A Review: William Quigley’s How to Destroy an African American City in 33 Steps

I discovered this essay in Quigley’s book: Storms Still Raging – Katrina, New Orleans and Social Justice, but the essay has existed online for quite some time; it was written three years ago.

William Quigley is a human rights lawyer and professor of law at Loyola University in New Orleans where he heads the center for Social Justice, the Clinic, and the Poverty Law Center.

Take a look, no need for me to comment except to ask, though initially published in 2007, how many of these steps still echo in New Orleans today?

Step One. Delay. If there is one word that sums up the way to destroy an African-American city after a disaster, that word is DELAY. If you are in doubt about any of the following steps–just remember to delay and you will probably be doing the right thing.

Step Two. When a disaster is coming, do not arrange a public evacuation. Rely only on individual resources. People with cars and money for hotels will leave. The elderly, the disabled and the poor will not be able to leave. Most of those without cars–25% of households of New Orleans, overwhelmingly African-Americans–will not be able to leave. Most of the working poor, overwhelmingly African-American, will not be able to leave. Many will then permanently accuse the victims who were left behind of creating their own human disaster because of their own poor planning. It is critical to start by having people blame the victims for their own problems.

Step Three. When the disaster hits make certain the national response is overseen by someone who has no experience at all handling anything on a large scale, particularly disasters. In fact, you can even inject some humor into the response–have the disaster coordinator be someone whose last job was the head of a dancing horse association.

Step Four. Make sure that the President and national leaders remain aloof and only slightly concerned. This sends an important message to the rest of the country.

Step Five. Make certain the local, state, and national governments do not respond in a coordinated effective way. This will create more chaos on the ground.

Step Six. Do not bring in food or water or communications right away. This will make everyone left behind more frantic and create incredible scenes for the media.

Step Seven. Make certain that the media focus of the disaster is not on the heroic community work of thousands of women, men and young people helping the elderly, the sick and the trapped survive, but mainly on acts of people looting. Also spread and repeat the rumors that people trapped on rooftops are shooting guns not to attract attention and get help, but AT the helicopters. This will reinforce the message that “those people” left behind are different from the rest of us and are beyond help.

Step Eight. Refuse help from other countries. If we accept help, it looks like we cannot or choose not to handle this problem ourselves. This cannot be the message. The message we want to put out over and over is that we have plenty of resources and there is plenty of help. Then if people are not receiving help, it is their own fault. This should be done quietly.

Step Nine. Once the evacuation of those left behind actually starts, make sure people do not know where they are going or have any way to know where the rest of their family has gone. In fact, make sure that African-Americans end up much farther away from home than others.

Step Ten. Make sure that when government assistance finally has to be given out, it is given out in a totally arbitrary way. People will have lost their homes, jobs, churches, doctors, schools, neighbors and friends. Give them a little bit of money, but not too much. Make people dependent. Then cut off the money. Then give it to some and not others. Refuse to assist more than one person in every household. This will create conflicts where more than one generation lived together. Make it impossible for people to get consistent answers to their questions. Long lines and busy phones will discourage people from looking for help.

To read the remaining 23 steps, hit the link:

Lessons From Katrina: How to Destroy an African American City in 33 Steps

Have a nice day.

3 thoughts on “A Review: William Quigley’s How to Destroy an African American City in 33 Steps

  1. I listen to National Public Radio’s This American Life. And I will never forget when I heard this show: After the Flood, which is about Katrina. http://www.thislife.org/Radio_Episode.aspx?episode=296

    Now I thought the whole situation was FUBARed already, as I heard someone say, when everyone was told to go to the Superdome, “That will make a convenient way to count the bodies.” Sickening. But then I heard this Radio-Documentary, and I will never forget. My old man and I were in the car driving to OKC and when we heard the part about police destroying temporary camps near the bridges and bullying people, we almost drove off the road. We are a couple of old Vets, and we care about this country. We really do. We have lived through some stuff. And the thought of our children or family members or ourselves having to contend with being stranded in a freaken bowl, with crazed corrupt cops shooting at you and destroying your camps and keeping you from crossing bridges to leave the scene, especially if you are the wrong color–That blew our minds.
    We just don’t think that way. And it shocked us that any American did think that way.

    One of the Narrators is in a Mixed Race Family. He is a White EMT but his kids and his Mrs is not White. It made for an interesting contrast when they went to cross the bridge.

    And yea, I hear that blame the victim crap all the time. It sickens me. They wanted out. But how do you get out if no one will let you leave, even on foot? Holding you at gunpoint?

    Welcome to the United States of Mean and Stupid. And it’s happening all over again. Talk about SSDD only this time with an African American President. I mean, the people can’t win for loosing!
    What do you do with that?

  2. In a nutshell, do your best to build community, that is what you do, as though America most certainly has its problems most of the people are good, and want to be good but many are unsure of what to do to help, how to go about it. When the government fails, do what you can to replace the need for them inside your community.

    Obviously in a situation as extreme as the flood, this will be difficult, if not impossible and obviously, a lack of concern or response will certainly make this near impossible. I speak more of today and what can be done now.

    Everything begins and ends in our own communities and what we do together, to build them, both materially and dare I say spiritually, whatever it is that means.


  3. I guess I will have to hang onto your positive attitude til mine grows back. I think it has been burnt off at this point. I feel it is very difficult to creat communities when so much of our country is divided along so many lines. Race, economics, and right now a big one for me is religion. I know people would say political ideology, but right now that seems to hinge mostly on religion–i.e., the Values Voter. As if no one else but a “chosen” few have values, or an internal moral compass, or any of that stuff.

    I have lived in the shadow of that so long, that anything added to that steaming pile just blocks out the sun in my world.

    So I will let your words take precedent. I don’t even live there, and I have very little hope right now. I want your version to be true.

    That people come together for people’s sake.

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