The Flood: Political Economy and Disaster

As summer faded to fall in 2005, a hurricane hit New Orleans, a city so unique in its history that it has more history than many American cities. It was nonetheless an American city in these telling parameters: a city of luxury alongside squalor, two-thirds Black, one-fourth poor, with the gap between its rich and poor growing at a gallop as the waters of lake and river lapped gently along aging, grass-covered levees. 1 Freeze the frame before the waters rise, and what do you see? A devastated public school system, where Black children are labeled “failing,” along with their schools. 2 An outdated infrastructure of public works, decried by planners as a disaster waiting to happen.

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