Monday, January 09, 2006

Social Strata Po-Boy

I've lived in New Orleans for over ten years but haven't been able to more concisely describe the social fabric than corbusier at Architecture and Morality.

There is a perennial class of native elites in the Crescent City, decedents of the city’s first successful agricultural barons, merchant tycoons and political dynasties. They live in the same neighborhoods for generations, and provide much in the way of philanthropy and cultural amenities to the city. Then there is a thin middle-class, most of whom eventually move to the surrounding suburbs for want of better public schools and less crime. Finally there is everyone else, a vast population of the poor subject to unspeakable conditions.

Indeed. However, it is often assumed that the future New Orleans will be more white and more gentrified as a result of Hurricane Katrina. The first part may be correct because the poor blacks don't have enough financial clout to rebuild their neighborhoods. The blue-blood community that mostly lives in the sliver of land near the river is largely unaffected. The middle-class is ripe to flex their muscles both financially and politically.

Everyone likes to focus on the Lower 9th Ward and the devestation there, but the areas most widely impacted by flooding were middle-class and upper middle-class. Needless to say they are not happy and are ready to do something about it.

Already were seeing some movement in the real estate market where people who could not afford to live in some of the nicer New Orleans neighborhoods before the storm are now picking up bargains with the intent on rebuilding. In a few years we can expect some to see "ghost town" neighborhoods to show signs of activity. This, I'm sure, has many a Big Easy politition quaking in his boots as these, many new, residents will not tolerate the old way of doing things.

This will have repercusions for many years to come. New Orleans may or may not be more white, but it will be more middle-class and that's just what the Voodoo doctor ordered.

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