Step One. Delay. If there
is one word that sums up the way to destroy an African-American
city after a disaster,
that word is DELAY. If you are in doubt about any of the following
steps – just remember to delay and you will probably be
doing the right thing.
Step Two. When a disaster is coming, do not arrange a public
evacuation. Rely only on individual resources. People with cars
and money for hotels will leave.
The elderly, the disabled and the poor will not be able to leave. Most of those
without cars – 25% of households of New Orleans, overwhelmingly African-Americans – will
not be able to leave. Most of the working poor, overwhelmingly African-American,
will not be able to leave. Many will then permanently accuse the victims who
were left behind of creating their own human disaster because of their own
poor planning. It is critical to start by having people blame the victims for
their own problems.
Step Three. When the disaster hits, make
certain the national response is overseen by someone who has
no experience at all
handling anything on a large scale, particularly disasters. In
fact, you can even inject some humor into the response – have
the disaster coordinator be someone whose last job was the head
of a dancing horse association.
Step Four. Make sure that the President and national leaders
remain aloof and only slightly concerned. This sends an important
message to the rest of the country.
Step Five. Make certain the local, state, and national governments
do not respond in a coordinated, effective way. This will create
more chaos on the ground.
Step Six. Do not bring in food or water or communications right
away. This will make everyone left behind more frantic and create
incredible scenes for the media.
Step Seven. Make certain that the media
focus of the disaster is not on the heroic community work of
thousands of women, men
and young people helping the elderly, the sick and the trapped
survive, but mainly on acts of people looting. Also spread and
repeat the rumors that people trapped on rooftops are shooting
guns, not to attract attention and get help, but AT the helicopters.
This will reinforce the message that “those people” left
behind are different from the rest of us and are beyond help.
Step Eight. Refuse help from other countries. If we accept help,
it looks like we cannot or choose not to handle this problem
ourselves. This cannot be the message. The message we want to
put out over and over is that we have plenty of resources and
there is plenty of help. Then if people are not receiving help,
it is their own fault. This should be done quietly.
Step Nine. Once the evacuation of those left behind actually
starts, make sure people do not know where they are going or
have any way to know where the rest of their family has gone.
In fact, make sure that African-Americans end up much farther
away from home than others.
Step Ten. Make sure that when government assistance finally
has to be given out, it is given out in a totally arbitrary way.
People will have lost their homes, jobs, churches, doctors, schools,
neighbors and friends. Give them a little bit of money, but not
too much. Make people dependent. Then cut off the money. Then
give it to some and not others. Refuse to assist more than one
person in every household. This will create conflicts where more
than one generation live together. Make it impossible for people
to get consistent answers to their questions. Long lines and
busy phones will discourage people from looking for help.
Step Eleven. Insist the President suspend
federal laws requiring living wages and affirmative action
for contractors working on
the disaster. While local workers are still displaced, import
white workers from outside the city for the high-paying jobs
like crane and bulldozer operators. Import Latino workers from
outside the city for the low-paying dangerous jobs. Make sure
to have elected officials, black and white, blame job problems
on the lowest wage immigrant workers. This will create divisions
between black and brown workers that can be exploited by those
at the top. Because many of the brown workers do not have legal
papers, those at the top will not have to worry about paying
decent wages, providing health insurance, following safety laws,
unemployment compensation, workers compensation, or union organizing.
These become, essentially, disposable workers – use them,
then lose them.
Step Twelve. Whatever you do, keep people away
from their city for as long as possible. This is the key to long-term
in destroying the African-American city. Do not permit people
to come home. Keep people guessing about what is going to happen
and when it is going to happen. Set numerous deadlines and then
break them. This will discourage people and make it increasingly difficult for people to
Step Thirteen. When you finally have to reopen the city, make
sure to reopen the African-American sections last. This will
aggravate racial tensions in the city and create conflicts between
those who are able to make it home and those who are not.
Step Fourteen. When the big money is given out, make sure it
is all directed to homeowners and not to renters. This is particularly
helpful in a town like New Orleans that was majority African-American
and majority renter. Then, after you have excluded renters, mess
up the program for the homeowners so that they must wait for
years to get money to fix their homes.
Step Fifteen. Close down all the public schools for months.
This will prevent families with children in the public school
system, overwhelmingly African-Americans, from coming home.
Step Sixteen. Fire all the public school
teachers, teacher aides, cafeteria workers and bus drivers
and de-certify the teachers
union – the largest in the state. This will primarily hurt
middle class African Americans and make them look for jobs elsewhere.
Step Seventeen. Even better, take this opportunity
to flip the public school system into a charter system and
and the government for extra money to the new charter schools.
Give the schools with the best test scores away first. Then give
the least flooded schools away next. Turn 70% of schools into
charters so that the kids with good test scores or solid parental
involvement will go to the charters. That way, the kids with
average scores, or learning disabilities, or single parent families,
who are still displaced, are kept segregated away from the “good” kids.
You will have to set up a few schools for those other kids, but
make sure those schools do not get any extra money, do not have
libraries, nor doors on the toilets, nor enough teachers. In
fact, because of this, you better make certain there are more
security guards than teachers.
Step Eighteen. Let the market do what it does best. When rent
goes up 70%, say there is nothing we can do about it. This will
have two great results: it will keep many former residents away
from the city and it will make landlords happy. If wages go up,
immediately import more outside workers and wages will settle
Step Nineteen. Make sure all the predominately
white suburbs surrounding the African-American city make it
for the people displaced from the city to return to the metro
area. Have one suburb refuse to allow any new subsidized housing
at all. Have the Sheriff of another threaten to stop and investigate
anyone wearing dreadlocks. Throw in a little humor and have one
nearly all-white suburb pass a law that makes it illegal for
homeowners to rent to people other than their blood relatives!
The courts may strike these down, but it will take time and the
message will be clear – do not think about returning to
Step Twenty. Reduce public transportation by more than 80%.
The people without cars will understand the message.
Step Twenty One. Keep affordable housing to a minimum. Instead,
use the money to reopen the Superdome and create tourism campaigns.
Refuse to boldly create massive homeownership opportunities for
former renters. Delay re-opening apartment complexes in African
American neighborhoods. As long as less than half the renters
can return to affordable housing, they will not return.
Step Twenty Two. Keep all public housing
closed. Since it is 100% African-American, this is a no-brainer.
Make sure to have
African-Americans be the people who deliver the message. This
step will also help by putting more pressure on the rental market,
as 5000 more families will then have to compete for rental housing
with low-income workers. This will provide another opportunity
for hundreds of millions of government funds to be funneled to
corporations when these buildings are torn down and developers
can build up other less-secure buildings in their place. Make
sure to tell the 5000 families evicted from public housing that
you are not letting them back for their own good. Tell them you
are trying to save them from living in a segregated neighborhood.
This will also send a good signal – if the government can
refuse to allow people back, private concerns are free to do
the same or worse.
Step Twenty Three. Shut down as much public health as possible.
Sick and elderly people and moms with little kids need access
to public healthcare. Keep the public hospital, which hosted
about 350,000 visits a year before the disaster, closed. Keep
the neighborhood clinics closed. Put all the pressure on the
private healthcare facilities and provoke economic and racial
tensions there between the insured and uninsured.
Step Twenty Four. Close as many public mental healthcare providers
as possible. The trauma of the disaster will seriously increase
stress on everyone. Left untreated, medical experts tell us this
will dramatically increase domestic violence, self-medication
and drug and alcohol abuse and, of course, crime.
Step Twenty Five. Keep the city environment unfriendly to women.
Women were already widely discriminated against before the storm.
Make sure that you do not reopen day care centers. This, combined
with the lack of healthcare, lack of affordable housing, and
lack of transportation, will keep moms with kids away. If you
can keep women with kids away, the city will destroy itself.
Step Twenty Six. Create and maintain an environment where black
on black crime will flourish. As long as you can keep parents
out of town, keep the schools hostile to kids without parents,
keep public healthcare closed, make only low-paying jobs available,
not fund social workers or prosecutors or public defenders or
police, and keep chaos the norm, young black men will certainly
kill other young black men. To increase the visibility of the
crime problem, bring in the National Guard in fatigues to patrol
the streets in their camouflage hummers.
Step Twenty Seven. Strip the local elected,
predominately African American government of its powers. Make
certain the money that
is coming in to fix up the region is not under their control.
Privatize as much as you can as quickly as you can – housing,
healthcare, and education for starters. When in doubt, privatize.
Create an appointed commission of people who have no experience
in government to make all the decisions. In fact, it is better
to create several such commissions; that way, no one will really
be sure who is in charge and there will be much more delay and
conflict. Treat the local people like they are stupid; you know
what is best for them much better than they do.
Step Twenty Eight. Create lots of planning
processes but give them no authority. Overlap them where possible.
Give people conflicting
signals whether their neighborhood will be allowed to rebuild
or be turned into green space. This will create confusion, conflict
and aggravation. People will blame the officials closest to them – the
local African-American officials, even though they do not have
any authority to do anything about these plans, since they do
not control the rebuilding money.
Step Twenty Nine. Hold an election but make
it very difficult for displaced voters to participate. In fact,
do not allow any
voting in any place outside the state, even though we do it for
Americans in other countries and even though hundreds of thousands
of people are still displaced. This is very important because
when people are not able to vote, those who have been able to
return can say, “Well, they didn’t even vote, so
I guess they are not interested in returning.”
Step Thirty. Get the elected officials out
of the way and make room for corporations to make a profit.
There are billions to
be made in this process for well-connected national and international
corporations. There is so much chaos that no one will be able
to figure out, for a long time, exactly where the money went.
There is no real attempt to make sure that local businesses,
especially African-American businesses, get contracts – at
best they get modest subcontracts from the corporations that
got the big money. Make sure the authorities prosecute a couple
of little people who ripped off $2,000 – that will temporarily
satisfy people who know they are being ripped off and divert
attention from the big money rip-offs. This will also provide
another opportunity to blame the victims – as critics can
say, “Well, we gave them lots of money, they must have
wasted it, how much more can they expect from us?”
Step Thirty One. Keep people’s attention diverted from
the African-American city. Pour money into Iraq instead of the
Gulf Coast. Corporations have figured out how to make big bucks
whether we are winning or losing the war. It is easier to convince
the country to support war – support for cities is much,
much tougher. When the war goes badly, you can change the focus
of the message to supporting the troops. Everyone loves the troops.
No one can say we all love African-Americans. Focus on terrorists – that
always seems to work.
Step Thirty Two. Refuse to talk about or
look seriously at race. Condemn anyone who dares to challenge
the racism of what is going
on – accuse them of “playing the race card” or
say they are paranoid. Criticize people who challenge the exclusion
of African-Americans as people who “just want to go back
to the bad old days.” Repeat the message that you want
something better for everyone. Use African American spokespersons
Step Thirty-Three. Repeat these steps.
Note to readers. Every fact in this list actually happened and
continues to happen in New Orleans, after Katrina.
BC Columnist Bill Quigley is a
law professor and Director of the Law Clinic and the Gillis
Long Poverty Law Center at Loyola University New Orleans. He
has been an active public interest lawyer since 1977 and has
served as counsel with a wide range of public interest organizations
on issues including Katrina social justice issues, public housing,
voting rights, death penalty, living wage, civil liberties,
educational reform, constitutional rights and civil disobedience.
He has litigated numerous cases with the NAACP Legal Defense
and Educational Fund, Inc., the Advancement Project, and with
the ACLU of Louisiana, for which he served as General Counsel
for over 15 years. Click
here to contact Mr. Quigley.