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Culture Clashes in the South

Culture Clashes in the South

The cover story for this edition, “Swept Into the Background,” looks at one of the under-reported populations affected by Hurricane Katrina — Vietnamese Americans. There is a  legitimate reason why they did not receive much coverage. They simply were not as visible as the Black evacuees that the media focused on.

Diverse contributing editor Lydia Lum reports that most Vietnamese Gulf Coast residents bypassed official channels during the crisis. In other words, they did not report to the New Orleans Superdome or the Houston Astrodome for shelter. Instead, they evacuated to Texas, where they sought out and received help from the sizeable Vietnamese community in Houston.

Lydia had a difficult time getting scholars to go on the record about why the Vietnamese community stayed away from the “official shelters.” It appears to be a sensitive issue, because with Blacks comprising more than 67 percent of New Orleans, many Vietnamese presumed the Superdome would become a “Black shelter.”

The scholars that weigh in also conclude that members of the Vietnamese community, many of whom live among Blacks, did not have much faith that the federal government would help the Black community, much less help them. Some of the reasons are complex but shed some light on the tensions and relationships that exist among minority groups.

The fate of American Indian tribes along the Gulf Coast also have been underreported, according to some journalists. C. Stone Brown recently reported in “Katrina’s Forgotten Victims: Native American Tribes” on that there was little communication with tribes immediately following the hurricane. One tribe near Chalmette, La., was using a nearby high school for a morgue. The National Congress of American Indians has partnered with the National Indian Gaming Association to raise relief funds for tribes in Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi.

While we’re talking about the South, we feature two other stories with Southern roots. First, North Carolina correspondent Eleanor Lee Yates sits down with Fayetteville State University Chancellor T.J. Bryan, who during her short tenure at FSU has increased student retention rates and decreased student/faculty ratios due to new faculty hires. A military town, Fayetteville is home to Fort Bragg Army Base and Pope Air Force Base. The diversity of the community has naturally trickled over to the historically Black university, which has experienced an increase in White, Hispanic and Asian students. Says Bryan, “Some don’t like this. But we are committed to progress and will embrace the community.”

Secondly, assistant editor Kendra Hamilton reports on the new study “The Status of Race Equity and Diversity in Public Higher Education in the South,” which analyzes the persistent inequities in Black student enrollment in public institutions in the South.

And moving up North to New England, Deval Patrick, who first gained national prominence as assistant attorney general for civil rights in the Clinton administration, is making a bid for Massachusetts governor. Senior writer Ronald Roach caught up with Patrick this fall during the Congressional Black Caucus. In “Bay State Bravado,” Patrick, who if elected, would be the first Black governor of the state, talks about K-12 education and his plans to improve public higher education in a state well known for its elite institutions. 

Hilary Hurd Anyaso

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