Michael Eric Dyson kicks off the Princeton University Store’s reunion
week series of author appearances on Thursday, June 1, at 4 p.m.
Dyson, who received his Ph.D. in religion from Princeton, is an
ordained Baptist minister and professor in the humanities at Penn. His
new book is "Come Hell or High Water: Hurricane Katrina and the Color
of Disaster." A prolific author, he is perhaps best known for writing
"Is Bill Cosby Right? Or Has the Black Middle Class Lost Its Mind?"
Dyson’s new book takes a hard look at which groups suffered the most
in New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, and at what
their fate says about American culture and priorities. Here is an
If race grabbed the biggerst headlines in the aftermath of Katrina
because of poverty and politics, its force was also felt in other
dimensions of the cultural and personal response to the hurricane. The
media became a big part of the story. Reporters’ anger at the
government’s tragic delay leaped off allegedly neutral pages and TV
screens even as the stories also reinforced stereotypes of black
behavior in exaggerated reports of looting and social anarchy. The
black elite stepped up to express support for the poor and outrage at
their treatment, putting aside, perhaps even denying, elements of its
own recent assaults on poor blacks.
The disaster also sparked renewed interest in the "race or class"
debate as to what element of the dyad accounted more reliably for the
fate of the black poor.
But one of the untold stories of Katrina is how the hurricane
impacted racial and ethnic minorities other than blacks. For instance,
nearly 40,000 Mexican citizens who lived (mostly in trailers) and
worked in New Orleans were displaced. Altogether nearly 145,000
Mexicans in the entire Gulf Coast region were scattered by Katrina.
Latinos make up 3 percent of Louisiana’s population, 124,222 people of
the state’s 4,515,770 residents. Many Latinos who live in the South
are foreign born and are undocumented laborers on farms or in hotels,
restaurants, and other service industry jobs.
The fear that government officials and police would target
undocumented immigrants discouraged many Latinos from seeking
hurricane relief, despite messages from Mexican president Vicente Fox
that the American government had assured him that it wouldn’t take
Thousands of Native Americans on the Gulf Coast were hard hit by the
storm as well.
The excerpt continues in the newspaper.