Letter to the Editor: Home to New Orleans, New York Times

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To the Editor:
An April 10 news article praises Edward J. Blakely, the executive director of New Orleans’s Office of Recovery Management, for having a ”clinical, outsider’s eye” when in fact his eye is blind to the human rights of New Orleanians displaced by Hurricane Katrina.

According to the United Nations Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement, people forced to flee their communities as a result of a natural disaster are ”internally displaced persons” who have the human right to return to their communities.

In your article, Dr. Blakely pointedly denounces the right of return, describes New Orleanians as ”buffoons” whose culture is rife with racism, and hopes that ”new Americans” will replace New Orleanians trapped outside the city.

History has shown that violating the human rights of a group of people begins with disparaging their character, expressing contempt for their culture and portraying them as unworthy of the places they live.

Dr. Blakely’s recovery agenda denigrates the humanity of people struggling to find a way home to New Orleans.

Monique Harden
Nathalie Walker
New Orleans, April 11, 2007

The writers are co-directors of Advocates for Environmental Human Rights.