While most Americans agree that government officials failed to act promptly to provide food, water, shelter, and other relief to the victims of Hurricane Katrina, they disagree about the racial relevance of this negligence. Nevertheless, the unavoidable images of the storm's disproportionately high number of African American victims among those unable to flee a foretold disaster brought into view the specter of racial inequality. While most theorists and commentators have used race and poverty as the primary lenses through which to view Katrina's human toll, this paper utilizes linguistic rubrics and relative immigration status to address inequities globally suffered by people of African descent. In the case of American Blacks, our emphasis is on Blacks with ancestral ties to enslaved Africans, since those who suffered most in the wake of Katrina were not merely Black, but also direct descendants of American slaves of African origin. Framing the discussion in terms of linguistic ancestry, its relationship to slavery, and instances of (c)overt social and educational apartheid born of statutory racial segregation, I develop a Historical Hardship Index as an alternative way to advance equality in the period after the end of African slave trade. The proposed Historical Hardship Index can be applied—with slight regional modifications—to anyone, anywhere, without reference to race.
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