Wednesday, September 14, 2005

What about Gulfport?

Most of the attention in the aftermath of Katrina has rightly focused on the horrible human tragedy that has taken place in New Orleans, and how race and class may have affected the response on the part of the federal government. Most of the rest of the Gulf Coast, as a result, has fallen off the radar screen. Take Gulfport, Mississippi, for instance.

Gulfport is a medium-sized city (71,127), whose racial make-up is roughly 62 percent white and 33.5 percent African American. According to a story in the webzine Salon nobody in Gulfport has even seen anybody from FEMA yet--13 DAYS AFTER THE EFFIN HURRICANE. Most of Gulfport was detroyed in the hurricane, and the residents there have not been happy with the federal government's response to their situation, as Dick Cheney can attest. They can be no happier with their lard-ass Republican governor (and former chair of the RNC), Haley Barbour, who, despite his close connections with the Bush administration, has not been able to get anyone to pay any attention to Gulfport except for the occassional photo op (see Cheney link above--and after his reception there, they are probably having a difficult time even getting that). Gulfport is a working-class town:
The median income for a household in the city was $32,779, and the median income for a family was $39,213. Males had a median income of $29,220 versus $21,736 for females. The per capita income for the city was $17,554. 17.7% of the population and 14.1% of families were below the poverty line. Out of the total population, 25.8% of those under the age of 18 and 13.7% of those 65 and older were living below the poverty line.
While Gulfport has a much smaller percentage of residents living below the poverty line, there are still a substantial number--and a substantial number who will find recovery from this disaster extremely difficult.

The point of all of this is not to try and diminish the effect that race has had in this fiasco; large numbers of poor Gulfportians are undoubtedly African American. It is to argue, instead, that class plays a role just as important.

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