BeyondChron: Plan to Drive Working-Class Blacks out of New Orleans Preceded Katrina

By Randy Shaw

arena_driven coverThe story of black displacement from New Orleans typically describes a post-Katrina conspiracy of white conservative elites and ambitious black politicians to change the city’s economic, political and social character. Low-income African-Americans displaced by the flood were denied financing for home repairs, and their public housing was demolished. But as John Arena demonstrates in his passionate new book, Driven From New Orleans: How Nonprofits Betray Public Housing and Promote Privatization, this displacement strategy was conceived, and implementation began, in the late 1980’s, well before Hurricane Katrina. This strategy was backed not only by white Republicans, but also by the city’s African-American business and Democratic Party political leadership. Arena sees black elected officials, nonprofit organizations, and foundations as complicit in black displacement from public housing and the demolition of their homes. While many will challenge his attacks on prominent social change activists and nonprofit groups, his conclusion is beyond dispute: destroying New Orleans’ largest source of low-cost family housing was entirely unnecessary and profoundly immoral.

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