This past week people around the country have been all atwitter because of some remarks made by Don Imus on his radio show. Here in New Orleans people have been talking about it, just like everywhere else, I suppose. But here in New Orleans people are also talking about remarks made by Dr. Ed Blakely, the man hired by our mayor to manage the recovery.
The Imus controversy boils down to a single phrase. He called the Rutgers women’s basketball team “nappy-headed hos.”
(The principal at Xy’s school asked the students why they were upset about Imus. “You say it all the time.” But I digress.)
Blakely’s rhetorical sins more numerous and require a bit more unpacking. In three separate incidents:
- Blakely said the real pre-Katrina population of New Orleans was significantly lower than the numbers on the books, that those numbers had been inflated for political purposes. (There’s no evidence this is true.)
- He said he’ll be done here in less than a year because the rebuilding will be done by then. (Ludicrous.)
- And he was quoted in the New York Times saying a whole bunch of derogatory things about New Orleans. He called the leaders of our city buffoons, he said our economy is a shambles, and that everything here is extremely racialized. He dissed the “right to return” as being about politicians using people for their own gain. Many of his points are actually quite valid, and such criticisms might serve a good purpose if they were made here locally.
Both men have been castigated for their remarks. Both have publicly apologized.
Imus was fired. Blakely can’t be fired. Flawed as he is, he’s our last best hope in the leadership department. If the mayor fired him it would be the equivalent of admitting a complete failure of leadership, which would be honest, but don’t hold your breath.
While Imus’ comments were more patently offensive, I’d say that Blakely’s comments do more real damage. Imus is an entertainer, but Blakely is supposed to be running the recovery of New Orleans.
But all this is simply a long-winded preface to my simple idea:
Blakely should hire Imus as his spokesperson.
He couldn’t do much worse than Blakely’s doing on his own, and he’d probably be more entertaining. And he needs a job, after all.
Together, I bet the two of them could distract the populace to a level never before imagined.