Originally published in America's Wire.
The New York Times Magazine recently ran a story on my home, the Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans, a place one of the most powerful newspapers in the world insensitively dubbed a “Jungleland.” Contrary to the article, residents of this community are not reconciled to life in the wilderness and we don’t live in an untamed mess of overgrowth or in a forgotten wasteland. We are not resigned to anything; we are fighting to revive our community.
While the article cites the city government’s futile attempts to improve the neighborhood, it barely mentions the overall lack of government support before and after Hurricane Katrina and the hard work by committed citizens to improve the community. Yes, many parts of the Lower Ninth are overgrown and neglected, but what the article missed is that many are not. Moreover, the untold story is how city, state and federal government abandoned this community.
The Times probably had good intentions — document the bad situation so our community can get help. But while writing about broken people, vacant lots and weeds may be sexy journalism, the community needs the outside world to understand how implicit and unconscious bias caused by a history of racism pummeled us.
After Katrina, millions of dollars flowed into New Orleans, and the Lower Ninth was declared the glaring example of what needed rehabilitation. Yet, nearly seven years later, the French Quarter and other areas of tourism and affluence are sparkling, while few improvements have been made in the Lower Ninth.In fact, most of the decaying properties cited in the article are owned by the City of New Orleans, not the residents.