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The Neoliberal DelugeHurricane Katrina, Late Capitalism, and the Remaking of New Orleans$
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Cedric Johnson

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780816673247

Published to Minnesota Scholarship Online: August 2015

DOI: 10.5749/minnesota/9780816673247.001.0001

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“We Are Seeing People We Didn’t Know Exist”

“We Are Seeing People We Didn’t Know Exist”

Katrina and the Neoliberal Erasure of Race

(p.32) Chapter 2 “We Are Seeing People We Didn’t Know Exist”
The Neoliberal Deluge

Eric Ishiwata

University of Minnesota Press

This chapter examines the nexus of racial politics and neoliberal governance in New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. It considers the Bush administration’s disavowals of race as a factor in his administration’s response to mass suffering in New Orleans, connecting this denial to the colorblind neoliberal politics that have flourished in American life since the rise of Reaganism. In stark contrast to the egalitarian, antiracist posture of the modern civil rights movement, right-wing colorblindness entails a refusal to acknowledge documented patterns of discrimination in labor markets, mortgage lending, college admissions, and other areas of life and a reluctance to mobilize state power to remedy inequality. The chapter analyzes anti-affirmative action policy, conservative education reform, popular film, and political rhetoric to delineate the core features and limitations of neoliberal colorblindness. Finally, it proposes an alternative approach to contemporary inequality that emphasizes relationality and acts of empathy over atomistic individualism, and evades the traps of narrow identity politics.

Keywords:   racial politics, New Orleans, Hurricane Katrina, race, neoliberal politics, discrimination, inequality, anti-affirmative action policy, relationality, empathy

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