NEW ORLEANS – Mayor Ray Nagin suggested Monday that Hurricanes Katrina and Rita and other storms were a sign that "God is mad at America" and at black communities, too, for tearing themselves apart with violence and political infighting.
"Surely God is mad at America. He sent us hurricane after hurricane after hurricane, and it's destroyed and put stress on this country," Nagin, who is black, said as he and other city leaders marked Martin Luther King Day.
"Surely he doesn't approve of us being in Iraq under false pretenses. But surely he is upset at black America also. We're not taking care of ourselves."
Nagin also promised that New Orleans will be a "chocolate" city again. Many of the city's black neighborhoods were heavily damaged by Katrina.
"It's time for us to come together. It's time for us to rebuild New Orleans — the one that should be a chocolate New Orleans," the mayor said. "This city will be a majority African American city. It's the way God wants it to be. You can't have New Orleans no other way. It wouldn't be New Orleans."
Nagin described an imaginary conversation with King, the late civil rights leader.
"I said, `What is it going to take for us to move on and live your dream and make it a reality?' He said, `I don't think that we need to pay attention any more as much about other folks and racists on the other side.' He said, `The thing we need to focus on as a community — black folks I'm talking about — is ourselves.'"
Nagin said he also asked: "Why is black-on-black crime such an issue? Why do our young men hate each other so much that they look their brother in the face and they will take a gun and kill him in cold blood?"
The reply, Nagin said, was: "We as a people need to fix ourselves first."
Nagin also said King would have been dismayed with black leaders who are "most of the time tearing each other down publicly for the delight of many."
A day earlier, gunfire erupted at a parade to commemorate King's birthday. Three people were wounded in the daylight shooting amid a throng of mostly black spectators, but police said there were no immediate suspects or witnesses.