One recurring theme of the coverage of Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath on this side of the Atlantic has been the presumption that (a) a disproportionate number of the victims are black and (b) that black equals poor. Now it is entirely possible that a disproportionate number of the victims are black and poor, but it's also possible that this is not true. At some point, when the final toll is known, it may be feasible to make educated guesses as to the wealth and skin color of those who have died based on their addresses.
Today's NY Times describes one of the hardest hit areas of New Orleans as middle-class and "a quiet, predominantly African-American community". Black? Yes. Poor? Not necessarily.
Here's another article from the Times-Picayune describing the fears of Dr. Critty Hymes about her neighborhood. I don't know the geography of the city well enough to know if this is the same are as the Times dealt with. I also don't know if the she's worried that it is white neighborhoods or poor ones that are getting more attention than her own. What I do know is that is that if there is one segment of the American population that needs more attention it is middle class black people.
For those poor black people living in hopeless ghettos, they need to know what is possible. They need role models who are doctors, accountants and business owners. They need an education system that prepares their children for the tough road ahead, not one that molly-coddles, 'understands' and accepts less because the they're black and poor. They need less of the "white do-gooderism" that John McWhorter blames for many of the problems black people face today.
White people too need to see more of middle class black people. They need to know more about those black people who succeed. They need to know that progress is possible. It would also be good for the America's image abroad if it was clear that not all black experience is like what we saw around the Superdome three weeks ago.
Based on his speech the other night, I doubt President Bush would want to see the end of the middle class black neighborhoods in New Orleans. Although I have doubts that the rebuilding of New Orleans & the Gulf Coast is the responsibility of the Federal Government, I think the President's vision of black entrepreneurs leading the rebirth of the city is a good one. Those black entrepreneurs will need to live somewhere, including, hopefully Critty Hymes's neighborhood. I hope when it happens we all get to see it.