RACE is a cautionary tale about how not to go about rebuilding a city post-disaster, and challenges the mythology of post-racialism in the age of President Obama. Against the backdrop of a devastated city, a largely displaced citizenry, and an increasingly divided community, this documentary film charts the unlikely 2006 re-election of New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin by a completely different electorate than had first put him in office.
Funded by white conservatives, Nagin first ran in 2002 as the business candidate. Largely unpopular within most of the New Orleans African-American community, Nagin was elected to office with 86% of the white vote and 38% of the African-American vote, and had been expected to cruise to re-election. But then Katrina hit.
Following the destruction wrought by the failure of the federal levees and the forced exodus from the city, it became apparent that New Orleans might have lost its African-American majority for the first time in 30 years. Nagin was abandoned by his white base, and an unprecedented number of candidates emerged to challenge him, many of whom were white. Emerging as the frontrunner was Lt. Gov. Mitch Landrieu, the son of the last white mayor of New Orleans, a civil rights pioneer. With the displacement of so many voters, Nagin faced the fight of his political life.
On May 22, 2006, against all expectations, Nagin won re-election with 83% of the African-American vote and 21% of the white vote, a near reversal of his earlier base. This local election captured national attention and came to constitute a post-Katrina civil rights protest, though one in which many participants had mixed feelings. RACE tracks what happened, and why, during a pivotal political moment
for a city in crisis.