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HURRICANE KATRINA AND THE RACIAL GULF: A Du Boisian Analysis of Victims' Experiences

  • Cedric Herring (a1)

Americans like to believe that “we are all in the same boat” when disaster strikes. Using a Du Boisian framework, this article provides a multivariate analysis of survey data from victims of Hurricane Katrina to determine whether there were racial differences in their perceptions about rescue and relief efforts. The data collected from survivors show that Blacks and Whites drew very different lessons from the tragedy. There was widespread agreement among Black survivors that the government's response to the crisis would have been faster if most of the storm's victims had been White. Whites, in contrast, were more likely to feel that the race of the victims did not make a difference in the government's response. Less than half of White victims, but more than three-quarters of Black victims, held that Hurricane Katrina pointed out persisting problems of racial inequality. There were, however, few racial differences in perceptions about the role of income in the aftermath of Katrina. Most Blacks and Whites agreed with the idea that low-income and middle-income victims of the hurricane received similar treatment. But when asked a similar question about the role of race, racial differences reemerged. Also, rather than this being a difference of opinion only between poor Blacks and middle-class Whites, these results suggest that there were also differences between the lowest-income Blacks and middle-income Blacks and perhaps an even larger difference between middle-income Blacks and middle-income Whites in terms of how they viewed the government's response. Income and other sociodemographic differences did not explain racial differences in perceptions about the role of race in the aftermath of the hurricane. The article concludes that the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina exposed the wide gulf between the nation's haves and have-nots as well as the nation's persistent racial divide.

Corresponding author
Professor Cedric Herring, Department of Sociology, 1007 West Harrison Street, University of Illinois, Chicago, IL 60607. E-mail:
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I am grateful for the funding that the Ford Foundation provided for this project. An earlier version of this paper was presented at “The People's Assembly on Race and International Affairs in Post-Katrina America,” in Chicago, Illinois, on November 10, 2005.
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Du Bois Review: Social Science Research on Race
  • ISSN: 1742-058X
  • EISSN: 1742-0598
  • URL: /core/journals/du-bois-review-social-science-research-on-race
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