New Orleans Population has the Right of Return
Glen Ford Black Commentator Radio, September 8th 2005
The people of New Orleans have a right to return. It is not too early to say so. In fact, it is imperative that we demand the Right of Return now, before the circumstances of the displacement of this population create facts on the ground that cannot be reversed. We have seen, elsewhere in the world, how those who have been displaced are effectively shut out from returning to their origins, and how quickly the public says, well, that’s just water under the bridge – or over the levee. Others, newcomers, will benefit from the tragedy of the previous population’s displacement. This cannot be allowed to occur in New Orleans. Not only does the Black two-thirds of the city have the right to return, but the federal government has an obligation to direct every resource to making it possible and practical for them to return, and to live productive lives in the city from which they were driven. The circumstances of displacement are clear. The Bush regime set New Orleans up for a fall, cutting back on funding for the levees in every year of George Bush’s administration. The scenario for precisely the catastrophe that Hurricane Katrina wrought was played out in a regional and federal computerized hurricane war game, just last year, involving a hypothetical Hurricane called “Pam.” The Bush men chose to ignore the data. In legal terms, they showed a depraved indifference to human life – or worse. After the deluge, this official depravity was compounded by the Bush men’s indifference – or worse – to the plight of those who had no choice but to stay in New Orleans. The facts of federal depravity are so manifest, there is no need to elaborate in this commentary. But the New Orleans diaspora is spreading, uncharted, with no paper trail, and only an ad hoc, improvised charitable money trail. The displaced persons of New Orleans, like the Blanche DuBois character in the Tennessee Williams play, “Streetcar Named Desire,” are now largely dependent on “the kindness of strangers.” That is nothing to celebrate about. The people of New Orleans have the right to be made whole, again. They are citizens, wounded by their own government. The rights of citizens cannot be privatized, or churched-out, or Salvation-Armyed out. All help is appreciated, but we must also focus on rights – the right to not be permanently displaced by depraved government policies or the corporate greed that will certainly try to swallow New Orleans whole – just as whole as did the waters of Lake Pontchartrain. Displacement based on race is a form of genocide, as recognized under the Geneva Conventions. Destruction of a people’s culture, by official action or depraved inaction, is an offense against humanity, under international law. New Orleans – the whole city, and its people – is an indispensable component of African American culture and history. It is clear that the displaced people of New Orleans are being outsourced – to everywhere, and nowhere. They are not nowhere people. They are citizens of the United States, which is obligated to right the wrongs of the Bush regime, and it’s unnatural disaster. Charity is fine. Rights are better. The people of New Orleans have the Right to Return – on Uncle Sam’s tab. For Radio BC, I’m Glen Ford.
The above is the text of commentary from Black Commentator Radio; to listen to BC radio go to http://www.blackcommentator.com/radio_bc/index.html