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In August 2005, thousands of New Orleans residents—overwhelmingly poor, largely people of color, the majority black—were left to face one of the worst “natural” disasters in US history on their own. They were left to die in prisons, in nursing homes, and on the street. Survivors were criminalized as “looters” for struggling to obtain food, water, diapers, medicine, and other essentials of life that no one else could or would provide. As Katrina’s waters receded and the body count soared, an ugly truth (re)surfaced: The lives of those who are poor, who are vulnerable, and who are not white are not valued by the US government.
While commentators across the political spectrum, celebrities, and other observers expressed outrage that the US government would let this happen to Americans—even “those Americans”—millions outside of New Orleans live without adequate health insurance; clean air and water; decent education, housing, nutrition, health care, and work; and freedom from police brutality and state repression. And thousands are deported, displaced, and dying in prisons and illegal wars from coast to coast, gulf to gulf.
Short and accessible, this anthology, featuring such voices as Vandana Shiva, Glen Ford, Jordan Flaherty, and Robert Bullard, takes readers beyond the Superdome. It explores the complexity of this turning point in US history as representative of the nation’s direction and priorities.