Green VP Ajamu Baraka Decries “Intolerable Neglect of Flood Victims in Louisiana”

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Ajamu Baraka

From GP.org, August 21st, 2016:

Green Party VP Candidate Ajamu Baraka Decries Intolerable Neglect of Flood Victims in Louisiana

Crucial Context: The Floods in Louisiana

When Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast 11 years ago, the entire world bore witness as the homes of the primarily poor and black residents of the region washed away. In the aftermath of the storm, I worked alongside displaced people in response to their overwhelming political and material needs. We fought against the callous response of the Bush administration and inaction at the state and local levels, which was decried throughout the U.S. and internationally.

How is it then possible that more than a decade later our elected officials and their agencies were completely unprepared for the catastrophic flood that has hit Louisiana and has once again left thousands of families homeless and in the dark?

In the last week at least 40,000 homes have been ruined and 30,000 people or more have been rescued, but there is no temporary housing plan in effect; there is no count of how many people are still missing; more than 40,000 people have already applied for federal assistance and few have updates on the status of their homes and those of their families. Much of Louisiana is in disarray, yet the lessons that we should have learned from Katrina seem to have been forgotten.

Equally appalling is that the media is providing relatively little coverage of the floods amidst the barrage of election and Olympics news. It’s almost as if these people don’t exist.

While no single factor can explain the ineffectiveness of disaster-preparedness in places like Louisiana, three things are blatantly obvious:

Natural disasters disproportionately affect low-income communities and people of color.

People of color and low-income communities bear the brunt of environmental risks that negatively affect their health–because of the proximity of toxic facilities near residential areas, runoff from waste, poor air quality, a lack of green spaces and a host of factors that stack the deck against them.

The effects of climate change affect us all; if we don’t make curbing it a priority now, these communities will continue to suffer.

Eleven years ago it was clear to me that the destruction following Hurricane Katrina was not simply a natural disaster: Improper project design, poor planning, a lack of humanitarian priorities and a historic culture of racism exacerbated the trauma of those affected. And today, little has changed.

I said it then and I’ll say it again today: Just as they did in 2005, the flood victims in Louisiana deserve real justice that addresses the full spectrum of human rights, not just a few public-relations bones thrown their way as an afterthought. Equal access to assistance with basic needs, fairness in the distribution of aid, and a comprehensive return or resettlement plan must be addressed in order to ensure that Louisiana residents displaced by the flooding have what they require to live securely and with dignity, now and in the future. It is clear that we cannot rely on the good graces of the Democrats or Republicans to take the fundamental human rights of all people into account; rather, it is entirely up to us to demand it.

Ajamu Baraka
Green Party candidate for Vice-President

8 thoughts on “Green VP Ajamu Baraka Decries “Intolerable Neglect of Flood Victims in Louisiana”

  1. Luchorpan

    I like the focus on Louisiana.

    Regarding racism, is that really a cause of the problems in La.? It seems to me our government doesn’t care for American citizens in general, all races. It’s too busy out playing empire against China or developing corporate trade deals in back rooms.

    Wouldn’t it be a more productive approach if we targeted racism less? My fear is anger at “racism” will lead to actual racism. If we instead focus more on just helping those in need, as individuals, I think it would be better.

  2. Jill Pyeatt

    People just maybe shouldn’t keep building in Louisiana. If they’ve been flooded more than once, take the hint, and build elsewhere.

    I’m only saying this because we have places in CA where people build, and keep needing to have the Federal government bail them out (like on the coast, although we haven’t had this problem lately).There ARE other places to live.

    I don’t mean to sound unsympathetic, but I am in the insurance business. Federal flood insurance IS expensive, but it is available. And if someone chooses to live in a flood zone, perhaps that should be part of their costs to live where they’ve chosen to live.

  3. Luchorpan

    Jill,

    I think La. is suffering from coastal erosion. And this particular flood is unusual due perhaps in part to La Nina.

    Katrina had other issues, failed planning/infrastructure – and also building in flood areas. Baraka might highlight how poor areas tend to be in the flood areas, because residents cannot afford better.

  4. Jill Pyeatt

    You make some good points, Luchorpan. I guess I’m being harsh. And there is genuine suffering over this.

    Again, I’m just talking about my experience in CA, which has been plagued with wildfires. It’s a shame that so many people want the government to help them rebuild their homes. Grrr.

  5. Luchorpan

    Thanks for the reply. You have a valid concern. I don’t think you’re being harsh at all.

    From what I’ve read about Haiti, even private charity can cause a lot of harm. Politics is a complicated thing.

  6. Joshua

    Jill, this flood event was called a “1,000 year rain event” by the National Weather Service. That area of Baton Rouge and the surrounding areas that flooded are not typical flood areas. They don’t generally flood. This was a freak event.

  7. Trent Hill

    “People just maybe shouldn’t keep building in Louisiana. If they’ve been flooded more than once, take the hint, and build elsewhere.”

    No offense, Jill, but you don’t know what the hell you’re talking about. My parents house in Denham Springs (where I grew up–the epicenter of the flooding) had only gotten water in the house, in 1983. 18 inches. This time? 7 feet.

    Most people who suffered from flooding had NEVER flooded before. This was a freak assault from nature, not some commitment to low-lying living. Something like 90% of the households in our parish (county, for those outside Louisiana) were flooded. Yes, you’re being harsh. More importantly, you’re spreading disinformation based on nothing more than a fly-by-night opinion you gleaned from the headline. I’ve always respected you and enjoyed your comments on IPR, but I’ve spent the last 6 days picking up pieces of my childhood from a mixture of river mud and sewage, in the 100+ degree heat, and then throwing them in the trash. Every house on my block did the same thing. So, keep your opinions to yourself on this one.

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