Tuesday, November 6, 2007
A major human rights crisis exists in New Orleans and the Gulf Coast. It is a crisis that denies the basic rights to life, equality under the law, and social equity to Black, Indigenous, migrant, and working class communities in the region. While this crisis was in existence long before Hurricane Katrina, the policies and actions of the US government and finance capital (i.e. banking, credit, insurance, and development industries) following the Hurricane have seriously exacerbated the crisis.
One of the clearest examples of this crisis is the denial of the right to housing in New Orleans, particularly in the public housing sector. Since the Hurricane, the US government through the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has denied the vast majority of the residents of public housing the right to return to their homes. Unlike the vast majority of the housing stock in New Orleans, the majority of the public housing units received little to no flood or wind damage from the Hurricane. Yet, as of October 2007 only ¼ of the public housing units have been reopened and reoccupied. The Bush government refuses to reopen the public housing units in New Orleans because it appears intent on destroying the public housing system, demolishing the existing structures, and turning over the properties to private real-estate developers to make profits.
Based on the discriminatory Federal Court ruling issued on Monday, September 10th, all of the major public housing units in New Orleans are now subject to immediate demolition (the latest report from Monday, November 5th is that HUD will attempt to start the demolition on Monday, November 19th. However, this is being challenged by various legal advocates and will be delayed until at least Wednesday, November 28th pending a Federal court hearing). The first site on the schedule for demolition is the Lafitte housing project. Lafitte therefore, is the line in the sand that must be drawn by all peoples in support of the human right to housing.
Thoughts from someone I know who works for HUD;
Yah, the federal government’s response in New Orleans has been an embarrassment, particularly in regard to the lack of same to the poorest segments of that city. I would say this is a continuation of an attitude that emerged right after Katrina that ran along the lines of, “well, at least, we can get rid of those horrible people in the “worst” (read poorest) parishes.” Unfortunately, under this administration, HUD has been an enabler of such attitudes. It’s sad and I long for the day when we have someone who really cares about poor people setting the Department’s direction.
I can only echo these sentiments, and I'm glad that even the people working for them realize how badly they are fucking up.
Check out more from BFP, The North Star and Redstar, who has an awesome compilation of links to everything you could want (or not want, but need) to know.