Academic journal article Harvard Journal of African American Public Policy

Southern Women's Voices from the Gulf Coast States on Hurricane Katrina

Academic journal article Harvard Journal of African American Public Policy

Southern Women's Voices from the Gulf Coast States on Hurricane Katrina

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT

This essay is a compilation of ten interviews with women ranging in age from twenty to seventy. The women are from New Orleans, Gulfport, and Biloxi. The ethnicity of the women are African American, Caucasian American, Austrian-born Caucasian, and Jewish. The women were identified and asked to participate in a study to offer their opinions and experiences about Hurricane Katrina as residents of Gulf Coast states. Women are sometimes overlooked or not heard. This essay gives women a chance to speak openly and frankly with their own voices.

The media has referred to the people who were involved in the Hurricane Katrina disaster as everything from victims to refugees, however, in this article they will be referred to as survivors.

INTRODUCTION

Southern women are known to some as the prissy belles who follow their husbands around and answer to their every beck and call. But this article will reveal a different side of Southern women. This article will acquaint you with women who have a voice and are willing to say what they feel and think about what happened during Hurricane Katrina and what needs to happen so that the Gulf Coast states can recover. This nature of the Southern women is referred to by many in the South as "the backbone of the culture." These women are often overlooked, but there are a few brave souls who heroically are willing to share their survival stories.

This essay compiles ten interviews with women ranging in age from twenty to seventy. The women are from New Orleans, Gulfport, and Biloxi. The ethnicity of the women are African American, Caucasian American, Austrian-born Caucasian, and Jewish. The women were identified and asked to participate in a study to offer their opinions and experiences about Hurricane Katrina as residents of Gulf Coast states.

The women were asked a series of questions, and some of their answers are included. For example, the women were asked if surviving the disaster had changed their lives and, if so, how. They were also asked what they think the long-term recovery plan for the Gulf Coast states should entail. After interviewing these Gulf Coast states' hurricane survivors, several themes emerged. This essay will include direct quotations from the women as they relate to the themes that surfaced.

The first theme that emerged from the interviews was that racial and socioeconomic factors played a major role in the response to Hurricane Katrina. We have chosen to let the women speak for themselves. Some of their responses are below.

SEVENTY-YEAR-OLD CAUCASIAN MISSISSIPPI RESIDENT

Well, if citizens from Cape Cod would have been affected or were begging for water that would not have happened. Would they have them living in tents and sleeping on cots outside for two months? Frankly, I don't think so. How about the residents of West Chester, New York? Neglect was what I saw on television from New Orleans. Affluent areas wouldn't be treated that way I don't think or rich residents who live along the California beaches. I don't think so. Would the response have been so slow or just no response at all for days? I don't think so.

FIFTY-TWO-YEAR-OLD AFRICAN AMERICAN MISSISSIPPI RESIDENT

Yes, especially in New Orleans. The project area where most Blacks live was hardest hit.

I think the response would have been very different if prime property owners who had money were where the Blacks were. Politics played a key role in the way people were treated. FEMA [Federal Emergency Management Agency] was there before the storm--Wilma or whichever one it was--hit in Florida, and they still have offices open now for long-term recovery for the Florida hurricane survivors. Florida had three or four hurricanes this past season, and the response there was very different from the response in New Orleans.

THIRTY-YEAR-OLD AFRICAN AMERICAN NEW ORLEANS RESIDENT

Yes, because the areas that were most impacted by the flood were the low-education and mostly African American areas. …

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