In pondering the question of how to measure the recovery of a city, we realize that one’s response depends upon one’s perspective. It is clear that race and place greatly determine personal ability to recover from Hurricane Katrina and color a personal view of recovery. Communities least affected by the storm tend to have larger percentages of white residents. These communities are also more likely to describe the recovery as satisfactory. While these areas received less damage, they have also benefited the most from federal dollars for recovery. Flood insurance claims were larger, leading to a large concentration of hazardous mitigation dollars flowing into these areas. Because of this, these areas are well on the way to a full recovery.
Well before Hurricane Katrina struck on Aug. 29, 2005, New Orleans was already struggling with a wide range of environmental-justice challenges. People of color tended to be most vulnerable to a range of environmental assaults, from flood waters to toxic debris. Beyond being exposed to hurricanes, residing along the Mississippi River Chemical Corridor has increased the vulnerability of local residents to environmental-health threats. The corridor has often been dubbed "Cancer Alley," and in 2008, Louisiana replaced Mississippi as the unhealthiest U.S. state, according to the annual ranking released by the foundation, American Public Health Association, and the Partnership for Prevention advocacy group.