“Waiting for the white man to change things”: Rebuilding Black poverty in New Orleans
Journal of Sociology & Social Welfare, 39(1), 111 – 139.
Hawkins, R. L. & Maurer, K.
This paper revisits William Julius Wilson’s thesis that class has surpassed race in significance of impact on African Americans. Our study uses qualitative data from a three-year ethnographic study of 40 largely low-income families in New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina. We also include a review of the recent U.S. Census study assessing New Orleans’s current economic state. Participants in our study viewed race and class as major factors in four areas: (1) immediately following the devastation; (2) during relocation to other communities; (3) during the rebuilding process; and (4) historically and structurally throughout New Orleans. Our analysis concludes that racism is still a major factor in the lives of people of color. Further, for the poorest African Americans, race and class are inextricably linked and function as a structural barrier to accessing wealth, resources, and opportunities. The results have been a reproduction of the economic disparities that have historically plagued New Orleans.