America’s ‘most unequal place’ hits home, albeit the avoidance of insectionality

CNN’s John D. Sutter wrote a really fantastic piece exploring the persistent wealth inequality within a town only 4 hours away from my native New Orleans.

“The most unequal place in America” explores how class divisions in Lake Providence, La., create this empathy gap furthering an economic chasm harming the East Carroll Parish, an area with what the Census Bureau deems as the nation’s highest level of income inequality.

The strife of classism rears its ugly head throughout history, and New Orleans is no exception.

Although the world really had a glimpse into NOLA’s poverty level in the Katrina fallout, roughly 70,000 people, 14 percent of the city, lived with incomes below 50 percent of the poverty line in 2000.

All things considered, it’s a must that we also understand how different social identifiers factor into this inequality gap. And that means acknowledging education, gender and race.

Sutter’s near-flawless Op-Ed tackles the persistent and legal obstacles of classism within a Louisiana community, and he acknowledges how historical factors of slavery and discrimination persist.

“But class has become the new barrier — one that is both persistent and legal,” according to Sutter.

This excellent story touches upon the historical racial inequality of the area, but Sutter doesn’t mention its diversity, if you can call it that. Since 2010, more than 80 percent of Lake Providence is overwhelmingly black in comparison to whites who make up the second largest “majority” by more than 16 percent.

And although times have changed from before, one could argue the overwhelming voter count of blacks there is still limited in political influence. The reasons can vary: A lack of community cohesion, a lack of interracial empathy, or even a sizable amount of income needed to support politicians or programs working to close the income gap.

2010 Census statistics about Lake Providence race via CensusViewer
2010 Census statistics of Lake Providence, La. by race via

Putting classism on an oppressive pedestal undercuts the influences of racial discrimination today. The National Housing Institute emphasizes how part of the drama that created comparisons of New Orleans to the Third World for instance were attributed in part to race just as much as its’ economy.

NOLA was two-thirds black and is still a largely black-populated city occupied with its’ own political and social issues often tied into racial relations. Sutter’s journalism experiment to bring change to places and issues needed most should enlist the help of a few journalists with a perspective of different topics to contribute more representations of society.

This is not to say that classicism is not a larger issue for some more than others. Addressing insectionality among each discriminatory factor when possible is necessary, but journalism has the challenge of limited time to get a message across. The availability to do so exists nonetheless, but it requires the hands of many.

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