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Comparing Iowa to New Orleans

17 comments



I been reading a lot of quotes on the interwebs that are saying that Iowa is handling flooding better than New Orleans dealt with Katrina. A lot of the comments (some are more overt than others) imply that white folks in Iowa (of course these comments completely marginalize Iowans of color) are doing a better job of steadfastly standing up to floodwaters while folks of color in New Orleans were looting and relying on handouts. Is this rhetoric racist? Of course it is. It’s comparing two situations that are logically impossible to compare. A single urban area vs. acres of farmland dotted with small to medium sized towns does not present a landscape that is comparable. The rhetorically racist comparisons of flooded Iowa and Katrina-impacted New Orleans reminds me of this Tim Wise video that illustrates how racism has been used to facilitate division amongst working class white folks and working class folks of color.


via Michael Faris

Written by Eric Stoller

June 17th, 2008 at 10:32 pm

  • http://noladder.blogspot.com/ New Orleans News Ladder

    Hey Erick, thanks for the support.
    Since June 7th we have sorta become the Iowa/Midwest Flood News Ladder.
    Our hearts are open to all of y’all on both sides of the Bid Muddy, from the Big Easy.
    I particularly appreciate your take on race with this post. What you mentioned about the blog’o’reamery ho’down of Iowa-vs-New Orleans really helps too.
    Right on, Noble Mon, but sorry, our Zephyrs whipping the pants off the y’alls Cubs this week is no reason for anyone to get testy:)
    I hung you onto today’s Ladder.
    Thank you again,
    Bruce
    Editilla~New Orleans News Ladder

  • angie smith

    Thank you for posting this Eric. Being a fellow Iowan myself and even been involved in a flood back in 1999, I was confused when I read the headlines, “This is our Katrina”

    I just saw the play Storm Stories over the weekend detailing first hand accounts in the hours and days after Katrina and I am sure no one in Iowa were separated from their families , probably not waiting on the basic necessities such as bottled water, food and baby supplies , no rotting corpses in the streets, and no young children being raped on street corners. There is no doubt that these are two DRASTIC situations but to compare the Iowa flooding to Katrina is as much as a complete miss as our government’s response to it.

  • http://www.maritimenewmedia.com/katrina/lademo/ Ray Broussard

    New Orleans guy here.

    Thanks for not making absurd comparisons about the flood victims and not making the losses of flood victims a partisan political issue like so many others have done so cruelly.

    Please help spread the word that elderly flood victims and those with mental health issues before the floods, need immediate intensive help. Many of the elderly will fear they will never again have their independence, they will feel a great sense of hopelessness, grieve, fall into a deep depression and be dead before the New Year. Don’t let it happen in Iowa too.

    The problems that afflict people with existing mental health issues will amplify.

    Pay check to pay check type people, suddenly homeless are scarred to death right now. Gutting and attempting to salvage your own home is an emotional nightmare no one should have to suffer.

    Flooded refrigerators & freezers: DO NOT OPEN! – Wrap in duct tape and put it outside for eventual pick up by FEMA.

    Wood floors: patience – they might return to their pre-flood condition sans finish.

    Moldy clothes. Try washing them if you have access to laundry facilities.

    You will be able to salvage ceramics and some metals, but most every thing else is a lost cause. Take your time.

  • Tanya

    Great post Stoller.

    I hope you are well.

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  • http://www.thanks-katrina.blogspot.com judyb

    Thank you so much for this post. I was just reading some goofball named bigdog go off on just what you are talking about. Glad to see I’m not the only one put off by his comments.

  • Rachel

    Thank you. I lived in IC for four years before moving to earthquake country, and I’ve been gobsmacked both at the damage in Iowa City, Coralville, and Cedar Rapids and at the bigots who can’t find anything better to do than run their racist mouths off on newspaper websites. I wish you and your family the best in clean-up and recovery.

  • Julie

    I spent my early childhood in Missouri Valley living right along the river. I have followed your postings and pictures and shared them with my family. Thanks. And thanks too for highlighting this intentionally divisive means for self praise.
    I am sorry for your family.
    Julie

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  • shy

    Here is what I say to those who are foolish enough to compare two very difference tragedies:

    Are you kidding me! Don’t disrepect the over 1800 dead and their living relatives with this crap. Katrina was the costliest natural disaster in US history, both monetarily ($81 billion) and in loss of life.

    Katrina caused 53 different levee breaches in greater NOLA submerging eighty percent of the cityThe storm surge also devastated the coasts of MS and AL. It was the deadliest hurricane since the ‘28 Okechobee huricane. Further, after death toll, 705 people remain categorized as missing in Louisiana. The disaster declarations covered 90,000 square miles (233,000 km²) of the United States, an area almost as large as the UK. The hurricane left an estimated three million people without electricity.

    Now, I ask you, how many levees are breached in Iowa? How many dead? How many sqare miles are affected? How many are missing or homeless? How many people are without power?

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  • disappointed

    I am disappointed in people’s comments in regard to the comparison, as poor a comparison as it may be. That still is not any reason to belittle the hardships endured by the citizens of Iowa. Shy, you ask questions about numbers in your last paragraph, is one disaster any less disasterous than the next because it doesn’t kill as many? Perhaps we should say “junior” disaster for the floods in Iowa. How long did New Orleans know about Katrina? Long enough to go out buy plywood and board up homes? Iowa just had a rain storm that didn’t stop, no swirling mass off shore observed by scores of meteorologists, no proposed arrival time on CNN, just rain. As I said before it’s a poor comparison, Iowa had little to no warning and the citizens of the Big Easy, well they had a few minutes to decide what they would do and sadly several made the wrong choice.

  • http://ericstoller.com/blog/ Eric Stoller

    @disappointed – I apologize if you feel that I have “belittled” anyone. As a former Iowan, I have posted several times in support of Iowa and Iowans.

    I empathize with shy’s comment because several people on the web have tried to compare 2 completely different catastrophes (flooding in Iowa and New Orleans + Katrina) when the events are not generalizeably comparable. A lot of folks who were impacted by hurricane Katrina have posted that they feel that the suffering that they endured has been diminished or belittled by folks who are comparing their disaster to the floods in Iowa.

    The second half of your comment really buys into the rhetorical trope that people in New Orleans could have somehow done things differently. Well, in hindsight, anything is possible. You also fail to acknowledge the class and race issues that presided over what went down in New Orleans.

    Iowa and New Orleans are two separate tragedies that cannot be compared without diminishing the experiences of people who survived two completely different circumstances.

    There isn’t a hierarchy of disasters. Loss on any scale is still meaningful to the people(s) who endure it.

  • http://www.maritimenewmedia.com/katrina/lademo/ Ray Broussard

    Iowa and New Orleans are two separate tragedies that cannot be compared without diminishing the experiences of people who survived two completely different circumstances.

    There isn’t a hierarchy of disasters. Loss on any scale is still meaningful to the people(s) who endure it.

    Thank you. Many just cannot understand that it is unfair to both sets of flood victims to use their tragedies as an excuse to belittle either or to make some hostile political or racist point. Doing so is just mean, unfriendly and I used to think such behavior was un-American.

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