Five years after Katrina, the event still captures the imagination, particularly its fears. I was living in Houston at the time Katrina hit. I was able to talk to many refugees at the time, including young people living on friends’ couches and with relatives, working as waitresses and cab drivers and the like. I also followed the news very closely. It was truly an epic disaster.
It is perhaps not surprising that on the five year anniversary of Katrina, a major revisionist history effort is underway. Just as the LA Riots became a story of “12 Years of Neglect” and, last week, a single unrepresentative white crime against a cabdriver makes the national news, there have been hints of this revisionism regarding Katrina before. The real story, we’re told in the Nation and elsewhere, is of racist whites going on a rampage and not the “conventional wisdom” of mass black local government incompetence, collective poor planning by government and individuals, and an aftermath of largely black criminality.
Isn’t this interesting? Were the stories, then, of shooters harassing rescuers and aid workers at the time all made up? Was the looting, arson, and mass chaos of the Superdome just an out of control myth? Was New Orleans, which had the highest murder rate in the nation, suddenly a peaceful idyll upon the mass desertion of the corrupt, but absolutely necessary, police force? The revisionists’ claims defy all common sense.
I should note one thing missing from most of these stories are raw numbers. How many people were arrested following the storm? How many crimes were reported? How many bodies were found and what was the cause of death? And how reliable are each of these numbers; what interest would any of the authors have in redeeming a certain group of people, restoring New Orleans’ reputation, etc.? How do New Orleans’ numbers compare to Slidell, Lafayette, or neighboring Gulf Coast Mississippi?
It’s rather obvious that the usual liberal efforts at distraction, changing the subject, and Orwellian revisionism are underway. And the reasons are familiar too: the goal here is to transform this event, which showcased a serious natural disaster exacerbated by corrupt black-run city and an explosion of black crime, into a tale of federal incompetence and white racism in the form of trigger-happy property owners and cops. While I have no doubt some stories were exaggerated and there was undoubtedly some overreaction by cops and property owners, I also know that some truths are being looked for very aggressively and others are actively avoided.
The group doing the “rewriting” of Katrina–the liberal media–cares not so much about truth in matters of race as it does in events that “fit the script.” And that script is of evil white racists and innocent (or at worst misunderstood) black victims. Consider the showcase story in the Nation; a man claims he was shot for no reason by a racist white man with a shotgun. Is this possible? It certainly is, especially in the fear-ridden climate after Katrina. But what if he was a looter? What if his goal was criminal? Or what if it appeared to be so? Would he admit to that? Certainly not. Would the Nation reporter ask him? Probably not, or if he did, it would be a pro forma deference to professional standards.
From everything I could see and hear and learn of from survivors while the event was happening, Katrina was terrible and its aftermath was the equivalent of the LA Riots with flooded streets, that crime of all kinds had exploded, that neighborhoods in Houston where Katrina refugees arrived en masse had become more crime ridden, that the 25+ more murders in Houston upon the arrival of the Katrina crowd was not an insignificant uptick in crime, and that any other outcome would truly defy all common sense based on New Orleans’ high crime rate pre-storm. Was there some trigger-happy overreaction by middle class New Orleanians? Almost certainly. But what was the cause of this? Could it be the reasonable fear of massive crime after the storm along with years of negative experience with New Orleans’ underclass? There’s no reason to think the universe went upside down during Katrina, and that people for many years who were violent criminals suddenly became angels.