These were residents who, admittedly, had been ordered to the Superdome by city authorities despite the woeful lack of supplies or facilities there, and then made to stand out in the hurricane winds while they were systematically disarmed of their self-defense weapons (in blatant violation of the Constitution) by police on their way in -- weapons which (we’re told) police subsequently refused to return when people tried to leave, making any departure far more dangerous.
I wrote on the dispiriting spectacle of these members of the mendicant underclass squawking that the government hadn’t arrived soon enough with their post-disaster handouts. I’ll get to the more traditional missives next week. First, however, someone named Cherry called and left an early morning phone message expressing the opinion that the column in question was “heartless,” “tasteless” and showed I “had no compassion for people of color,” assertions that hardly challenge any of my initial facts or analysis. Ms. Cherry also let me know she was (I listened to it three times to make sure I had this verbatim) “very very very peeved that you could call black people underclass citizens. I am a black person and I am not a underclass by no ’magination.”
Nor did I say she was, unless she’s an unwed mother from Orleans Parish.
Note however, that the European press is calling Katrina “the black storm,” for its perceived disproportionate impact on poor black people (who comprise the majority of Orleans Parish, of course.)
In a left-liberal PBS panel discussion about Katrina on Sept. 2, (http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/political_wrap/july-dec05/bop_9-2.html) Clarence Page, a left-leaning black commentator, said: “A number of shocks happened here. People saw as David mentions the -- what we used to call the underclass really, the lower class of New Orleans, the folks with the most disenfranchised -- those who are left out of the master emergency plan. ...”
At http://mediachannel.org/blog/node/932, the anti-Bush self-described “global network for democratic media,” we learn that after Katrina “a largely minority underclass was trapped in a drowning city. ...”
“The stark vulnerability of a permanent underclass of African Americans living in New Orleans ghettos is terrifying,” wrote leftist Robert Scheer in the Los Angeles Times of Sept. 6.
Brian Dickerson of the Detroit Free Press referred on Sept. 7 to New Orleans’ “black underclass isolated by poverty and substandard education.”
And finally, in the Sept. 9 Washington Times, Michael Tanner of the Cato Institute wrote “The terrible aftermath of Hurricane Katrina has brought to the forefront the plight of New Orleans’ underclass. ... Some commentators are now claiming that New Orleans poverty was a result of ‘the shredding of the social safety net.’ The implication is that, if we had only been willing to spend more money, much of the unfolding tragedy could have been avoided. In reality, however, the federal government has spent nearly $1.3 billion on cash welfare (TANF) in Louisiana since the start of the Bush administration. That doesn’t count nearly $3 billion in food stamps. Throw in public housing, Medicaid, Child Care Development Fund, Social Service Block Grant and more than 60 other federal anti-poverty programs, and we’ve spent well over $10 billion fighting poverty in Louisiana. This doesn’t even begin to count state and local welfare spending. ... Welfare spending rose steadily throughout the Bush administration.”
So why is the mostly-black underclass in New Orleans so mired in poverty? Mr. Tanner explains:
“New Orleans schools are a dismal failure. More than 40 percent of the city’s adults are functionally illiterate, and the school dropout rate is estimated between 35 and 50 percent. Yet the state has repeatedly rejected attempts to give students in failing schools more choice. ... The legislature has regularly killed proposals for even limited voucher programs, most recently in June of this year. Even public-school choice is weak and limited.
“Having children without being married is one of the surest routes into poverty for women and their children,” Mr. Tanner goes on. Yet “Forty percent of babies born in Louisiana are out of wedlock, second highest in the nation. Roughly 80 percent of teen births are out of wedlock. In New Orleans, the out-of-wedlock birth rate is roughly 60 percent and an astounding 96 percent of teen births are to unwed mothers. Study after study has shown the link between welfare payments and out-of-wedlock birth. Louisiana’s welfare policies seem oblivious to this connection.
“Not only does the state have no cap on benefits for additional children born out of wedlock -- a program found to reduce illegitimacy in other states -- but the state continues to offer benefits to set teen mothers up in homes of their own, ‘independent’ of their parents.”
That’s how you get a mostly black underclass, Cherry. I didn’t make it up. If you saw a lot of Caucasian architects and Asian stockbrokers holed up in the Superdome after the storm, you must have been watching a very different set of TV stations than the ones I get. And being “very very very peeved” doesn’t change these facts, by no ’magination.
The Raspberries reunion tour, (predicted in Chapter 9 of “The Black Arrow”) will apparently feature no Las Vegas dates, more’s the pity. But the underrated ’70s Cleveland rockers are slated to play the Los Angeles House of Blues Oct. 21 and a San Diego show Oct. 22. (See www.ericcarmen.com/news/tour.htm.) For tickets to the 8 p.m. Saturday show at 4th & D in San Diego, dial 619-231-4343, or try Ticketmaster. $40 lets you stand in the pit, but there are a few $100 reserved mezzanine seats that include a 2 p.m. “meet and greet” with Eric Carmen, Wally Bryson, and the boys.
“Come around and see me.”