Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Can you go home again?

From an email: -- From Candace Chambliss September 7, 2005 Return to Metairie after Hurricane Katirina On September 6, 2005, my housemate and boyfriend, Mark Thompson and I returned to Jefferson Parish, which was reopened to residents on Monday, September 5, 2005. We live in a small two-bedroom house in an older part of Metairie that is middle-working class and all white. Mark and I are Black. I am an attorney with the Juvenile Justice Project of Louisiana and Mark is a doctor at Tulane Hospital. Upon arriving, Mark and I spoke with neighbors who were outside their homes—neighbors with whom we never before had a conversation in the one-year we lived in the community. Afterwards we examined our own home and were relieved to find it virtually unharmed. Only the yard and fence required real repair. Mark dragged a lawn chair from the house into the backyard and we sat down and reveled in the fact that we had been so fortunate. Moments later a man in fatigues and carrying a rifle entered our yard and yelled for us to get our hands up where he could see them. Mark complied and yelled, “This is my house,” and the gunman responded by insisting that Mark lay on the ground face down. Five other men, all pointing their guns at us, also entered the yard, and I too was made to lay face down in the grass that was covered by tree branches, glass, roof tiles, and other objects. The men demanded Mark’s identification and removed his wallet from his pocket. They asked Mark whether he stole the clothes he was wearing. Mark calmly responded to every question that was rudely and insultingly asked. I meanwhile was crying from fear of the man who was holding a gun to my head. The militiamen demanded proof that Mark owned the house, and Mark informed them that our picture was hanging on the refrigerator. The men confiscated the photograph we took two years ago on Valentines Day, and never returned it. They went through the house, supposedly looking for mail or other evidence of Mark’s ownership. They found a stack of unopened mail with Mark’s name and address and affirmed that he did in fact own the house. The gunmen allowed us to stand and one of them said, “Sorry for the inconvenience.” They said they received a call regarding looters. I suggested that we were treated as were because we are Black, and no response was given. The men left. Undoubtedly, my elderly white neighbors were not welcomed in such a way when they returned to their houses.