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  • Print publication year: 2010
  • Online publication date: June 2012



“… [T]hese children are ours now, and we don't look at them any other way.”

In August 2005, Hurricane Katrina damaged and destroyed homes along the Gulf Coast of the United States, from Florida to Texas. The storm forced hundreds of thousands of residents of New Orleans to leave the city, many of whom went to Baton Rouge and Houston. Kip Holden, the mayor of Baton Rouge, described the evacuees from Hurricane Katrina as “New Orleans thugs,” and gun sales increased sharply in his city. At the same time, however, a spokesperson for the Houston Independent School District called the thirty thousand largely poor and black children from New Orleans who suddenly appeared in Houston schools “ours.” Why would the black elected leader of a city only 80 miles from New Orleans worry about “thugs” and violence from the newcomers while a white spokesman (Terry Abbott) of a white- and Latino-led school district in a Texas city 280 miles from New Orleans welcomed the children? Why were the reactions so different?

This book will help provide a framework for understanding how it could happen that people in Houston might see those children as a part of their community. It will also help us understand why many citizens of neighboring Baton Rouge sharply circumscribed the help that they offered to fellow Louisianans in need. For example, the law school at Louisiana State University absorbed Tulane's law students but did not otherwise organize to house or feed or help non-law students.

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Boundaries of Obligation in American Politics
  • Online ISBN: 9780511802874
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