US gears up for largest resettlement in US history
That is if you don’t count the tragic history of Native Americans who were forced off their traditional lands (including the infamous Trail of Tears tragedy and the Indian Removal Act).
Today’s news is littered with stories of how the evacuees of New Orleans will create the largest US black resettlement since the Great Migration of poor Southern blacks heading North for better job prospects, a migration that spanned from 1910 to 1970. Seems like a positive spin to a very negative situation. The predominantly poor black residents of New Orleans didn’t choose to leave their homes for better opportunities – a catastrophic hurricane devastated their communities and left their future in the hands of those who cared too little to make necessary repairs to the levees.
This new wave of “migration” is actually forced resettlement with the victims of Hurricane Katrina being bussed to such temporary holding pens as the Houston Astrodome by FEMA and the Department of Homeland Security. Plans are underfoot to figure out what to do next with the evacuees but rest assured, people like Barbara Bush see a silver lining:
"And so many of the people in the arena here, you know, were underprivileged anyway, so this [she chuckled slightly]--this is working very well for them."
Meanwhile, suburban evacuees have been returning to examine the extent of damage to their homes. No talk of resettlement for these folks who are probably not black, and most certainly not poor. According to one such suburban resident, "We're going to rebuild it. You know we're going to come back."
By contrast, survivors who managed to ride out the storm and consequential chaos, thanks to the delayed rescue and relief efforts as coordinated by federal agencies, are insisting on staying put in their central New Orleans homes.
"There is absolutely no reason to stay here. There are no jobs. There are no homes to go to. No hotels to go to and there is absolutely nothing here," New Orleans Deputy Police Chief Warren Riley told a news conference.
For those who chose to stay in central New Orleans rather than join their poor black neighbours who have to resettle and find new jobs, there will be no more goodwill and compassion. According to a representative of a search-and-rescue team tasked with finding these survivors and persuading them to leave, “no relief materials, such as food and water, would be provided for these people”.
Rebuild or resettle? I sure know what I would choose.