If I don't write about it, I might implode.
|I found the January 3, 2007 episode of Oprah quite interesting. I don't watch the show too often, but couldn't resist this episode because of its topic. Of particular interest to me was where a Mr. Karl Muth, an investment banking heir, discussed how some of the public housing was being converted into condominiums. It was a snippet of a documentary being made by one of the heirs of the Johnson and Johnson company. Mr. Muth's comments snagged my attention because the housing changes he spoke of are threatening to happen here in New Orleans. What might stop the trend from occuring here is that several of our public housing buildings might actually be historical landmarks. Other than that, there are also plans to tear down some of the public housing in stages and rebuild homes that will hopefully create mixed income neighborhoods. Residents who lived in the demolished public housing have first dibbs at securing the newly built homes and apartments. The city has already successfully achieved this goal when it tore down the St. Thomas housing project and built neighborhoods that are called the "River Gardens." Those particular neighborhoods even managed to mostly escape the flooding as they lay near the Mississippi River bank that curves through the city.
I think tearing down as many of the old projects and rebuilding them in the fashion of "River Gardens" is a good thing. I think that the new housing plays a part in improving class. People seem to feel better about the new homes and work harder to keep the neighborhoods clean, and where crime once plagued the area, it has become a rarity since the new housing was erected. I remember one shooting happening in the area before Katrina struck, and was glad to see on the local news how upset and vocal the neighbors were about wanting to continue to fight crime. The improved housing isn't a magical pill, but it does seem to at least get people of differing classes to live closer together, creating a stronger sense of community.
I think that another revelation that Katrina and the levee breaches forced us (Americans) to face is the fact that class does matter in this country, and that there are more of the working poor than we might want to admit. It's as if the homeless and those who are deemed "low income" and "working poor" are reminders of how some of us are "one paycheck or one major illness," as Oprah said, away from having our class reduced. "We" could be "them." And it scares us. Some of us would rather not see this, and so the homeless and working poor become invisible.
Many people cared about the devastation that struck New Orleans, but there were also people who thought (and probably still think) that New Orleans got what the city deserved. And I can't help thinking that those who believe the latter do so because they think New Orleans is, or was, comprised of mostly poor people.
I'll always be perplexed by the barriers we place between ourselves, and will never forget how Hurricane Katrina roared across the Gulf Coast and into New Orleans, exploding those barriers just as the storm crumbled the walls of the levees.