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The Template Dies Hard

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Today, twenty months after the Katrina story began, one of the durable myths of the story's template resurfaced on NBC's Nightly News. Martin Savidge, nominally of the network's New Orleans bureau, flatly stated in the opening to a piece on continuing racial divisions in the city (unlike, say, which other American cities?), that most people affected by the disaster were African-American. This continues to be the impression of most Americans, due primarily to the fact that it was easier for media crews to get to the Superdome and Convention Center during K week (still, despite everything, freeway-close) than to get to St. Bernard Parish, a white-flight county to the east where nearly 100% of the housing was destroyed by Katrina-related flooding. At least, that's the charitable interpretation. The less benign view is that the New York-based media adopted a template of the story that cast it in racial terms and is loath to give up that template.

This is not to deny the obvious fact that, overall, white folks have tended to have more resources to fuel their return than African-Americans, who remain the bulk of the exiles. But the idea that the flooding chose favorites, on the basis of either race or class, is a persistent canard, and somebody in the "New Orleans bureau" should have had the time and opportunity to know better.