Melissa Harris Lacewell is assistant professor of political science at the University of Chicago and author of Barbershops, Bibles, and BET: Everyday Talk and Black Political Thought. Her website can be found at http://www.melissaharrislacewell.com/
I am struggling with a moral and intellectual dilemma. I am a progressive, African American academic committed to battling racial inequality and I do not want my public voice deployed against struggling communities. So I have been reluctant to admit that I am ambivalent about racialized demands to rebuild New Orleans. Displaced black citizens are insisting on return -- they want their city rebuilt as it was before Katrina -- because they reasonably fear the loss of all they have invested. But simultaneous and complete urban reconstruction is impossible. I finally choose to speak because I fear that if we focus exclusively on rebuilding we will miss an opportunity to demand another and arguably more just option: restoration.