As New Orleans celebrated its "resilience" in the decade following Hurricane Katrina and the federal levee failures, the perspective among low-income African-Americans struck a far less celebratory tone. With nearly half of working-age black men in the city unemployed and a stagnant average income compared to 2005, black New Orleanians have largely been left of out the recovery, according to a report from the Urban League of Greater New Orleans.
Former New Orleans Mayor Marc Morial, president of the National Urban League, presided over the organization's Rise: Katrina 10 conference last week, presenting a somber look at the hurdles ahead for New Orleans' black families and neighborhoods as post-Katrina revitalization efforts continue.
The report points to major racial disparities in the city's criminal justice system, as blacks — who comprise nearly 60 percent of the city's population — account for 90 percent of Orleans Parish Prison's population. (African-Americans make up 32 percent of Louisiana's population but more than 67 percent of its prison population). Nearly all juvenile arrestees are black children, and roughly three of every four juvenile cases are tried in adult courts.
Affordable housing and the ability to bring displaced residents home remain as post-Katrina challenges. Private rent prices continue to soar, with fewer affordable housing options in the wake of the demolition of the "big four" public housing complexes. The city also has little oversight when it comes to discriminatory rental practices and tenants' rights, according to the Urban League study.
There also are growing inequities in health care for African-Americans. Sixty-two percent of people living with HIV/AIDS in New Orleans are black, while blacks face disproportionately higher mortality rates for cancer and other diseases and a lack of resources for mental health care. Read the full report at www.urbanleagueneworleans.org.