Was There a Race War after Hurricane Katrina?

By Special Correspondent Nadra Kareem

Herrington, Alexander and Collins. 

It’s unlikely that these names ring a bell, that upon hearing them a knot will form in your stomach as often happens to those who hear the names of another trio—Goodman, Schwerner and Chaney. The latter threesome received worldwide recognition after a lynch mob executed them in 1964 for trying to register black Mississippians to vote. On the other hand, the former threesome was shot during Hurricane Katrina by a group of men described as “white vigilantes.” Unlike Goodman, Schwerner and Cheney, however, Herrington (pictured above), Alexander and Collins survived to tell their tale.

Now, A.C. Thompson, a writer for The Nation, has launched an investigation into the shootings of Herrington, Alexander and Collins. In an article called “Katrina’s Hidden Race War,” which was published online Dec. 17, Thompson asserts that at least 11 blacks were shot as the hurricane unfolded—all by white men.

“So far, their crimes have gone unpunished. No one was ever arrested for shooting Herrington, Alexander and Collins—in fact, there was never an investigation,” Thompson writes. “As a reporter who has spent more than a decade covering crime, I was startled to meet so many people with so much detailed information about potentially serious offenses, none of whom had ever been interviewed by police detectives.”

It’s especially surprising that no arrests have been made for the shootings considering that the victims haven’t exactly kept them a secret. Herrington spoke of his ordeal in Spike Lee’s documentary “When the Levees Broke,” according to Thompson. To boot, Cox News and pro-gun blogs reportedly mentioned them as well.

The main reason Thompson believes that an uproar hasn’t broken out over the shootings is because of the pervasive portrayal of blacks as looters and thugs during the media’s coverage of Katrina. In short, while America would normally classify a group of white Southerners who went on a shooting rampage against blacks as a lynch mob, in this case such whites were considered to be innocent men simply protecting their property from lawless African Americans.

Add this episode to the long series of missteps that occurred during the chaos that was Katrina—from FEMA’s slow response to the largely impoverished victims to W.’s delayed arrival to New Orleans to Condi Rice shopping for shoes as the hurricane unwound.

It took public outcry for the FBI to conduct an investigation into the murders of Goodman, Schwerner and Chaney. Perhaps similar outcry is needed to spur the authorities to hold the white vigilantes who terrorized blacks in New Orleans during Katrina responsible. 

(Color of Change has an appeal to the state to investigate ready and waiting for you to fill it out here. Thanks to reader Tawra for the tip. Photo credit: Chandra McCormick and Keith Calhoun for The Nation)