A Look Inside the Race Debate

Hurricane Katrina ushered in a series of debates about whether race was a factor in the delayed evacuation of New Orleans and the resettlement of evacuees following the storm. These conversations have taken place in the media, in town meetings, in workplaces and in our homes. In this section, we take you into the debate in Pointe Coupee Parish, La., a community outside of New Orleans.

In November of 2005, the Police Jury of the parish voted against allowing temporary FEMA trailer parks in Pointe Coupee Parish. Although trailers would have been placed only on the property of citizens willing to host them, only three out of 12 jury members voted in favor of the trailer parks.

Some residents supported the decision, citing concerns about the ability of the parish’s infrastructure to support long term the sudden influx of people. Others opposed the decision, believing that race and class were at the root of the vote as evacuees destined for the parks were predominantly poor and black.. The buildup of emotions surrounding this debate led to a meeting on December 13th, 2005, in which the topic of race relations was placed on the agenda by jury member Albert Dukes.

This section breaks the meeting coverage into four parts. We suggest you start by watching excerpts from the actual meeting (The Discussion); then continue to watch as conversations unfold in the hallways outside the meeting (The Discussion Continues). The two-part Interview Excerpts provide one-on-one conversations with police jury members on each side of the debate.

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The Discussion
The Discussion
Community members weighed in on the decision of the Pointe Coupee Police Jury to prevent temporary FEMA trailer parks from being established in the parish.
The Discussion Continues
The Discussion Continues
The meeting is over, but residents were still eager to express their views. Discussion spilled into the hallway outside the meeting.

Interview Excerpts: Two Days Before the Meeting
Interview Excerpts: Two Days Before the Meeting
Pointe Coupee Police Jury Member Albert “Dewy” Dukes discusses the reasons he put race relations on the agenda.
Interview Excerpts: After the Meeting
Interview Excerpts: After the Meeting
Police Jury President Melanie Bueche reflects on the meeting and the issue of race relations in her community.