial
markets; in large part so that New York investment banks would be able
to lend funds within an environment in which it would be profitable to do
so. The first major test would be the default on obligations by Mexico
during the 1982-84 period. A combined effort on the part of the U.S.
Treasury and the IMF led to a rollover of the debt obligations in return for
neoliberal reforms (Harvey 2005:29), an early example of what later came
18


to be termed as 'structural adjustment'. Such then, were the beginnings of
how Middle Eastern petrodollars were routed through U.S. banks and then
later diverted into development schemes for Third World nations,
subsequent to the liberalization of international financial markets.
Paul Volcker in 1979
As well in 1979, Chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank under
Carter and later Ronald Reagan, Paul Volcker arrived with drastic changes
in hand in order to stem the rising rate of inflation. In order to gain
control of rising prices, the Federal Reserve declared by fiat that the real
rate of interest to be positive, rather than the negative rate which was
employed during the inflationary surge of the 1970's. As a result, by July
of 1981 the nominal rate of interest stood close to 20 percent (Harvey
2005:23). Such monetarist engineering led ultimately to an amenable
climate for the breaking of many unions and the closing of factories in the
United States, and paralleled the period of structural adjustment that was
to be employed with regard to world debtor nations. The Volcker shock,
19


as it was later termed, was deemed to be a necessary but insufficient
condition for the broader implementation of the neoliberal agenda (Harvey
2005: 24). The quest to control inflation via monetary policies needed as
well government action which would further the neoliberal agenda, and
the PATCO strike of 1981, in which Reagan broke an important white-
collar union of air traffic controllers in an all-out assault on unions and
labor in the country, provided further evidence that ruling elites had
decided that the destruction of labor in the United States, including
declining wages in the coming years, would be critical to the
implementation of a broader and encompassing neoliberal agenda for the
country during the 1980's and 1990's (Harvey 2005:25).
The introduction of NAFTA by President Bill Clinton in the 1990's
led to a furtherance of so-called free-trade in North America by
eliminating many established trade barriers, and it solidified policies of
liberalization which had already taken root in the country by now, many
years earlier. The irony of this period is that FEMA under the supervision
of Clinton appointee James Lee Witt, was one federal agency that
performed quite admirably in dealing with a number of natural disasters
20


including California fires, Midwestern flooding and seasonal hurricanes
which wracked the state of Florida in the 1990's (Tolchin 1993).
Deregulation, Privatization and Katrina:
Restructuring of FEMA from Clinton to Bush Years
The Clinton years of the 1990's saw the further entrenchment of
the neoliberal agenda in the United States. The implementation of NAFTA
and other free trade policies laid the groundwork for the Bush
administration to effect an almost complete restructuring of the federal
government in the direction of liberalization, including attempts to
privatize Social Security, long held as a tremendous opportunity for
private financial interests to gain hold of a massive pool of insured funds
for the purposes of financial speculation and other schemes. Soon upon
taking the reigns of government, the Bush administration began a process
of privatization that focused upon certain federal agencies, including those
dealing with education, social services, and disaster response
preparedness. One of these targeted entities was FEMA, the Federal
Emergency Preparedness Agency. During the 1990's, the agency had
21


developed a reputation of competency under the Clinton Administration,
which had appointed James Lee Witt as agency head during this period.
The agency went on to prove its effectiveness during a variety of natural
disasters throughout the 1990's. With the ascendancy of the Bush
Administration however, agencies targeted for greater privatization began
to be designated as crony outposts for Bush administration supporters and
benefactors. The now infamous, heck 'uv a job, Brownie, Michael
Brown, was placed as head of an agency (FEMA) which was now to
subcontract and outsource services from the private sector at a greater rate
than ever before. The appointment of Brown, whose credentials regarding
disaster preparedness were either minimal or non-existent, as depending
upon sources relied upon, was an obvious indicator that agencies such as
FEMA were not given due status as critical agencies with regard to
preparedness for natural and other disasters, but were to be redesigned in
such a way that market forces would supposedly provide greater
efficiencies with regard to disaster preparedness response work. This
would supposedly occur by parceling out contracts to private entities
which presumably would operate at greater efficiencies than could the
22


federal government. Disregarding the lessons of the 1990's, the Bush
Administration chose to carry on its experiment with privatization even
despite the risks to the nation's citizenry, appointing ever more cronies to
important and vital posts, and using an ideological justification for serving
its own interests through an almost religious belief in Friedman's market
forces as not only the optimal, but the only, solution to issues of resource
distribution and efficiencies as directed through the channels of an off-
hands government.
As Stiglitz states in his work, Globalization and Its Discontents,
the followers of the neoliberal agenda have always believed that the
market forces of Friedman and Adam Smith drove drive the economy to
efficient outcomes as if by an invisible hand. What Smith and Friedman
did not stipulate however, is that modem economics has shown that the
sense in which such a conclusion is correct turns out to be under
conditions that are highly restrictive. Whenever information is imperfect
and markets incomplete, which is to say always, the invisible hand
performs imperfectly (Stiglitz 2002:73). Government interventions can be
used to shore up some of these imperfections caused in such scenarios,
23


however these more recent findings within economics are at odds with a
belief system which effectively chooses not to ascribe to such empirical
findings. These anti-empirical beliefs amounted to no more than a
justification for self-interest at the expense of greater, national interests. It
will take many years to undue the damage wrought by Katrina to New
Orleans and the greater Gulf Coast, which in turn has affected the lives of
many thousands of Americans displaced from their homes. This can be
attributed in large part to a negligent mismanagement of American
resources and services, as based upon premises that were never designed
to serve the interests of those affected by disasters such as Katrina.
Support for the Neoliberal Agenda:
Gramscian Common Sense and the Protestant Ethos
The United States has long seen itself, in an overarching meta-
narrative of its mythic and heroic origins, as a Protestant nation, perhaps
not so much in strict theological outlook, but rather in the tradition of
those Protestant individuals from England and Northern Europe who
settled the nation en masse in the 18th and 19th centuries. The later
24


platform or environment for the neoliberal agenda in the United States can
be traced back to the European roots of Protestantism and mercantilism,
which laid an initial, fertile groundwork for the later emergence of the
neoliberal agenda in the United States. It is safe to say that the United
States has never envisioned itself, for example, as a Catholic nation,
although in fact Catholics have composed a great proportion of the
nation's population throughout much of its history. The ethos of the nation
can therefore be seen to be Protestant in nature; with an emphasis upon
individualism and hard work as virtues to be strived for by the citizenry.
This mythic ethos of individualism, hard work and simple piety goes back
to early Lutheranism and its founder Martin Luther as well as to that
roughly contemporaneous period in which John Calvin in the 17th century
in Geneva began to preach a doctrine of salvation as awarded through the
notion of election by grace. According to Weber, Calvinism was the faith
under which the great political and cultural battles of the time were fought
out, namely those countries in which capitalism had attained its greatest
development during this period: the Netherlands, England and 16th-17th
century France.
25


Calvinism's most characteristic doctrine was the doctrine of
election by grace (Weber 1905:69). Election by grace in short meant
that a portion of humanity has been predestined or elected by God
through his grace, for eternal salvation in the life beyond. Those outside of
this grace of God, are denied such entry into the Kingdom of Heaven and
the life beyond, and are therefore foreordained to everlasting death,
according to the articles of the Westminster Confession of 1647. Point
number 7 of the Confession indicates that, The rest of mankind, God was
pleased, according to the unsearchable counsel of His own will, whereby
He extendeth or withholdeth mercy as He pleaseth, for the glory of His
sovereign power over his creatures, to pass by, and to ordain them to
dishonour and wrath for their sin, to the praise of His glorious justice'
(Weber 1905:71). This central doctrine of Calvinism, holds that God's
favor itself has been established only for some, with the rest of humanity
discarded to damnation. According to Calvin, God's will can never be
known, though it can in some sense be discerned; through the favor that
God has shown on Earth to some individuals in such a manner that they
demonstrate (materially), God's elect favor upon them. It would take here
26


another entire work to explore such a doctrine as to its internal
consistency, however it is in fact this doctrine which affected and
influenced later ascetic and pietistic strains of Protestantism, including
those Puritans who fled religious persecutions in England and landed upon
the shores of America in 1620.
Such a notion of predestination is important in understanding later
emergent perspectives within the United States, in that it provided an
ultimate justification and legitimization for the existence of both rich and
poor as well as favored and outcast within society, as being signs of the
will of God; signified via their successes on earth. Such success in the
mercantile period in nations such as England, Switzerland, Holland and to
some degree, France, became measured as a financial or materialistic
success as the stark theology of Calvin devolved into a more vulgar
understanding over time, and thus came to prove or justify God's favor
for salvation for those who had demonstrated within society their favored
status via their earthly success.
As this refined version of Calvinism came to have influence over
27


the national character of the mercantilist, Protestant, Western European
nations and ultimately the United States over time, Max Weber states that
the sanctification of life in those nations and societies would ultimately,
almost assume the character of a business arrangement (Weber
1905:85). Such a conception of a refined Calvinism aligned well with an
adopted Old Testament rationalism that was as well a part of the equation;
a outlook which was essentially petit bourgeois and traditionalist in
character, and would link together business rationalism and the elect favor
of God, as the keys by which those who were to be considered either the
saved or the damned could ultimately be determined (Weber 1905:84).
Calvinism and Predestination
The doctrine of election by grace or predestination within
Calvinism, survived in a more limited sense into later periods, especially
within those communities of a more conservative or pietistic bent.
Although no longer practiced as to its most strict interpretation by the time
of the establishment of the Puritan communities in America, notions of
elect and damned, and the signs, particularly materialistic, of the favor of
28


God, still were considered a part of these later traditions. This American
religio-history eventually became a part of what Harvey calls the emergent
nation's common sense. Here he is referring to a Gramscian notion of
common sense as the totality of the cultural and traditional values of the
society in question (Harvey 2005:39). Harvey notes that within this
common sense interpretation; economic failures occurring within the
neoliberal context are seen to be personal, and as a result of a failure to
enhance one's own human capital due to either personal or cultural
reasons, including lack of dedication to education, proper submission to
work discipline, and lack of a Protestant work ethic (Harvey 2005: 157).
An acceptance or acknowledgment of such Gramscian common sense,
especially within the context at hand, helps to confer in part a religious
legitimacy or justification to an existent, hegemonic state of affairs. This
outlook contrasts quite sharply then, with a sociological perspective which
might consider such things as historical circumstances or previous patterns
which might be examined and then put forth as plausible, defensible
explanations for current conditions. The Gramscian notion of common
sense however, is not then inconsistent, but rather in fact helps to explain
29


quite powerfully, an irrational set of circumstances by which societies (or
at least elites) many times set forth to provide religious explanation and
justification to themselves for what, upon closer examination, may in fact
seem to be a quite inconsistent argument for the societal status quo.
Gramscian Common Sense and the Notion of a
Protestant/Calvinistic Ethos
In his work, Neoliberalism, Harvey argues for the interpretation of
neoliberalism as a primarily apolitical project, to re-establish conditions
for capital accumulation as well as a restoration to power for economic
elites. Primarily, because his secondary argument is that neoliberalism has
been put forth as whatever needed to be done in order to establish the
primary goal of capital accumulation and restoration to power of
economic elites (Harvey 2005:19). Therefore the concepts of justification
and legitimacy, are central to an understanding of the dynamic functioning
of the neoliberal agenda. Harvey argues that simple common sense is
critical to the widespread acceptance of the neoliberal agenda in more
recent years, in that its relatively simplistic and intuitive arguments for the
30


case of neoliberalism, formed as they are in large part upon the
individualism that has played such a key role in the concept of the
American character, have been central to the success of the neoliberal
agenda. Key to this agenda as well has been the emergence of a
neoconservative movement in the United States that has aligned its moral
sensibilities to a dual American nationalism that presumes an American
exceptionalism that is truly God-given, while at the same time exhibiting a
darker side in which a paranoid fear of enemies and evil forces has taken
over (Harvey 2005:196). What Harvey notes as Gramscian common
sense (Harvey 2005:39), certainly would incorporate that which makes
up the notion of common sense for many in the United States, namely a
set of traditional values which would include a strong religious or
theological underpinning for the natural order of things, interpreted
through a Calvinistic notion in which those who have attained a high level
of capital accumulation serve as markers for the pre-ordained favor of
God himself; a circular tautology that upon investigation serves to justify
material success as a prime indicator of the predestined will of God.
As Weber has shown in his work, a Calvinistic streak of
31


predestination or election by grace stands in a sense as a justification or
legitimization for capital accumulation, in such a way that this perception
has been incorporated over time within America and much of the rest of
the world into a greater, common sense justification for capital
accumulation with theological undertones. In such a setting, dominant
voices lead a discourse that has reverberated very powerfully historically,
with the already hegemonically established sentiments of the masses.
These masses, having now for many years imbibed such religio-historical
notions of Western common sense, have in turn have received the
messages that were intended for them (manifest destiny, exceptionalism,
racial supremacy, and so on all God-ordained).
Such notions though, were to have devastating consequences for
the Old World, Caribbean oriented, Catholic city and culture of New
Orleans in the fall of 2005.
32


CHAPTER 3
METHODOLOGY
The methodology chosen as most appropriate to the nature of the
study at hand, has been an ethnographic investigation of three case
studies, done with attention to the work of Clifford Geertz and his literary
or interpretive turn within anthropology, a daring and innovative move
within the discipline at the time in which it was first applied by Geertz.
Geertz's thick description methodology in examining culture as a text
was employed at least in part by Geertz in order to highlight emergent
themes for subsequent juxtaposition and analysis. The employment of
Geertz' methodology serves here as a means by which to find ways to
provide interpretation and meaning to the holistic experience of the
Hurricane Katrina survivor as experienced within each person's contextual
situation. What Geertz had found was that a capturing of a holistic
dynamic was essential, if there were be a more complete understanding of
culture as composed of agents acting within contextually relevant
situations. This methodology he ultimately termed as thick description.
33


The best teaching example what Geertz' meant by this term might well be
the when is a wink a wink example as given by Gilbert Ryle, where
Ryle lays out a description of a variety of contexts in which a wink or
twitch can range anywhere from a meaningless gesture to one that is
pregnant with meaning. In contrast, thin description would describe
only the bare essentials of the mechanics of the wink, minus the context
that might explain or give purpose to a mere mechanistic event (Geertz
1973:7).
Rather than just laying out a thin description of how my 3 subjects
experienced the events surrounding Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath, I
have chosen to follow along the path of Geertz in delving further into who
my subjects are, within the contextual situations that they have come from,
and how such interactions have led in turn to how they experienced the
events of Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath with regard to their
individual lives. The findings from this undertaking are then to be
juxtaposed as well as analyzed through the lens of a Critical Theory
approach to the issues at hand. In borrowing this methodology from
Geertz, I am perhaps not taking on the explication of cultures writ large,
34


but rather by using his methodological approach, trying to move closer to
existential meanings for such individuals, each trapped within the webs of
their own contextual situations. I believe then, that the interpretive
methodology of Geertz best serves the task at hand to which I have
assigned myself in this work. I am also indebted to the work of Oscar
Lewis and his two major studies, The Children of Sanchez and La Vida.
Although the theoretical explanations may now be outdated, it was
through these two works that I was first introduced to ethnography and its
possibilities, long before my formal education in this area had begun.
35


CHAPTER 4
ETHNOGRAPHIC INTERVIEWS
Eddie
Eddie is a 31 year old African American man, bom in the city of
New Orleans and raised in the 7th Ward of that city, who today finds
himself living in Denver, Colorado through circumstances that originated
with the landing of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita along the Gulf Coast of
Louisiana in August and September of 2005. His route to Denver was a
circuitous one, beginning with his self-evacuation from New Orleans
shortly before the landfall of Hurricane Katrina. Leaving the city with a
brother and sister, Eddie initially believed that they would return back to
New Orleans once the hurricane had passed through, however with the
multiple failings of the city levee system a day or so after the storm, it
became clear that there would be no returning to New Orleans for the
immediate future. This change in events led Eddie and his siblings to
decide to travel via car to the East Coast, to Philadelphia, where Eddie's
sister had contacts; she subsequently married an attorney from there who
36


now provides Eddie with legal information from time to time.
After leaving Eddie's sister in Philadelphia, the two brothers
traveled on to Baltimore, at first receiving very little assistance of any
kind as Katrina evacuees. Requests for even simple items like toiletries
made in person to places such as Walgreens were denied, but the two were
able to obtain Red Cross cards shortly thereafter, and then obtain a
modicum of initial assistance. Being informed that opportunities for
resettlement were being offered in Denver, Eddie decided to take up the
offer, and was taken to Denver after spending about one week in
Baltimore.
In Denver, Eddie was processed through the former Lowry air
force base complex, toward a longer-term settlement in Denver. Eddie was
able to gain some initial assistance from Catholic Charities in the early
days of his relocation to Denver, but his resettlement assistance was cut-
off approximately two months after being initiated. Eddie believes that the
reason for this was his past felony conviction for the possession of illegal
substances in conjunction with firearms-related items. Because of this
issue, Eddie has run into problems in his time in Denver in attempting to
37


rent apartments, which includes being told on at least on occasion that,
we've already helped a Katrina victim; an apparent indication that this
particular apartment complex had fulfilled its obligations by taking in at
least one party already that had been dislocated due to Katrina.
Regarding his felony conviction, according to Eddie, one day
during his mid-twenties, he was talking with two juveniles on a street, one
of whom was smoking a joint. During the conversation, Eddie happened
to be holding some ammunition in his pocket for his brother (he did not
elaborate further on this, and I took it to be something relatively normal
for him, as based upon the casual way in which he related the story).
Police made contact with the group based upon the youth smoking the
joint, and Eddie related to me that eventually a deal was made between the
two juveniles and the arresting officer wherein the (non-prosecutable)
juveniles were essentially coerced to turn on him, stating that all illegal
substances found at the scene were in fact Eddie's. This, put together with
his holding of the ammunition, resulted in a charge for possession of
illegal substances in conjunction with firearms related items, a felony
charge. The manner in which Eddie made this contact with the legal
38


system is not untypical in light of how black youth in the city of New
Orleans encounter this system in the course of growing up in that city.
New Orleans has one of the largest urban prison systems in the country,
and punishment rather than prevention has always been the mainstay of
how the system has been employed against black youth in New Orleans.
Among the more alarming facts about the nature of the judicial
system in that city include the continuation to this very day of a long-held
Southern practice of arresting black men for relatively minor, or at times
even contrived legal violations, whereupon such men are then
outsourced as labor crews, to whomever might call the holding facility
requesting men to work on private enterprise labor projects throughout the
city. This practice has been documented by those such as Douglas
Blackmon in his work, Slavery By Another Name, which describes how
Southern blacks after emancipation were arrested on varieties of trivial or
non-existent charges in order to fill the labor needs that Southern business
entities continued to have after the end of the Civil War and the supposed
ending of slavery. The practice continued in large part well into the WW
II era, and was finally suppressed largely over the shame of Nazi charges
39


concerning the continued maltreatment of American blacks in the United
States (Blackmon 2008:380). It seems though, that remnants of such
practices continue even today, as prisoners in varied Southern localities
are still outsourced to business interests as cheap labor; a practice in line
with the neoliberal agenda and the ongoing privatization of prison systems
which are increasingly the suppliers of low cost labor no matter the source
or context, as long as the market can supply such needs, cheaply and
efficiently (Templeton 2007).
With his arms tattooed with flames, roses and a cross; a type of
symbolism more akin to the Catholic culture of New Orleans and other
urban areas where ethnic, working-class young men such as my father had
come from, Eddie's tattoos had almost a '50's era feel to them, similar to
the youth gangs of the 1950's. This was a time when one might identify
religious affiliations and other such basic descriptors on the skin, as
opposed to the gangsta-related symbolism more prevalent today in
places like Washington D.C. or Los Angeles, where certain numbers such
as 187 or 18 have a deadly significance today. It turned out that this
reading fit Eddie himself pretty well; an essentially decent individual,
40


morally grounded, but someone who grew up in a rough environment, and
was able to handle himself and, do what you have to do, including and
especially, time in prison, if the circumstances might dictate it. Eddie had
mentioned time in prison, which presumably was at least in part due to his
felony conviction, but seemed uncomfortable elaborating further on this
particular issue. It may have been my own discomfort as well in pressing
further into this area, however it seemed that elaboration tended not to
follow in our discussions surrounding the issue.
Eddie describes his father only as a crackhead, and seems to
have little if any relationship with him. Eddie's mother, on the other hand,
is described by Eddie as a very strong, willful woman, who tried to keep
Eddie on the right course during his youth, despite his occasional
tendencies to revert back to the ways of the street. He describes his mother
as working several jobs and sleeping on a couch in the living room, so that
he and his siblings could attend private Catholic schools in their middle
and high school years. Eddie also describes himself as having been raised
Catholic; going through catechism and all, although no one believes me,
he stated. The kids that Eddie grew up with he describes as being
41


creative, in finding ways to exist and even thrive in the urban conditions
which make up much of New Orleans, once one turns off the main streets
like St. Charles Avenue, or Esplanade or Clairbome. He describes kids
playing basketball in neighborhoods without courts, out in the street itself
where the curb is used as the 'goal', and a properly ricocheted shot off of a
curb as being consistent with scoring a goal. It would seem that such
things as Boy Clubs or Girls Clubs were unknown to Eddie, an indication
of the lack of resources put into communities as possible preventative
measures with regard to keeping children away from some of the more
dangerous and seductive activities that might lure such young persons into
more serious trouble later on in life. There seems to have been, then as
now, very few preventative services in New Orleans as one might find in
other cities such as Oakland, Chicago or New York. This is an indication
of yet another facet of neglect for at-risk youth in New Orleans, and
another example of how punishment as tied to the neoliberal agenda takes
precedent over any form of preventative measures which might well be
more effective in combating the problems of crime and youth
unemployment in the city in the longer run.
42


After Katrina, many of the citys public housing projects, some
mostly undamaged by the flooding, were condemned for demolition; a
plan that many of the city's residents, particularly black, believed had been
lying in wait for the proper time and circumstances which would then
make such a plan finally feasible. The same goes for Charity Hospital, the
massive edifice of a hospital built by Huey Long to serve indigent
residents of New Orleans, known also as, the place where you go to die,
according to the common lore as related to me by Eddie. The majority of
the public housing projects of New Orleans however, as well as Big
Charity, as it is locally known, were damaged and destroyed by the
flooding following Katrina, and as of this writing most of the housing
projects as well as Charity, sit as empty decrepit monuments, fenced off
from access and left to decay and crumble, with no apparent plans for
rehabilitation. Such a plan of neglect is taken by the local residents to be
just another part in a plan for the rebuilding of New Orleans as a new Las
Vegas of the South, in which black people will not live or be seen, unless
they work in the new service industries that renewal might create as a re-
envisioned tourist attraction as directed by the neoliberal agenda. Where
43


such workers might live, is something that apparently is not part of this
plan, and in line with the ffee-market approach, solely the problem of such
displaced workers.
With the exception of the limited time in which he was enrolled in
Catholic schools, Eddie describes his youthful school experience as one in
which whites, at least students, essentially did not exist. Jonathon Kozol
has written extensively on the phenomenon of the current resegregation of
many of America's schools subsequent to the integration efforts of the
50's, 60's and 70's. White flight from the inner core of American cities in
the 1960's and 70's has left places such as Detroit, Oakland and New
Orleans with an urban core almost exclusively black, and increasingly
Latino in many cases. These urban cores consist of children who, in terms
of their education, become systemically valued at different monetary
levels as according to their geographical location, and this phenomenon
starts as early as the infant and toddler years. Hundreds of thousands of
children in such circumstances are locked out of access to early childhood
educational opportunities simply due to the geographical circumstances
that they were bom in, while children of the privileged are, given
44


veritable feasts or rich developmental early education in large part due to
their abilities to afford as such. Yet as early as the third grade, inner-city
children are mandated to take so-called high stakes tests, which in many
cases determine whether such children can be promoted (Kozol 2005:53).
In a bittersweet commentary upon such circumstances, Kozol writes that,
What saddens me the most during these times is simply that that these
(inner-city) children have no knowledge of the other world in which I've
lived most of my life and that the children in that other world have not the
slightest notion as to who these children are and will not likely ever know
them later on, not at least on anything like equal terms, unless a couple of
these kids get into college. Even if they meet each other then, it may not
be the same, because the sweetness of too many of these inner-city
children will have been somewhat corroded by that time. Some of it may
be replaced by hardness, some by calculation, some by caution rooted in
unspoken fear. I have believed for 40 years, and still believe today, that
we would be an infinitely better nation if they knew each other now
(Kozol 2005:11). The issue of segregation as part of Eddie's public school
experiences, serves as but another example of the process of the
45


resegregation of school systems in America, where the lack of white
students correlates unsurprisingly with a lack of school funding, decrepit
infrastructure, and a prevailing apathy in light of ever falling mandated
test scores in schools; where separate but unequal has now become again
the rule and not the exception.
One continuing observation that Eddie often makes in my
conversations and car rides with him, is the differences between New
Orleans and Denver, which I describe in our conversations as the cultural
differences between the two regions. Central to Eddie's observations are
how the lifeways of the South, in which relatives are always nearby,
persons know each other from the neighborhood, and adults watch over
other's children, contrasts starkly with a Denver in which neighborhood
street life becomes essentially non-existent after 7pm for the most part,
and persons tend to avoid rather than interact with each other. The
purchasing of Southern or Louisiana-style meals from small comer
grocery stores, common daily occurrences in New Orleans, are something
essentially unknown to this city.
Such are the cultural distinctions in lifeways that cause Eddie to
46


miss what made New Orleans home for him. He was constantly tom
between that feeling for home, as contrasted with a darker New Orleans
in which violence was ever further was becoming the norm. This is
followed up by a lack of employment opportunities in New Orleans,
especially if such opportunities might be something other than low-paid
tourist-oriented service work. The lack of opportunity though, Eddie never
described as having racial or historical derivations, despite my efforts to
determine whether racism had hampered his opportunities in growing up
in New Orleans. Eddie seemed to have taken the view that people are
willing to give you a chance, as long as you present yourself well and are
respectful. Eddie's experience with non-black people in New Orleans
came mainly through the workplace, and it is within this venue that Eddie
described how opportunities might be exploited, as dependent upon how
one presents oneself.
I am still uncertain as to whether this characterization was a
genuine belief, an idealistic belief, maybe a combination thereof, or
perhaps even a false presentation, presented to me for my consumption as
the researcher-as-authority-figure. In my conversations with others from
47


New Orleans, the issue of race is either not discussed openly, or is spoken
about in fairly polite terms when the matter comes up. It may well be, that
in an all-black, or an all-white environment, the issue of race is not so
much important on a day-to-day basis. In Eddie's case, particularly in
growing up, there seems to have been almost no persons of other races
save his own, with which to interact. Problems encountered in the
community such as violence, lack of jobs, drug sales and usage, are
described by Eddie not as symptoms whose origins might lie outside of
the community, but as the result of'evil' or 'wickedness' located within his
community. Eddie was of the opinion that God had become so tired of the
wickedness that he may well have sent Hurricane Katrina as a punishment
upon the city. I gather from this and other observations, that Eddie's
outlook on life is largely a fatalistic one; that in his view, things happen
to you, and the best one can do is to learn to endure and roll with what
fate might dish out from time to time. This is a very Catholic
interpretation of the world, as I know from my own life experience, and it
is the sort of opinion that you will hear many New Orleanians express
about life in their city. Despite such a Catholic, fatalistic outlook
48


though, shortly upon meeting Eddie and listening to his story, he greatly
surprised me by quoting at one point from Nietzsche, (and he said he did
in fact know that the quote was from Nietzsche), That which does not
destroy me, makes me stronger. Here he taught me, or at least reinforced
for me, a very valuable lesson indeed. Never, ever, judge a book by its
cover.
Even Eddie's car displayed signs of his loyalty and affection for
New Orleans, with several Saints emblems pasted on the windows, and
another Saints emblems hanging from the mirror, as I noted on the day
that we drove over to the mechanic's shop where his car was undergoing
bodywork as a result of his car accident of March 2008. Eddie had
complained previously to me about the (black) mechanic who was
working on his car, as being someone who evaluated him (Eddie) as
lacking in education, and therefore an easy mark to take advantage of in a
dispute over auto body repairs. I witnessed this mechanic myself, whose
impression to me was of one who was indeed, a smooth, fast-talking
type, one probably used to getting over on his clientele if the situation
might warrant it. In other words, we both agreed that in getting his car
49


repaired, unfortunately he was dealing with someone who was just a little
bit shady. My last update with Eddie indicated that the guy was still
giving him the runaround as to repair costs and when the work would
ultimately be completed.
Eddie had continuously presented to me a high degree of moral
character in the expression of his thoughts, philosophy of life and the
majority if not all of his decision-making processes. In conversations over
the ever rising tide of violence, particularly amongst youth in the city of
New Orleans, as well as with a specific incident in which I related a news
story of a tourist in the French Quarter responding to a robbery attempt
with a gun of his own, exchanging shots and subduing his would be
assailant, Eddie shook his head and said that those young people pulling
such stunts should well have known better. He related stories of children
getting ice from the Icehouse, breaking it into portions on the sidewalk,
and selling the pieces of ice to very willing tourists in the sweltering
French Quarter for a few dollars. Other children would go out and buy
taps for their basketball and tennis shoes, nail them on, and perform tap
dancing for tourists in the French Quarter for a few dollars, and some kids
50


would find old buckets with which to perform their own unique style of
drumming for the pleasure of tourists in the Quarter. The entrepreneurial
spirit of these young people as expressed by Eddie seemed almost never
ending, and is an example of an adaptation to circumstances in order to
gain income that replicated the ingenuity of people in need anywhere and
everywhere else around the world today, as the neoliberal agenda sweeps
across the globe.
Eddie's Creole Mixture
Eddie instructed me in our talks about the multi-cultural history of
New Orleans, a history that he seemed both proud of, while also realizing
its centrality for the promotion of tourism in his city; something that he
noted as of vital interest for 1 New Orleanians of all classes. Eddie himself
is a mixture of those various elements which make up so many New
Orleanians: Native American, French, African are the strains that he
mentions which run through his own family. When I tell him that I think
that I can see some of the Native American heritage in his face and eyes,
51


as I had already noted in some other black New Orleanians I had met or
encountered, Eddie blinked and seemed to think about this for a second,
and then related to me how he was able to predict by the feel in his body,
the weather and when it will rain, up to a day before such an event
actually occurs. I took this to be something that Indians can do, and as
someone whose mother is almost entirely Native American, amusedly
tucked it away as one of those things which we all believe that other
groups have certain special powers over. In an effort to determine if his
family had memories of arriving in the city from elsewhere at some point
in history, Eddie smiled broadly, and said, No, no, we have always been
in New Orleans. The sense in which he stated this is similar to the ways
in which many Native American people will tell you that they have always
been here, in the Southwest, or in the Black Hills of South Dakota, or in
the Pacific Northwest. A tale of mythic origins, in which traditional
peoples will claim to have always been where they are located and have
longed lived. I was surprised, in hearing Eddie relate a similar sense of
origination in a semi-mythical city, with street names like Erato or
Calliope, Elysian Fields or Tchapitoulas. One thing to note when in New
52


Orleans; that it is vitally important to the natives to pronounce their street
names correctly, New Orleans-style. Calliope is pronounced Cal-ee-ope,
and Eddie assured me that Dorgenois is not as it looks, Dor-gen-wah, but
in fact is pronounced Der-zhen-wah. Correct pronunciation is very
important in New Orleans, and it stands as a reflection of the cultural pride
of New Orleanians.
Eddie and I conversed as well upon the unique history of New
Orleans, the influences of the Spanish, French, African, Native American
and other strains that are still recognizable and relevant even today in the
city. Eddie informed me that the reason it's called New Orleans is because
of another, older Orleans, back in the Old World, for which it was named,
and described how the architecture of the French Quarter was a reflection
of his city's multi-varied history. He was well aware that his city is
unique in so many ways, historically, culturally, in the corruption that is
endemic to the city, and in the way things are done, ways that don't seem
so democratic sometimes, in the American sense. Eddie brought up to
me the issue of the Napoleonic Code, upon which much of the legal
structure of New Orleans and Louisiana is based, as perhaps one reason
53


for why this region is so different from the rest of the country. I mention
to him that much of the way things are done in Louisiana and New
Orleans, in the legal sense and otherwise, seem more akin to how things
are conducted in Mexico and Latin America, where legal systems are also
based upon the Napoleonic code. When I tell him that this observation is
based upon my own experiences and travels, and that I sense that New
Orleans and Louisiana share almost a Latin affinity or outlook as to
such things as culture and lifeways, Eddie is in ready agreement with this
observation. We agreed that the affinities between his city and Latin
America are both geographically as well as metaphysically, closer to each
other, than the city is to much of the rest of the United States.
I had first met Eddie at a clothing store along E. Colfax Ave. in
downtown Aurora that caters to young black people. The name of the
store, Louisiana Fashions, was an indication to me of possible connections
to the Gulf region, so one particular day after driving by many times
previously, I decided to go in and talk to the staff about my project and
locating Katrina evacuees now living in Colorado. Inside were a small
group of young men gathered around the register and the manager, Kelvin
54


Towne. After Kelvin's brother Damon asked if I needed help, I stated my
purpose for the visit to the store. Damon then pointed to the guy next to
him, saying that he was in fact from New Orleans and was now here
because of Katrina. This young man took a somber tone with me as I
approached him on the subject, but very shortly thereafter could not
contain a certain amount of laughter. Unable to hold the ruse for more
than a few seconds, Damon said, Naw, he ain't really from New
Orleans, whereupon I playfully shoved Damon in the arm for his
chicanery, and a good laugh was had by all. Thereafter, Damon and
Kelvin indicated that they would help me locate people for my project,
and in fact pointed out several people during that afternoon that fit the
parameters of what I had been looking for. In taking down names and
numbers and describing my project, I met Eddie, who Damon pointed to
with a, He's from New Orleans as Eddie walked into the store that day
with a styrofoam carton of food for delivery. I walked up to Eddie, who
looked slightly nervous at first, wondering who this guy with the pen and
paper in hand might be. I explained to him my project and asked if he
would be interested in participation, and he indicated that he would,
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giving to me his name and number. I found out upon speaking with Eddie
that he had very recently started a catering-delivery business out of his
home, featuring Louisiana-style cuisine, and was delivering an order that
very day to Kelvin and Damon. Eddie told me about how he was working
from home now, but was looking to rent a place for his business, and had
looked at a place directly across the street from the Immaculate
Conception Cathedral near downtown Denver. I have to say that I was
quite impressed with what this young man was doing, a Katrina victim
and survivor, creating a job for himself, and making a go of it. I had hoped
that if I could interview any one person for my project, that he would
hopefully be at least be one of them, provided that he would be willing to
participate. After initially losing his contact information, I was eventually
able to reestablish contact with Eddie, and then begin to work with him in
telling his story of New Orleans and the tragedy of Katrina.
In previous discussions with Eddie about the entrepreneurial bent,
or the type of hustle one has to undertake in order to make ends meet in
New Orleans, it had occurred to me that Eddie exhibited the same drive in
starting up a catering business run from his home. The business brought in
56


a few extra dollars, although profits were slim in the early going for sure.
As we talked over various topics including the catering business and
Louisiana cuisine in general, and how Eddie had worked at Applebees in
New Orleans for about 2 years, making $6.50/hr. and feeling the lack of
upward mobility during this period in his life, the name of A1 Copeland,
the founder of Popeyes came up. Eddie spoke with extreme admiration
for Mr. Copeland, going so far at one point as to say, I love that man. It
was clear that Eddie had taken A1 Copeland as a role model of sorts, an
idealized father figure whom perhaps stood in the place of his own absent
father while growing up. A1 Copeland had a youthful life not far removed
from Eddies own, growing up in the St. Thomas projects in New Orleans,
never graduating from high school (something that Eddie in fact did), and
had worked his way up from the bottom in the restaurant and franchising
business, eventually founding the Popeyes chicken fast-food chain. Mr.
Copeland was known for his flamboyant personality, extravagant interests
such as speedboats and racing, as was in fact the wealthy businessman
who sponsored the annual Christmas lights event in his neighborhood that
had become nationally known. This became an event, Eddie says, in
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which blacks became eventually unwelcome in the neighborhood during
the Christmas display season, arriving in numbers too large to make the
local residents feel safe and comfortable, and eventually the light display
event was discontinued due to pressure on Copeland by neighbors tired of
the crowds in the area during the Christmas season.
Copeland was also known for his over the top activities, which
included getting into a fight with business rivals in parking lot at one point
later in his career, his pregnant wife being knocked to the ground, and
both being hospitalized after the scuffle. Apparently Copeland was a very
feisty individual, not afraid to mix it up every now and then if necessary.
Such a story of Eddie's admiration for the man indicated to me that
bridges and barriers of race many times are crossed over in New Orleans,
as I had seen before, so that a young black man could idolize an
extravagant white man whose background was not far removed from
another boy from the 7th Ward. This example to me was indicative of the
intricacies of relationship and race in New Orleans, and I could see why
Eddie thought so much of the man, an anti-hero of sorts done well. Such a
story can cross all barriers of class and race, perhaps because the roots of
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it are not so far removed from those who can relate to such a tale.
On some occasions, Eddie would lament the crime and corruption
in New Orleans that made returning seem less palatable, all while
reminiscing upon the culture and food that made his city unique as
nowhere else in America or even the world. I come here (to Colorado),
and people can't understand me, he would declaim, with his unique
Southern New Orleans drawl in which words are sometimes stretched out
longer than what we're used to in the Standard Midwestern English of
Colorado. Even rap music in New Orleans, the localized versions of which
young blacks in the region listen to almost exclusively, has that slower,
drawn out quality, as opposed to the rapid New York City style delivery of
the ubiquitous rapper Jay-Z, who Eddie states, is listened to, but not nearly
with the enthusiasm for which a Juvenile or Mystikal, a 3rd Ward Weebie
or a Soulja Slim might be listened to by kids in New Orleans. Although
never having a national hit, Soulja Slim, bom as James A'Daryll Tapp, the
only son of a mother who worked as a maid in hotels, and who raised her
son in the Magnolia projects of the Third Ward, the MP3, exemplified the
quintissential New Orleans rapper, and is still amongst the most respected
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and admired of his genre, even in the death that so many of similar
backgrounds whose lives began and ended in the streets have succumbed
to. Authenticity was his greatest strength, having lived the life, and with a
flow full of both biblical imagery as well as life lived in the gutter, and he
shouted back for many such as Eddie, life as they were familiar with it.
As Nik Cohn states in Triksta, He personified the split that lay at the
city's heart-fierce joy in being alive, compulsive embrace of death (Cohn
2005:9). The authenticity of his message rang true for those such as Eddie,
who told me that I wanna hear someone rappin' bout what I know, in
describing the local penchant for New Orleans rappers who one might
have known personally, or whose lives paralleled those of so many others
who listened to the story of their own lives played back to them, over
booming bass speakers.
Time in Denver, CO
As of this writing, it is closing in upon three years since Eddie
evacuated New Orleans and ended up in Colorado at after a short
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diversion to the East Coast. In that time, Eddie has found a woman in
Colorado that he desired to marry, has had a child with that woman, and as
of now, has separated from her, largely it seems because of the stress of
the financial situation stemming initially from his car accident of March of
2008. The car accident led to Eddie's inability to carry on with his
burgeoning catering business, had caused his fiancee to be unable to reach
her job in the Denver Tech Center, and as well had led to limitations in
possibilities for other work due to the loss of transportation. One chance
event seems to have played a significant role in a downward spiral for
Eddie, both economically as well as socially. Eddie mentioned on one
occasion that he was, ...tired of starting over, as he had done this too
many times before in his life, including more recently with Katrina, to be
at ease with it anymore.
In his almost three years in the Denver area, Eddie had found work
with the Denver Water Department, which lasted approximately one year,
and which Eddie described as, ...not all that it's cracked up to be. In
terms of my thoughts that this seemed to have been a pretty good position
and opportunity, and although Eddie wouldnt get into the circumstances
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in which he left the Water Department, he did describe the work largely as
that of the grunt sort; digging up the concrete foundations of fire
hydrants that needed maintenance or replacing, standing in holes and
removing large chunks of concrete. In addition to this work, Eddie had the
work of his fiancee in the Denver Tech Center to help the two survive on,
and had recently started his catering business when I'd met him, which had
begun to show signs of potential for pulling in a profit as time progressed.
However, after initially considering Eddie's drive and motivation to be a
fantastic display of entrepreneurial spirit and enterprise, after subsequent
conversations I then began to wonder if this was as well a way perhaps to
make off-the-table income that could not be traced back to trailing
creditors that included student loan entities and child welfare agencies (in
addition to the new child that Eddie had in Denver, he had as well a six-
year old child by another woman in New Orleans, and claimed that there
was at least one other woman there trying to trap him into child welfare
payments) that Eddie had mentioned. His entrepreneurialism, in addition
to his drive and initiative, may also have had to do with the difficulties
involved in gaining employment while holding a felony conviction. The
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trailing pressures of his past I came to believe, probably added to Eddie's
ambivalence about returning to New Orleans. I remember that on one
occasion he had stated feelings of having abandoned his city, running
away at a time when he perhaps could have made some contribution to the
city's revival.
All this leads to what Eddie is doing now. Several months after the
car accident, Eddie was able through his cousin to land a job at a
warehouse in Aurora, pulling orders for local health food stores in the
metro area. The job starts at noon, and the work is performed until
completed, which many times can be anywhere from nine to midnight.
Eddie takes two buses to his job, and must either sometimes wait for a bus
in the middle of the night in order to return home, or rely upon the
generosity of his cousin, who many times makes a trip far out of his way
in order to bring Eddie back to Aurora. Eddie works as much as he can in
order to pay back late bills, to turn his phone back on, and to reclaim his
laptop from the pawn shop. Such then are the conditions of starting
over, where a simple car accident can be as devastating as a hurricane for
those who are at the lower end of the economic totem pole; transient, used
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to misfortune, and fatalistic about processes that whirl about them either
seemingly without cause, or as raised perhaps by malevolent forces.
Eddie's worldview on this matters seemed to waver from self-
responsibility for one's actions, and for the results of those actions (as in
his description of his troubles earlier on in his life, for which he blames
himself), to a God who was simply tired of all the mess these people
were pulling... in New Orleans BK Before Katrina, and a God who had
finally decided to do something about it. Such a perception moves back
and forth from the primacy of agency in personal affairs, to the fatalism of
a God who can move in ways in which it beyond the powers of the agent
to respond to other than passively.
Eddie's is a moralistic outlook, influenced by his own particular
brand of Catholicism and Christianity, where one is responsible for one's
own doings, but cannot but endure the calamities brought on by a God
more Old Testament than New at times. It is also a sort of fatalism which
provides support for how one proceeds forward through life, particularly
for those who lack power and control over little more than their own
bodies, and at times not even that in some cases. Such a worldview
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provides the psychological support for making the journey through all of
life's turbulences, yet many times negates the need for any questioning as
to whether such turbulence is in fact inevitable, or might possibly be
derived from other forces: institutional, social, religious, or economic in
nature, that serve only some and usually only the few, at the expense of
the many. I can only hope that Eddie's pattern of starting over turns one
day from an acceptance into a questioning Why? As with the quest of
Perceval in the Castle of the Grail King, by the asking of a simple
question, the Waste Land itself might then one day become healed.
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Terry
Terry is a white, 79 yr. old, lifelong resident of New Orleans.
Terry also happens to be my uncle, a relative by marriage whom I had
never met until August of 2008, when I made my second trip to New
Orleans. Terry was bom and raised in New Orleans, where he grew up in
the Gentilly neighborhood section of the city. He attended parochial
Catholic schools in the city, and graduated from Jesuit High School in
1946, and later from Loyola University, both located in the city. He is the
son of a railroad man who started as a messenger boy, and who retired at
the age of 75 from the railroad. Terry's mother stayed at home with him
and his sister, and the family lived in a shotgun double house that they
rented. Terry says that his parents struggled greatly, and did without much
in terms of material goods in order to send the children to the local
Catholic schools. He feels very thankful for such parents, as he believes
that some other children with perhaps more materially, did not have
parents who had sacrificed as much for their own children as did his.
Catholicism has permeated and encompassed much of Terry's life, through
66


his schooling and education, as well as through parents who took the
family to weekly Sunday Mass, novenas and other holy days of the
Catholic calendar. To this day he is a practitioner of Catholicism,
following the dictates and teachings of the Catholic Church, and believing
in pretty much all of it, as he states.
Terry's paternal antecedents originally came from Alsace-Lorraine,
situated on the border between Germany and France. His mother was left
on the steps of an orphanage in New York City, and was later adopted by
a large family, so not much is known of her side of the family. Terry's
grandparents lived in New Orleans, and it seems that his great-
grandparents were the first of his family to settle in the city, which was
certainly before 1900, most likely at some point during the mid-nineteenth
century.
Completing high school and ultimately earning a finance and
business degree at night from Loyola University, Terry was able to find
work in order to support a wife and newborn, working a weekday job
along while following his love of music with bebop gigs on the weekends,
He was able eventually to buy a home near both Lake Pontchatrain and
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the 16th Street Canal in the Lakeview section of New Orleans in the early
1960's, a home he and his family were to live in for 47 years with no
issues related to flooding or hurricanes, until the events of August 2005.
Terry began to work for a wholesale distributor of household appliances,
eventually becoming the firm's credit analyst for analysis of business
partners and retailers with whom his firm did business. This job supported
Terry, his wife and two children, through college and into adulthood, and
is the job from which Terry retired several years ago. Such work, as based
upon Terry's educational opportunities and personal efforts, allowed for
Terry to have a relatively comfortable middle-class lifestyle in a section of
the city that was to grow markedly in property values, being located near
the affluent lakeshore and tucked away from other areas of the city less
well off. When Katrina made land in late August of 2005, Terry and his
wife were vacationing in Florida at the home of his sister, and they
watched on television as events unfolded.
Terry can be seen as fairly typical of many white New Orleanians,
in that he is of a specific ethnicity whose ancestors contributed to the
multi-hewn fabric of the city along with those Spanish, French, Italians,
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Irish, English and other groups of Europeans and Africans who settled
New Orleans. New Orleans though, while of the South, is not completely
typical of the South, for a variety of reasons. One major reason is that
New Orleans has always been an urban-centered port, from its beginning
in what is now called the French Quarter, located upon the high ground
next to the Mississippi River. Many have commented upon New Orleans
as being more typical to such cities as New York in this regard, as a
bastion of working-class ethnicities and slave laborers later emancipated,
who together built a key port of entry into the Gulf Coast region of the
country. Another reason for which New Orleans differs from much of the
rest of the South, is that its urban identity contrasts sharply with the
agriculturally-derived plantation economies surrounding it earlier on, built
and controlled primarily by those of English and/or British stock.
Therefore New Orleans, although Southern in geographic location and
outlook, is unique within the South due to its influential Catholic culture,
as well as because of its gumbo of urban ethnicities who built its port and
city as a gateway to the United States through the Gulf of Mexico.
After returning from Florida to his devastated home, Terry
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registered with FEMA and the state-run Road Home program in order to
get a grant to begin the process of moving into a new home. These two
agencies were the primary organizations that he that dealt with, and he did
not receive any assistance from agencies such as Catholic Charities or the
Red Cross. It took approximately one year from the time of application for
Terry to actually receive funds from the Road Home program in order to
begin the process of moving into a new home, and during this one year
time period, Terry and his wife Iris lived in a FEMA trailer set into the
yard of family friends in the River Ridge section of Jefferson Parrish, not
far from their inundated and destroyed original home. Terry and his wife
were allowed use of the friend's home during the day, when the couple
were at work, and would retreat to their trailer in the evenings to allow
some privacy for the couple who had allowed them to live on their
property. Terry's wife would do such things as straighten up the home and
do laundry for the family as a sort of compensation for being allowed to
live in the trailer in the front yard.
At the end of one year of living in the trailer, with no Road Home
money being allocated as of yet, Jefferson Parrish officials began to notify
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FEMA trailer residents within the parrish that trailers would have to be
removed from the parrish, due to the complaints of many residents that
these trailers had become eyesores and a nuisance to the community in
general. The official who notified Terry, agreed to take Terry's file and
place it at the bottom of the stack in order to buy Terry about 2 more
weeks of time before moving would become necessary. Fortunately, this
was just enough time locate a new home in Metairie, a suburb of New
Orleans. His new home is only about a 10 min. drive from the old one, but
this area is on somewhat higher ground, and did not suffer inundation as
did the Lakeview area minutes away.
Terry indicated that he believes that the Road Home program
finally allocated the money to buy his new home after one year under the
threat of a lawsuit for being too slow in allocating grants, and his grant
was finally approved on New Year's Eve of 2006, at 5:30pm, when the
Road Home program was rapidly processing as many grants as possible
up until a midnight deadline, in order not be sued or penalized for slow
turnaround. Two weeks later, in 2007, the money was in Terry's bank
account, and he could then begin to look for another home, as they had
71


decided against attempting the rebuilding of their original home. They
looked for a new home from January 2007 through May 2007, and it was
in May that they moved to a permanent residence in Metairie, a suburb of
New Orleans. During this time of transition for Terry, his adult son
Tommy was also essentially without a home, and an adult daughter was
attempting to rebuild her home in nearby Gulfport, Mississippi, which had
suffered both wind and water damage.
In his youth, Terry was a Bebop musician, a drummer who quit
school at Loyola to go on the road. Women, marijuana; he took part in it
all on the road. Something told him that this life was not going to allow
him to live to be an old musician, and so he therefore decided to return to
New Orleans. His partial scholarship to Loyola now gone, Terry's father
informed him that in terms of school that he was now on his own, so Terry
finished his college education via night school. Being married soon after,
and with a child, working during the week and being a musician on
weekends, was a tough life, but he struggled forward. Terry feels that
because of his experiences, that black youth in his city should be having a
similar awakening to his own, in that some lifestyles can only lead to no
72


good. He also indicated that the fear of corporeal punishment from his
father also shaped him into towing the line, as it were.
For Terry, education is a key in getting black youth into better
positions in society, and that how they speak and present themselves is
critical for such youth in order for them to be able to advance within the
greater community. It was my experience in New Orleans however, that
many if not most white persons there speak in dialect that can be
indistinguishable from how African-Americans in the area speak. There is
in fact a regional New Orleans dialect, known as Yat (from where'yat?" -
which I like to think of as an existential question) that linguists have
compared as similar to the some of the dialects of urban centers in other
places such as New York City, that can still be heard as spoken by both
blacks and whites within the city and surrounding communities.
Relations Between The Races In New Orleans
Terry says that during his childhood experiences, the issue of race
was never a major concern for him growing up. Terry claims that he
73


played and interacted with the few black children around, and indicated
that there were no real problems surrounding the issue of race for him in
that period. As Terry moved into his teen years, a few black families
began to move into the Gentilly neighborhood. Between the period of
about 1945 to the present, the Gentilly area and greater New Orleans East
transitioned from white to black, as whites began to move out to suburbs
such as Metairie where Terry now lives, and St. Bernard Parrish (which
Eddie had stated to me was where what was known as the poor white
trash of the greater New Orleans area lived).
As to race relations today, Terry related that in his view, black
culture has not progressed in New Orleans as it has in other parts of the
country, particularly with regard to responsibility and the structure of the
family. Children bom out of wedlock and absent fathers seem more to be
the norm for him in New Orleans as compared to other places in the
country, and although, they had a lot to overcome, he does not see that
progress has been achieved in New Orleans so much as has been the
case elsewhere. Terry acknowledged that those that did get ahead, in
fact also did have to fight for it, and that many of these people did not
74


have it so easy growing up, but views the disintegration of the black
family in New Orleans as a sort of moral failing. This analysis of moral
failing, however, did not encompass for Terry at all, any of the structural
issues surrounding, for instance, institutional and overt racism and its
connection to issues including crime, poverty, and the disintegration of the
family, but rather was a succinct, if not in-depth, explanation for existing
states of affairs
Terry states that an apartment or duplex complex down the street
from his original home had young black students living there, who went to
the University of New Orleans, as well as other black families living there
at times, and that he would do things such as throw the ball with the
children from the complex. Terry also indicated that in his work
experience, there were some blacks on the job to whom he would be
cordial to, saying hello or good morning, but not much more than this,
as he could tell that, they did not want to mix with white people. Others,
however, such as a man who worked in the television repair section of the
company, Terry got along quite well with, he claims, and he considered
this particular person to be, as white as he was. This, was a very telling
75


statement, as it seemed to indicate that Terry accorded this person all of
the full rights and privileges that he himself would be entitled to as a white
man, and that therefore considered this individual to be an honorary
white, no different from himself really. Such an outlook points toward a
fairly obvious hierarchical structure of race for Terry in the workplace and
most likely in other places in Terrys life, where some persons are
accorded essentially full membership, while others do not fall within
this categorization. Such perceptions may hold greater implications for
how blacks and whites are treated in the work place and elsewhere in the
South. It reveals as much as any statistic might, in that blacks excluded
from the benefits of white privilege may well have life opportunities
perhaps not completely on par with many whites, due to such hierarchical
conditions as found within the South and elsewhere within the United
States. These conditions are certainly not exclusive to the Southern states,
and long held perceptions of hierarchy by race are by now well established
historical conditions that indeed have yet to be removed from modem
American society as a whole (West 1993:4).
Terry's attitudes concerning race relations in New Orleans, appear
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to be fairly typical, perhaps even slightly moderated of those of many
white New Orleanians, as gauged by my conversations and contact with
relatives, professionals from regional non-profits, and other locals, as well
as by following the sub-terannean racial dialogue that appears almost daily
in the online comments sections of the Times-Picayune, New Orleans'
major daily newspaper. Articles which receive the most commentary
usually have to do with either criminal activity or have some racial aspect
to the story presented, either implicit or explicit. These comments many
times turn into a dialogue of taking sides between black and white, in
which whites are on the offensive in the relatively safe zone of online
commentary, while blacks respond defensively to accusations made as to
broken homes and the rate of criminal activity in the black community.
Many of these online voices comment anonymously in such a way that
they surely would not in their real lives, giving expression to their
deep-seated animosities. As is the case in many such social situations,
voices of reason and understanding are usually relatively few and far
between. It is clear, however, from following such discussions, that many
whites in and around New Orleans have little interest in integration,
77


wishing to maintain their enclaves in suburban areas such as Metairie,
Kenner or St. Bernard Parish, and pushing very strongly for ever
increasing roles for law enforcement in all areas of the metropolitan area,
while rarely asking for tax funding to be apportioned to front-end
programs such as schools, community centers or Head Start programs in
New Orleans proper. Such intrinsic and generational perspectives as held
by whites toward African-Americans in the area ensure that access to real,
or economic, opportunity, will for the immediate future continue to be
somewhat more limited for blacks; limited by those who hold on to
opportunity while at the same time holding such prejudgments as does
Terry, a top figure in his career workplace. Such perspectives certainly
limit the opportunities for African-Americans seeking meaningful
employment and upward mobility in New Orleans.
Terry gave to me the example of Vietnamese Americans in New
Orleans: a community with a tremendous work ethic and sense of self, and
contrasted this with his views on the black experience in New Orleans.
Terry thinks that blacks are generally lazy, and that there must be a
genetic component to this. 1 in turn brought up the issue of slavery, as
78


being the factor that the ancestors of African-Americans experienced as
that which is different than the experiences of other groups, and that issues
of social pathology must in some way be connected these beginnings.
There is as well the example as well of blacks from the Caribbean and
Africa now living in America, who although newer immigrants, generally
have not experienced many of the generational problems that have existed
in many of America's inner cities. For Terry though, advocates seeking to
work for and assist black communities, persons such as Jesse Jackson and
A1 Sharpton, are nothing but troublemakers. As for Barack Obama, Terry
states that he's gotten himself to where he is by his own merit, and that his
tone of voice and presentation is wonderful, however, he is not at that
point in time where he should be President, lacking the experience for
now. When I expressed my feeling (in August of 2008) that Barack
Obama might well win the Presidency, Terry responded with an, Ok, but
hes got four years to prove himself, and thats it!, in a very declarative,
emotional way, as if he himself had the power to grant or not grant time
limits upon the office of a Barack Obama Presidency.
Terry as a college educated member of the middle class in New
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Orleans, maintained suitable insurances on his original home, and was
able to understand the various intricacies of the grant programs and
insurance processes that were necessary in order to gamer the funds that
were available to him under existing laws and statutes. His cultural
habitus and social capital assisted greatly with his ability to adjust to the
situation at hand. Even with these advantages, Terry and his wife spent
over one year in a very small, cramped trailer while negotiating through
the intricacies of bureaucratic assistance, so that he and his wife could
then end up only a few miles away from their original, water-logged home
in Lakeview. Such an example demonstrates that even those with
relatively more advantages in New Orleans still had to endure varieties of
hardship long after the forces of Katrina and Rita had faded away. It was
primarily through his own effort, combined with grant assistance and
insurance payouts, that Terry was able to rebuild a stable life for his wife
and himself in nearby Metairie almost two years after the storm of 2005.
For Terry as well as for Eddie, direct government assistance that would
restore victims of Katrina back to former lives was essentially non-
existent. They were left to their own wits for the most part, using the
80


material resources that they could bring upon their circumstances in order
to restore some semblance of normality to their lives. Of course there is an
obvious advantage for those who start out with more resources, material
and otherwise, so that while Terry was able to move into a home that
might be considered even better than the one which was lost, those such as
Eddie, who rented in distressed areas, were not only unable to return to
anywhere near where they had lived and grown up, and in many cases
have been distributed across the United States, seeking some sort of
stability in regions of the country with which they were unfamiliar and
usually had no one to assist them in terms of friends or family. Such are
the examples of the diaspora of the poor under a ffee-market systemic
approach to disasters as took place in New Orleans and along the Gulf
Coast in August of 2005. Those with more have managed for the most part
to restore much of their lives, while those with less remain buffeted by the
winds and waters of Katrina even still.
Of the many distressing issues that I have noted in my travels to
Louisiana, one of the most may well be that the Civil War and its ongoing
effects in that part of the country seem even today, yet to have been
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resolved. The consequences of that earlier catastrophe still echo today,
well on into the 21st century. One can feel the ongoing sense of Southern
rebellion and resistance in New Orleans, as witnessed by the large statue
of a mounted Robert E. Lee in City Park, looking more like a monument
to Simon Bolivar in Caracas than the type of statue that would be found
anywhere else within the United States. Jefferson Davis Boulevard, as
well as Jeff Davis Parish, commemorate that first and only President of
the Southern Confederacy, and it is hard to imagine such memorials to the
secessionist cause being honored anywhere else within the nation, at least
north of the Mason-Dixon line. The Democratic stranglehold on the South,
reversed when Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act in 1965;
lost the South seemingly forever to the Republican Party, and states
rights, citizens councils, the re-segregation of education via the
mechanism of private or parochial schools versus public school systems,
all of these and other issues point to the undeniable fact that problematic
cultural, social, class, economic and racial issues now exist which can all
ultimately be traced back to that original Battle Between the States.
This battle has not been resolved in locations such as New Orleans and
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other places in the South, and it serves as a microcosm for the culture wars
that are still going on throughout the greater United States today. What
might bring the ultimate healing, the balm of Gilead, to such still deep
and ongoing divisions? It seems that history has yet to respond to that still
unfolding question.
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Emily
Emily is a 53 year old woman from the 3rd Ward of New
Orleans, also known as the Uptown neighborhood, whose ancestry would
perhaps have placed her in the status of Creole in an earlier period of
Louisiana's history. Emily is currently a single woman, raised Catholic,
who attended Booker T. Washington High School in New Orleans in the
early 1970's. When Katrina hit New Orleans in late August of 2005, Emily
and her mentally and physically disabled sister were bunkered in with
supplies, ready to weather the storm at their home in the B.W. Cooper
Apartments on the comer of Galvez St. and Earhart Blvd., a housing
project better known in the city as the Calliope housing projects
(pronounced New Orleans-style as Kal-ee-ope, not Kah-ly-o-pee). Emily
had already been offered several rides out of the city prior to the storm's
landing, both by her sister as well as by her daughter and several other
friends, however each of these could only offer one seat, leaving out
Emily's disabled sister Audra. A large group of Calliope resident
neighbors stayed together (Emily had numbered them at twenty-three),
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and it was this group that was rescued after seven days of living off of
stocked supplies and the generator that Emily had acquired before the
storm. This group was ultimately taken by helicopter to Louis Armstrong
Airport in the western part of the New Orleans metro area. In referring to
the preparation or lack thereof on the part of some for the landing of
Katrina, Emily stated to me that New Orleans people are good-time
people, living for the here and now, and not so much worried about
tomorrow. This was her way of explaining why many people, including
those directly around her, did not seem either to be prepared for such a
catastrophe as was she, nor had made plans to escape the city should that
have become necessary. Of course, lack of funds and other resources
surely as well played a role in the decision of many, especially the poor, to
stay in the city.
Prior to Katrina, Emily had been working at Harrah's Casino near
the French Quarter as a casino hostess. She had just received notification
of potential employment at the U.S. Post Office within a day or two of the
landing of the hurricane, but this opportunity was lost during the events of
Katrina. After finally being rescued by helicopter after seven days of
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being stranded along with her particular group of neighbors (during this
period Emily witnessed a man dressed in camouflage clothing in a boat
floating by, thrashing at trees and anything else that went by with a large
stick. She presumed that the man was having a sort of war-time flashback
episode, due to his erratic behavior) Emily and her sister were taken to
Louis Armstrong Airport, where she was then made to stand in a sort of
cattle-call line set up for those being evacuated to board planes leaving
the city. Emily described rather brusque treatment of her and her fellow
evacuees at the airport; being made to feel, almost like animals in being
shuttled along and through a series of lines as they were then ultimately
boarded for destinations unknown. This is something that she
understandably expresses a great deal of resentment about. She in fact got
into a verbal confrontation with one of the officials herding people onto
planes, an apparent airport security person, over how this person was
addressing and dictating the terms of how the group would be evacuated
from the city. Of all the events Emily experienced during Katrina, it seems
from our conversations that this particular situation was the one that was
most upsetting to her in the entire experience. She made clear to me the
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lack of dignity in which they were treated at the airport, and included a
sincere desire that other persons should not be treated in such a way under
such traumatic circumstances, should a similar event occur again in the
future.
Louis Armstrong International Airport had soon turned into
another version of the Superdome or the Convention Center in terms of
the conditions involved in the routing massive numbers of persons through
it. Douglas Brinkley aptly describes the scene in his The Great Deluge,
that Emily and many others experienced during their time at the airport.
Baggage carts carry the evacuees as they walk off, and in many cases, are
carried off by the helicopters. IV's are given on site...it is very hot and the
tarmac is steaming. The emergency personnel try their best to shade the
people from the sun with their hands. Litters are placed on the baggage
cart to assist the victims. The elderly hold tightly to the medical
staff...they are confused. This is an unimaginable scene. Inside the airport
thousands of people are being attended to. Some have died, some are
dying. There is an airline gate sectioned off by a white sheet where the
dead and near-dead lay. (Brinkely 2006:561). Emily, in having already
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heard about the terrible conditions over at the Superdome, had determined
that she and her sister would avoid that place at all costs, however
conditions at the airport were also rapidly deteriorating as more and more
persons were being dropped off there in order to evacuate them from the
city.
Emily was hoping to land at a nearby Southern city, perhaps
Houston, where many other evacuees were being taken, but she was
informed shortly before touchdown that Denver was to be the city where
they would soon be landing. Emily had expressed much distress over this
decision as well, as it was made at the time without any prior consultation
whatsoever with the evacuees. Upon her arrival in Denver, a place she
knew nothing of other than it was supposed to be cold, Emily and her
sister were taken to the former Lowry AFB facility. Red Cross assisted
them with some initial toiletries and clothes for herself and Audra. The
Salvation Army was also present during this initial processing, and she
remembers the Morning Star Church as well as other churches, were also
in assistance during the initial processing at Lowry. Through yet another
church onsite, the Cure D'Ars Catholic Church of Park Hill in Denver,
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Emily met Father Simon and Sister Marion as well as Ms. Phillips, a
Denver Health nurse she later befriended (and through whom I eventually
made contact with Emily), and established the beginning of was to
become her new local church in the Denver area. Cure D' Ars, is a
Catholic church that has traditionally served Denver's black Catholic
community for many years.
Emily and Audra remained domiciled at Lowry, living in
dormitory-like facilities for about six and a half months. During this time,
Emily had to pay close attention to the care of her sister Audra, who
occasionally would be found wandering about or lying in the bed of a
neighbor's room on a few occasions. After six months at the former Lowry
AFB, a Rev. Joe helped with a move to the nearby Lowry Lofts
apartments, where rent was provided free for the first three months, and
where the two sisters came to live for an eventual total of about eight
months.
Emily told me that as FEMA was no longer assisting and
supporting Catholic Charities after a certain point in the Katrina
experience, Catholic Charities could no longer help with assistance after
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the initial eight months at the Lowry Lofts. It was at this point in July of
2006 that the two sisters then relocated to their current address where
they now live today, near the Fairmount cemetery and not far from where
they were initially received in Denver, the former Lowry AFB, now
known as the Lowry community. Both Emily as well as Eddie it seems,
never really relocated more than a few miles at the most, from their initial
disembarkation point at Lowry AFB, and I have often wondered as to the
reasons for this. Perhaps a limited familiarity with the immediate area
turned into a sort of a comfort zone from which the two became reluctant
to move away from. It is quite conceivable that a zone of familiarity
would first have to be established, before a greater knowledge of the
Denver metro area might then follow. It could as well be that initial
assistance was limited by geography to solely to the Lowry area.
Emily's income currently is derived from what Audra receives
from the government as a result of her disabilities, which include the
mental faculties of about a 12 yr. old, progressive glaucoma, crippling
arthritis and other physical ailments. She also has occasional income as
well through work that includes house cleaning at the nearby Windsor
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Gardens retirement complex, and in addition to whatever monies her
children might send to her. She has cleaned apartments at Windsor
Gardens in the past for couples who travel to warmer climes during the
winter, leaving vacant their Denver apartments for lengthy periods of
time. Emily chuckles as she relates to me how she works cleaning the
homes of those who have such options as to summer in warmer climes
while she struggles to find work cleaning the homes of those who can
afford to do as much.
Emily has a high school diploma, but no college degree, yet is an
obviously intelligent, above-average intellect, who spent two years
studying at Dillard, one of the South's prestigious historically black
colleges (HBCU) in New Orleans, as well as having attended for a period
at the University of New Orleans as well as various community colleges.
She has had two husbands; her first relationship lasting for about five
years, and the second for twenty-five years (she still talks to, and still
loves, she tells me tearfully, this husband who left her after 25 yrs. of
marriage for another woman). She has a son, who is now serving in Iraq
after paratrooper training, and a daughter still in the New Orleans East
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area. In New Orleans East, Emily's daughter's house flooded as well
during the levee breaks.
Emily was raised for much of her early life in the Guste Housing
Projects, perhaps better known as the Melpomene Housing Projects. Her
mother was one of the first persons to have a new apartment at this
complex. She lived much of her later years from adulthood on upward,
until Katrina, at the B.W. Cooper Apartments, also better known as the
Calliope Projects. It seems that Emily expresses some embarrassment
about these facilities, referring to them first only as apartments, and then
only later in a second meeting further elaborating upon their other, more
well-known names, as well as providing more detail as to their notorious
reputations. New Orleans is known as a renter's city, in which the
majority of its citizens rent from landlord owners, and after Katrina, rental
rates skyrocketed in the city, as the diminished availability of housing
stock led to higher demand and therefore higher rents. As to the
government projects, most facilities in the United States, at least initially,
were known as fairly benign, clean and safe places to live, and many
eminent personalities including such persons as the historian Howard
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Zinn, have lived in such facilities. With the passage of time however, the
deterioration of the housing stock, and the creation of inner-city ghettos
subsequent to highway construction projects as with the work of the
infamous Robert Moses in New York City and his relocation of thousands
due to highway community improvements; inner-city communities
began a serious descent into spiral, a spiral further accelerated by the
arrival of crack to the inner-cities by the early 1980's (Webb 1998:190).
New Orleans, a major port of entry, was no exception to such events.
Emily relayed to me one incident where she had begged her employer,
Harrah's, not to send her home one evening due to twisting an ankle
during work, because of the extreme danger of being caught outside of her
neighborhood (the Calliope Projects neighborhood) after dark. In her time
living in the Calliope projects, Emily noticed major changes in the
community beginning in the early 1980's, changes that were bringing
much more crime and violence to the area. This was the era in the United
States when the crack epidemic was sweeping through the forgotten areas
of major American cities, and New Orleans was no exception. Her
neighborhood went from being one in which persons and families sat out
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on their porches and stoops as the sun went down to escape the oppressive
heat as well as for the social aspect of visiting friends and neighbors (she
related to me a story where at one point air conditioners were not
allowed in the government projects, and so people had to remove them
very early in the morning from their window sills in order not to be cited
by the housing authority). Neighbors would visit with each other and
passersby, but with the coming of the mid-'80's and crack, things began to
change so that the neighborhood became increasingly dangerous,
particularly after dark. Emily told me that a few years before Katrina, a
washed-out, red-eyed man, who could have been anywhere from 20 to
40 yrs. old came from out of nowhere and snatched her purse as she stood
near her vehicle in front of her residence. A neighbor had witnessed the
whole thing from a nearby apartment. At the time, Emily had a significant
amount of money in her purse, rent funds that she stupidly she says, had
been carrying around for an upcoming payment.
Emily did not attend Catholic schools, but attended and graduated
from Booker T. Washington High in New Orleans. As with Eddie, Emily
was taught to take people as they were or presented themselves, not as
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