Volume 8, Number 22 December 25, 2005
Katrina washed away the masks
by Dr. Ridgely Abdul Muímin Muhammad
The word Katrina is a variant of "Katherine" which means "pure" or "purifying". You can purify something by either washing it, like you would your clothes or burning it, as you would the tip of a needle. New Orleans is known worldwide for its Mardi Gras festival in which ordinary people dawn costumes and masks and parade around the city fancifully. The masks disguises what is beneath, but Minister Louis Farrakhan warned Black people that God was going to tear the mask off of white people, so that we could see their teeth. Their teeth were exposed in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina along with what those teeth were chewing on, land.
Mayor Tommy Longo of Waveland, Miss. testified on December 7, 2005 in front of the House Select Committee on Hurricane Katrina. Mayor Longo was noticeably shook as he described how in the aftermath of Katrina, the animals went back to their wild nature after 3 or 4 days without food or water. He said that they began to kill one another and attack humans.
After four days or more without food or water, Blacks trapped in the Superdome or the Convention Center were expected to revert back to their "nature". According to Philip Parr testifying before the same committee, the National Guard told the FEMA workers by Thursday, September 1st, that they needed to leave because there was going to be a riot. News reports were depicting New Orleans as falling into anarchy with bands of looters, murderers and rapists running rampant. Indeed Blacks were depicted as returning to the "nature" that whites have projected upon them ever since they were stolen from their native Africa and shipped to America to serve as perpetual slaves.
The Honorable Elijah Muhammad taught that the nature of the Black man and woman was a "righteous Muslim". This would indicate that if Blacks were put in a condition which forced them back to a "survival mode", they would gravitate towards prayer, patience and working together. The National guard and other forces were brought into New Orleans, not to bring food and water, but to bring guns with orders to shoot to kill. However, when they arrived at the Superdome and the Convention Center, they found thousands of dehydrated, hungry and tired Black people who were helping each other survive this new "Middle Passage". They had reverted back to their innate humanity and not the bestiality of their teeth and gun bearing oppressors.
Why were the Blacks of New Orleans portrayed so badly and treated worse? The answer lies in land and home ownership.
According to the 2000 US Census 72.4 percent of White householders in America owned a home, while only 46.3 percent of Black householders owned a home. Before Katrina hit, home ownership was close to 60 per cent in the predominantly Black Lower Ninth Ward.
To show an example of the value of home ownership to a community we quote the Missoula county, MT web site, http://www.co.missoula.mt.us/measures/HomeOwner.htm:
"Home ownership is a foundation for personal security and stability. High levels of home ownership are also the base for stable, supportive neighborhoods...A home ownership rate of less than 30% indicates a neighborhood with little stability, 30% to 50% indicates a neighborhood in transition, and a neighborhood with over 50% has the capacity to provide a strong core of committed residents."
With a home ownership percentage of 60%, the Lower Ninth Ward was headed towards commitment and stability, not anarchy. When we look at the Lower Ninth Ward, we see that it rated higher than the state of Louisiana in which 51.8% of Black households owned their homes. But when we take a broader view of the national statistics, we find that the Lower Ninth Ward was doing better than most Blacks in America with regards to home ownership.
Land ownership in America among Blacks peaked in 1910, when Blacks owned over 15 million acres of land. By the end of the 20th century that acreage dropped to less than 3 million acres. At one time Blacks in Louisiana owned between 40 to 50% of the farm land. Blacks in neighboring and Katrina ravaged Mississippi owned over 60% of the farm land.
Blacks were pushed off of their land due to domestic terrorism and neglect after national disasters. In the book "Rising Tide: The Great Mississippi Flood of 1927 and How It Changed America" the author, John M. Barry points out how the demographics of the Mississippi Delta changed because of the neglect of the Black evacuees by federal, state and local officials. Once the Blacks realized that they were left to die on those levees in 1927, they headed North. However, the North has not proven to be the land of "milk and honey" and inclusion as it was hoped.
Today a larger percent of Black households in the South own their homes than do their cousins in the North. According to the 2000 Census the five states in which Black households own the highest percentage of their homes are: 1. South Carolina (60.9%), 2. Mississippi (60.7%), 3. Alabama (57.6%), 4. North Carolina (52.5%) and 5. Louisiana (51.8%). On the other hand the states in which Blacks had the lowest percent home ownership were: 1. Hawaii (15.7%), 2. North Dakota (17.8%), 3. South Dakota (28.1%), 4. Rhode Island (28.2%) and 5. New York (29.1%).
Although 65% of the evacuees came from Orleans Parish, whose population was about two-thirds black, many of them were resettled in areas where the populations were two-thirds white. Many of the Orleans Parish evacuees were scattered to distant states where Black household home ownership percentages are also the lowest, such as Nevada (39.8%), Utah (39.5%), California (38.8%), Washington (37.4%), Massachusetts (31.6%), and New York (29.1%).
FEMA is not even allowing state, local or national representatives of the evacuees to communicate with them directly. So how can the wishes of the evacuees from Louisiana and Mississippi be represented in developing proposals and legislation that will affect their property?
Will the aspirations of those Black home owners who wish to return to New Orleans be trumped by the "Donald Ducks" (theme parks) or "Donald Trumps" (gambling casinos) of this world, since the "masks" have been removed?
Alafia/Greetings to All, As I read the column/article, it reminded me of the Yoruba Diety/Goddess Oya (who destroys for rebuilding, but also exposes).
Also, if we take inventory of where we live (gentrification, redlining etc), we can see a clear attack on taking, buying out the communities of African descent. Here in Greensboro Old Asheboro (one of the middle class "Black" communities) is being buildup for the "rebels". There are condos that are out priced as well as buying of "abandoned or lack of care" of homes in this prestigious community and has been redistricted to exclude. This community is in walking distance to "downtown" Greensboro where they are continuing to renovate and buildup for "the people" (the Greensboro of Old-where you and I were "not" welcome). Elders become unable to do upkeep or die and the younger family members leave, don't want to come back and live
Books and lectures by Dr. Ridgely A. Mu'min