The levee along the 17th Street Canal was breached in the rising waters after Hurricane Katrina five years ago because it was shabbily designed and built. It was, more or less, a piece of shit when it came to standing up to a major storm. The area that the breach flooded, Lakeview, was what is generally referred to as a "white neighborhood" (and, yes, people of other races lived and live there). That Google Earth picture up there is a 2010 photo of a block from Lakeview, and it's pretty much similar to the same patchwork of houses and empty lots that we saw yesterday in the Lower Ninth Ward, although with a few more houses than blank slates. The Lower Ninth, as we have been told on numerous occasions, is a "black neighborhood."
If you had the exact same house in each neighborhood pre-Katrina, your home would have been worth far more in Lakeview than in the Lower Ninth. Why? Because houses are worth more if they're not near toxic chemical sites and refineries, like in the Lower Ninth. Yeah, that. And, you know, racism.
Now, if, say, the levees near both houses are pieces of shit that are breached by the first bad storm and both houses are destroyed, both need to be repaired or rebuilt from scratch. Unfortunately, Home Depot doesn't sell drywall and roofing at black or white prices. It just sells those materials. And, unfortunately, the Road Home program, set up by Louisiana to provide money for rebuilding, based individual applicants' grants on home values, as if applicants were buying existing homes. Which, you know, dicked over people in the Lower Ninth.
Last week, a federal judge said, "Wow, that was pretty fucking dumb, Louisiana. And it's flat out discrimination. Stop it. Now." Of course it was in legalese, and of course Judge Henry Kennedy said it only affects those who still have pending applications, and of course Kennedy said that the state was immune from any tort claims from previous grantees. So, sorry, 20,000 black homeowners, you were fucked, but you have no recourse except the right to say, "Man, I was fucked."
You wanna up the viciousness of this? There's only 179 remaining applicants that this would affect, yet the state of Louisiana is planning to appeal the decision.
Just another reminder that, no matter how much you hear about the "recovery" in New Orleans, all things are relative. Sure, it's better than a flood-ravaged hellscape where the cops shoot people at will while citizens are forced to fend for themselves. Really, unless you add zombies, few things are worse.
But the reality of the situation is that we're getting into the awful mundanity of an ongoing disaster, where money is fought over for long periods of time, whether for Katrina-related or BP oil spill damage. Remember: the state of Louisiana ain't going anywhere (despite the best efforts of BP, the Army Corps of Engineers, and others). But many people affected by the disasters won't last as long as a lawsuit can be stretched out by the state, by BP. And that's another catastrophe.