“Waiting for the white man to change things”: Rebuilding Black poverty in New Orleans
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.