URBAN RENEWAL AS ETHNIC CLEANSING
It may be unavoidable but what amounts to urban renewal is in fact a form of social engineering which in effect is ethnic cleansing.
I remember back in the '60's when urban renewal was all the rage. Remember how great promises were made to redevelop a city. They were grand and ambitious projects in which everyone was to benefit. Inevitably they began with renewing the downtown core, getting rid of substandard housing (real functioning human communities,..remember!). First on the agenda would be a new city hall to house the politicians. Then more commercial development to create jobs for suburbanites. Then, the money ran out soon after some "projects" were built for the poor. I saw it in Boston and New Haven, where I considered buying a house for $1.00 in a black neighbourhood with more vacant lots and empty buildings than homes. This housing stock was owned by HUD the federal redevelopment agency. which bought it up to clear the way for urban renewal before the money run out and the political will disappeared. It happened in Canada too. Toronto got its city hall with the partial destruction of Chinatown. And more blatantly Halifax raised Africville, to all our shame.
A city is an organic entity of people living their lives and is not easily manipulated for the benefit of ALL its residents buy redeveloping structures and infrastructures. The most vulnerable pay the price.
Now we will see urban renewal and social engineering on a massive scale in New Orleans. I have read articles where mention has been made of the task ahead being an "opportunity". This is code word for the powerful inflicting their will on the less powerful. The glorious thing is the poor and black have been removed and dispersed across the country to become someonelse's problem. This is what lies behind Barbara Bush's thoughtless remarks at viewing the refugees, "What I hearing, which is kind of scary, is that they all want to stay in Texas." http://urbanlegends.about.com/b/a/200931.htm. What she said outloud was no doubt whispered across the US as countless cities, towns and villages which saw an influx of black victims of Katrina.
Even before all the refugees had found a temporary place to sleep the wealthy white establishment of New Orleans, whose property was largely spared, met with THEIR mayor in Dallas to begin to plan the reconstruction of THEIR city. Under the leadership of Jimmy Reiss of the New Orleans Business Council, redevelopment and gentrification of New Orleans was underway.
Finally, someone has said it flat out. In the future, New Orleans will be smaller and whiter. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, Alphonse R. Jackson made this remark http://www.commondreams.org/headlines05/0930-07.htm One would hope his remarks were descriptive and not prescriptive. I suspect not. I hear of no plans to consult to poor and dispersed residents let alone to help them return home. The diaspora of New Orleans will largely reestablish their lives elsewhere as it takes a decade to rebuild their former city. It need not be this way! For it to be otherwise, deliberate efforts must be made to rebuilt from the bottom up and not the top down. Naomi Klein suggested such an approach about a month ago. http://www.guardian.co.uk/Columnists/Column/0,5673,1566199,00.html . It will never happen. The urban poor have been flushed out of New Orleans by Katrina to become the problem for other communities across the US. There is no will to have it otherwise.