Thursday, October 1, 2009

New Orleans in Houston

"Like most Americans, I watched the news coverage of Hurricane Katrina with feelings of shock, sadness and horror. The images of mostly poor, mostly black people stuggling to survive in one of our nation's greatest cities shook me to my core. ... From the bohemians in the 'burbs, to the old ladies at church, to the brothers at the barbershop, it seemed that black Clevelanders were in agreement: government officials would have responded faster and more effectively had the evacuees been mainly middle-calss whites. ... For many African-Americans, including myself, the consequences of the storm only reinforced that we still needed to stick together despite the progress of race relations. However, my feelings about the tragedy of Hurricane Katrina, racial solidarity and views on what it means to be an outsider dramatically changed a year later, when I moved to Houston. The city had become at least a temporary home to 150,000 Katrina evacuees. ... [A] 50-something African-American [shuttle] driver ... welcomed me to the city, told me that black folks 'do pretty well down here,' and then in his next breath said: 'Houston is a great place to live; the only problem is that Katrina has worn out her welcome.' His comment left me dumbfounded. Of all people, weren't black Houstonians supposed to feel especially sympathetic to the plight of the mostly poor, mostly black evacuees? ... But that didn't negate the fact that for many African-American residents, the outsiders from New Orleans were draining the city's resources and were responsible for increased violent crime. It's quite true that at first, the evacuees were greeted with open arms. However, with time, more and more people believed that they were giving the city a black eye (pun intended). It's as if they forgot that the vast majority of evacuees were decent people coping with an indecent situation. The tensions were so thick that there were frequent appeals to reach out to 'our brothers and sisters from New Orleans.' ... I soon realized that many white and Latino Houstonians held the same hostile attitudes toward the evacuees that many African Americans did. ... I've yet to mention my reason for moving to Houston in the first place. I'm a sociology professor and was hired to work on a research grant that focuses on race relations. ... More disheartening though, was our finding that immigration concerns played a very significant role in driving the hostility toward the evacuees. Many local residents viewed the new arrivals from New Orleans in the same negative light as they viewed noncitizens seeking entry into the US", my emphasis, Jason Shelton at the Houston Chronicle, 28 August 2009, link:

Quoted without comment.


Anonymous said...

No... no surprise here.

If an influx of people help a community become more productive and stable then they are welcomed.

But if the newcomers create crime and siphon resources then the community moves to reject them.

The New Orleans evacuees have long overstayed their welcome. I wondered at the time they were settled there what motivation those that are unskilled and lower information would have to return to rebuild their lives in NO when it was comfortable in Houston.

doctorj2u said...

Well, it is no surprise the evacuees from NOLA were looked at as non-Americans because that is exactly how this country treated New Orleans after the flood. Do you think this is because George Bush is a Texan? He did call us "those folk in that part of the world". After 50 years of believing myself an American and 30 years of sending "my" country 36% of my income each year, it was news to me to discover there is no such thing as the USA.