Katrina, the Ultimate Party Crasher

As the country celebrates how far we've come, the anniversary of Hurricane Katrina reminds us how far we have yet to go.


Roberts’ astute, if unsettling observation could have been said about far too many poor neighborhoods and communities around the country. But it’s not the sort of sentiment that made it into the Democrats’ hopeful showcase this week. Clinton’s now famous “18 million cracks” in the glass ceiling for women, for instance, was a recurring boast. But which women are we talking about? Women overall earn just 77 cents on the dollar compared to men; black women earn a lousy 62 cents. Latinas get 53 cents.

Americans prefer forward-looking politicians, people with solutions and hope for a better tomorrow. Change we can believe in. That’s a positive strain in our political culture. But it often runs parallel to a steadfast refusal to acknowledge difficult realities and explore their root causes so they can be altered.

It’s an indisputably amazing feat that, 45 years to the day after Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his “Dream” speech demanding equal opportunity in America, a black man secured the Democratic Party’s nomination to be president. Surely, it shows this country has undergone profound changes, no matter how gradual. But just as surely, our nation’s willingness to shrug and move on just three years after watching the government’s horrific abandonment of black New Orleans is damning evidence of just how much remains the same.

Kai Wright is author of Drifting Toward Love: Black, Brown, Gay and Coming of Age on the Streets of New York.