Archive for the ‘Katrina’ Category

Katrina and New Orleans Demographics

September 3, 2007

By John E. Carey
Peace and Freedom
September 3, 2007

This is a story about people facing challenges and those ready, willing and able to turn a disaster into just one more hurdle in life.

Two years after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina we have an opportunity to look at how the victims and displaced responded in a crisis.

A Vietnamese-American friend who lives in New Orleans said to me:  “Mother fled North Vietnam when the communists pushed out the French in 1954.  She walked to South Vietnam and lived for a year in a refugee camp.  In 1975 she was living in Saigon when the communists captured that city.  The economy failed and she and almost all of the people of Saigon were sent into the rice fields to grow food. She called this ‘the second leaving.'”

“My grandfather knew near starvation under the rule of the Japanese invaders during World war II,” she said.  “So our family and many Vietnamese know hardship face to face.”

“After Mother fled the communists in 1975 and worked the fields, she had to smuggle cocaine to feed the family.  She made a plan to flee the communists a third time.  On August 12, 1982, she made it to the U.S.A.  after an arduous journey.”

“When hurricane Katrina destroyed my home and seafood processing business, I had no second thoughts about rebuilding.  This is the home of my Mother’s grand children.”

My friend is named Nga and she represents the faith and determination many in New Orleans and the surrounding Hurricane Katrina ravaged Gulf Coast.

My Vietnamese-born wife, herself a former refugee, calls those Vietnamese who lived through the Japanese occupation, the flight from the communists in the North in 1954, the flight from Saigon in 1975 and the ultimate fleeing from their home country “survivors.”

Nga finished with: “My Mom and all our ancestors went through more than we can ever know.  After Katrina was no time for my family to surrender to a storm.”

But many did “surrender to a storm” as my Vietnamese-American friend said.  This happens in any crisis.

Tulane University professor Richard Campanella has been watching New Orleans and its population’s make up for years.  What he says about the population of Katrina reinforces what Nga told me.

Asians are staying.  Many have already rebuilt their homes and businesses.  Help came from Vietnamese-American communities across America.  And many “Viet Kiew,” those Vietnamese spread across the globe after the communists captured Saigon in 1975, sent money to their countrymen from Norway, Australia, Canada and elsewhere.

Professor Campanella says scores of Hispanics have copme to New Orleans and the Gulf Coast to help rebuild.  They came seeking high paying jobs that were tough: many worked on construction sites.

Many Hispanics say they will stay in New Orleans and several have opened businesses.  The entreprenurial spirit lives.

The White population largely stayed in New Orleans too; and most rebuilt or are doing so now.

Before Katrina the population mix of New Orleans, according to professor Campanella, was 70 percent Black, some 28 percent  White, and the rest were Asian or Spanish speaking people from Mexico and Central and South America.

Today, the Black population of New Orleans is down below 50 percent, Whites are just above 40 percent, the Asian community stayed in New Orleans and the surrounding area and the Hispanic population has surged to an all time high.

Jobs are still available in New Orleans but job growth is slowing.

“The suggestion in the data is clear,” said demographer Elliott Stonecipher. “We apparently are at a place where the post-storm employment recovery is peaking. It may have peaked.”

Where did the Black poluation go and why did they leave? 

People who fled to Texas who agreed to be interviewed said the schools in Texas are better than those in New Orleans and New Orleans still has a troubled healthcare system.

Several hospitals in New Orleans have not reopened and those that have again resumed care face tough staffing shortages. 

The Black population is up in Texas, Washington D.C. and other centers where Katrina victims congregated.  Whether they return to New Orleans or not remains to be seen.

According to Professor Campanella, “Whether one sees these shifts as good or bad, they are complex and fascinating phenomena and we are in a really amazing place to be right now.”

Related:
The Unspeakable Truth: Katrina, New Orleans and Race

Two Years After Katrina, New Orleans Slowly Recovering

September 2, 2007

By Greg Flakus
Voice of America
Houston
29 August 2007

Two years ago Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf coast of the United States, devastating a wide area from Louisiana to Alabama, with an especially tragic outcome in the city of New Orleans, where a surge of water caused by the storm toppled levees and flooded much of the city.

Today, New Orleans continues its slow pace of recovery and urban experts envision a somewhat smaller and somewhat different city. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Houston.

Two years after Katrina, a large number of people who refer to themselves as being from New Orleans still live in Houston and in other cities around the country. Some say they want to return; some are resigned to stay where they are.

Blacks once represented 70 percent of the population, with whites at 28 percent and Hispanics and Asians dividing up the remaining two percent.

Now, he says, the Hispanic population has surged, Blacks are down below 50 percent and whites are just above 40 percent. Another change he sees is fewer children in many neighborhoods and fewer elderly as well. These trends result from poor schools and a weak healthcare system.

Read it all at:
http://www.voanews.com/english/2007-08-29-voa39.cfm

The Unspeakable Truth: Katrina, New Orleans and Culture

September 1, 2007

By John E. Carey
Peace and Freedom
August 30, 2007

After traveling by car from Washington DC to California and back, my Vietnamese-born wife made an unexpected reflection about a segment of America’s population and culture. She talked not about the diversity of El Paso and its neighbor in Mexico, Juarez. She had nothing to say about the green wonders of the San Joaquin Valley, the majesty of the Rocky Mountains or the magnificence of the Mississippi River.

She wanted to talk about the politically taboo subject of Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans, other parts of Louisiana and Mississippi and race.

When President Bush visited the victims of Hurricane Katrina on August 29 to assess the region, the progress and what needed still to be done, he participated in a moment of silence for the more than 1,600 souls lost during the hurricane and its aftermath. My Vietnamese-American friends observed that Mayor Ray Nagin of New Orleans – at the exact moment of the president’s participation in the “moment of silence” – chose to participate in what they called a “moment of noise.”

The mayor went to a “bell ringing” in honor of the souls lost, I explained, an event just as somber and significant as the president’s event.

My immigrant friends didn’t all see it that way.

The diverse city of New Orleans and the surrounding hurricane ravaged area is partially rebuilt. This makes for both “good news” and “bad news” stories on the two year anniversary of the catastrophe.

Cokie Robersts, herself a native of the Gulf Coast, observed on National Public Radio that a Vietnamese-American community she visited had been completely rebuilt. She marveled at the fact that the houses, the church, and practically all the businesses of this community were rebuilt and in service. Then she said, the adjacent “other community” remained destroyed. In fact, she said, this neighborhood’s ruined homes had been removed and sea grass had taken root and overwhelmed the area. Only one or two houses had been rebuilt.

The marsh grass, Ms. Roberts explained, was the only thing thriving in the neighborhood next to the rebuilt Vietnamese-American area.

Ms. Roberts, and other nationally recognized news experts, also observed that much of the tenor of the two year anniversary of Katrina was one of rancor and blame. Many agreed that everyone knew President Bush and his administration were unprepared for the mega-storm and have failed miserably since. Democrats and the Congress deserved criticism too, for not allocating sufficient funds to rebuild faster or more completely. To many people, there was blame enough for just about everyone – everyone that is, in the government.

My friend, Chi Nguyen, who like many Vietnamese-Americans came here to America to escape communism after 1975 when Saigon fell, said this to me: “My mother walked from North Vietnam to South Vietnam pregnant with my sister in 1954 when the communists forced the French out of the north. She fled communism to get to freedom and freedom of religion. My parents fled South Vietnam in 1976 to get to America, the land of freedom, freedom of choice, and freedom of religion. My parents are gone now but after Hurricane Katrina we had but one option: to rebuild without complaint. The government would never have saved us as well as we could save ourselves.”

Cokie Roberts – along with just about every other nationally recognized newsperson or commentator – didn’t mention this story or anything like it for fear of being called tone deaf, politically incorrect, a moron or worse: a racist. The story to be told is that some of New Orleans has been rebuilt by noiseless, determined people of many cultures and backgrounds. Other parts of New Orleans and the surrounding area remain in ruins or even overgrown.

To the immigrant Vietnamese-Americans, refugees from the land of their birth and proud to be free in America, the choice after Katrina was an easy one. Many missed both the president’s moment of silence and the mayor’s bell ringing because they have moved on, rebuilt and were at work on August 29 this year.

The noisemakers awaiting redemption by the government, my immigrant friends told me, may face many years of suffering and waiting no matter who they blame and who runs the government.

It seemed to me that the quiet army of immigrant and other American ants we observed who had already rebuilt with their own sweat and the help of others would probably be better off.

John E. Carey is the former president of International Defense Consultants, Inc. and a frequent contributor to the Washington Times.

Related:

Katrina and New Orleans Demographics

Two Years After Katrina, New Orleans Slowly Recovering