I’d like to present a pertinent letter from an old friend of mine.
Six Questions for the NRA on Scribd
Note: I met Jeff Moebus back in pre-Katrina New Orleans through the Green Party.
I’d like to present a pertinent letter from an old friend of mine.
Six Questions for the NRA on Scribd
Note: I met Jeff Moebus back in pre-Katrina New Orleans through the Green Party.
I’m going out on a limb and predict Obama wins in 2012. You may scoff but remember I have an unblemished record of success in this arena.
Yesterday evening, I made my presentation, “The Role of Blogs in the Rebuilding of New Orleans,” to a special interest group of the AERA. I related five prominent stories that have emerged in, around, through or about the local blogosphere since the flooding of the city in 2005. Even though the presentation is over, I’m still playing catch-up here on the blog.
I wanted to cheat a little bit and sneak in an extra story, so I’m calling this one 4.5.
The story of the Jena Six is complex and has been recounted extensively so I won’t attempt to revisit the details here. Rather, I just wanted to make mention, briefly, of the protests in Jena, Louisiana, which took place approximately six months after the March for Survival in New Orleans.
Granted, it’s a stretch to call this a story of the post-Katrina New Orleans blogosphere. Jena is over 200 miles from New Orleans. Northern Louisiana did not feel the impact of the hurricanes in the same way as the communities nearer the coast. Nevertheless, this was the largest civil rights protest in decades, much larger than the March for Survival, and there is a blog connection.
According to the Chicago Tribune, the demonstrations in Jena were “a civil rights protest literally conjured out of the ether of cyberspace, of a type that has never happened before in America — a collective national mass action grown from a grassroots word-of-mouth movement spread via Internet blogs, e-mails, message boards and talk radio.”
Therefore I think the protest in Jena deserves at least passing mention in any history of New Orleans’ post-Katrina blogosphere. For more discussion on this topic, please check out the audio archives at BeyondJena.com.
In a few days, I’ll be making a presentation to a special interest group of the AERA titled “The Role of Blogs in the Rebuilding of New Orleans.” My plan is to relate certain prominent stories that have emerged in, around, through or about the local blogosphere since the flooding of the city in 2005. I thought I would share my notes here as I complete them. So this is the fourth of the five stories. I welcome any feedback.
My first three installments in this series might have given the impression that I was doing personality profiles. That’s not my intention. I mean to look at the top stories emerging from the post-Katrina NOLA blogosphere, not personalities per se (though in Ashley’s case, the personality is the story). Hopefully this installment will make that clear.
On third-to-last day of 2006, Dinerral Shavers was murdered in a senseless act of street violence. On the fourth day of 2007, Helen Hill was murdered in a bizarre home invasion. Dinerral and Helen weren’t the only people killed during that week. I believe there were at least ten others. But Dinneral and Helen were prominent exponents of New Orleans culture. Dinerral was a musician, a drummer in the Hot 8 Brass Band, a music teacher at Rabouin High School, the founder of that school’s first marching band. Helen was an artist, an award-winning filmmaker, and a friend of mine. Both were well known and much-loved in the local community. Also, it should be noted that Dinerral was black and Helen was white. Dinerral was a native New Orleanian, a product of the public schools, while Helen was an out-of-towner and a Harvard graduate — a fact I never knew until I read her obituary, but all of this factors in to what came next.
The loss of either of these individuals would have raised a public outcry. Their back-to-back murders sparked an inferno of discontent. Violence in the city had virtually disappeared after the flood waters receded, but as people returned, so did the bloodshed. The body count began to rise, and so did public concern. Five young men were murdered in a single incident in the summer of 2006. But it was Dinneral and Helen’s murders that galvanized the city as a whole. Their sociability and their divergent backgrounds meant a huge segment of the local population was in mourning. Within days a public march and rally was organized. Thousands of people from disparate neighborhoods converged on City Hall as the world watched. This may have been the largest public demonstration in the history of New Orleans, or so I’ve speculated. I do know that I’ve attended many protests over the last decade in New Orleans and this was far and away the biggest one I’ve ever seen.
So what does this have to do with blogs? The March for Survival, as it was called, would have happened without blogs, but blogs did play a role. Bloggers were writing about the issue of violent crime before, during and after the march. I wrote about Dinerral’s murder and of course Helen’s. Through connections made in the blogosphere, Karen Gadbois and I were among the dozen speakers at the rally. I posted the text of my speech on my blog minutes before joining our march from Mid-City. My boss read it and sent me a brief critique; I got his message on my Blackberry as we marched down Canal Street with Anderson Cooper and incorporated his revision at the very last minute.
My speech at the rally was a defining moment in my life. Four years later, I have to say there are one or two more revisions I wish I’d made, but for the most part I stand by my words. The repercussions continue to unfold. As a result of that speech, I got to attend a week-long leadership seminar at Harvard — and these days I’m the president of a grassroots organization which aims to build a transformative project in the heart of New Orleans. It is impossible to show direct cause and effect but I believe all these things are linked.
But this isn’t about me, or any one person. What makes this story salient is that it was a come-together moment for the city. A necessary moment. It was the time when we looked at each other, we who had lost so much, and said we can’t allow this. We can’t allow New Orleans to continue with this astronomical murder rate. As Rev. Raphael said, in a speech so much more eloquent than mine, we came together “to declare that a city that could not be drowned in the waters of a storm, will not be drowned in the blood of its citizens.”
Of course, no matter how well-attended and well-intentioned, a march and rally don’t bring an end to violence. It would be naïve to expect that. We are still struggling with the highest murder rate in the land. Nevertheless, the march was something that had to be done, and it was an important statement of civic priority. On that day, with the world watching, we showed that the City That Care Forgot is not the city that forgot to care. The hard work of actually improving the situation on the ground continues to be pursued by organizations like Silence Is Violence and others. And bloggers continue to write about this issue.
Once again, HBO’s Treme provides further validation of this story’s status. The March for Survival will be portrayed in the second season.
This sign is on a house on Canal Street. I’m not sure but I strongly suspect this may have been placed by a guy calling himself shaman_nation who popped up on the Mid-City discussion group and started posting the most inane conspiracy drivel I’ve ever read.
He’d post some links and then add:
But, I’m sure there’s a whole bunch of stuff we need to worry about before the FIXED VOTE…
IF IT WEREN’T FOR THE FACT THAT WE HAVE NO REAL VOTE AND NO WAY TO CONTROL A GOVERNMENT THAT HAS GONE MAD WITH POWER AND GRAFT.
One neighbor very politely tried to make the point that such assertions were off-topic.
Imagine you’re at a meeting in which everyone is dicussing agenda items relavant to How to Fry Bananas. And you are stand on your chair shouting about DOOR WAYS !!! DOOR WAYS !!!!
Does that make any sense, to shout about door ways in a meeting about frying bananas?
This email group or listserv is about the quality of life in MidCity. Crime stats, zoning, water main leaks, what number to call when VooDoo parkers block your driveway, etc. Not about affecting changes in how this country’s Government operates.
Also, please stop shouting. ALLCAPS is generally considered the equivolant of shouting and in a forum such as this listserv is considered rude.
Of course he had one answer for all such criticism. He accused them of being part of the conspiracy.
Thanks for the lying scam BS about all caps…
Oh, that’s right MID CITY IS THE ONLY PLACE IN THE US WHERE THE VOTE ISN’T FIXED.
SURELY, THE FIXED BLACK BOX VOTE THAT HAS BEEN PROVEN DOESN’T EFFECT MID CITY.
There’s a mix IT’S NOT ALL CAPS. JUST LIKE THE BS YOU POSTED TO SCAM PAST A FIXED VOTE.
LOL, bananas… we are voting on bananas… SURELY A FIXED VOTE HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH BANANAS OR ANYTHING THAT SUPPOSEDLY COMES TO A VOTE.
AMAZING, There always seems to BE SOME REASON THE FIXED BLACK BOX VOTE NEEDS TO BE IGNORED.
Fascists, that need to be on trial for Crimes Against Humanity, and since WE ARE AT UNOFFICIAL WAR – based on lies/torture/rendition/etc – TREASON via subversion of the vote. THE ONLY POWER THE PEOPLE HAVE.
These exchanges led Michael to post the following which still cracks me up:
Since MCNO is now the forum for voting conspiracy theory, I would like to add that I have some serious questions about the Kennedy assassination. Single bullet? YOU ARE FOOLING YOURSELVES PEOPLE OF MID-CITY!!!. I also have good evidence that the annual Mid-City bonfire that used to be so much fun was squashed not because of permits, but because of secret documents Lee harvey Oswald buried in the walls of Thurgood Marshall (Beauregard) UNEARTHED DURING THE RESTORATION POST FLOOD which proved that Jacqueline Kennedy choked Marilyn Monroe with a banana purchased from Mr Okra. I SAID IT—MR OKRA!!!!!
Need I add that the URLs on the sign don’t work?
This caught my eye on the the front page of today’s Times-Picayune:
“It always amazed me that you had these two universities that were right next to each other but they didn’t talk to each other,” Bruno said. “Why do we have two libraries? Why do we have two cafeterias?”
For a brief moment I thought he was talking about Tulane and Loyola. Yeah, I thought to myself, they could really get some efficiency going if only they’d merge operations.
How silly of me.
Since it’s Veterans Day, I thought I’d point to something written by a veteran. Here’s an article by Bradford J. Kelley, which appeared in the morning paper.
He begins by noting the lack of attention paid to our current military engagements in the recent election cycle, but notes that politicians can’t really be blamed for failing to focus on a topic people don’t really seem to care about.
The apathy in American society regarding these wars is appalling.
Can anyone seriously disagree with that sentiment?
Kelley argues to an inexorable conclusion.
The current situation is unsustainable and something has to give. Perhaps the cost of these wars needs to be levied upon all Americans in a more direct way, whether this involves increasing taxes on all Americans or reinstating the draft.
Although Kelley goes on to say he favors an all-volunteer force, I disagree. I think we need to go one step further in the other direction. The draft is not enough. We need compulsory service. Two years, with alternative service (Peace Corps, for example) for conscientious objectors.
As a father, this is not an easy thing to say. But I think it would ultimately make us a more responsible nation, and thus create a better future for our children.
So, this Veterans Day, ask a vet what he or she thinks of the idea.
Back in June (if not earlier) Sarah Palin wrote:
Unless government appropriately regulates oil developments and holds oil executives accountable, the public will not trust them to drill, baby, drill. And we must! Or we will be even more beholden to, and controlled by, dangerous foreign regimes that supply much of our energy.
Yet there is another alternative to rapacious consumption. There is an alternative even to “alternative” sources of energy.
I am talking about consuming less. Americans in particular consume a lot of resources, and that takes a lot of energy. It’s my understanding that transporting goods (and people) is the biggest energy hog. xAmericans also have a high rate of obesity. Translation: We eat too much and don’t get enough exercise.
So imagine, just for example, if we ate a little less. Imagine if more of the food we did buy was grown in the local area. Since local food doesn’t have to be transported as far, buying local is a form of consuming less. Imagine if we got around under our own power more often, riding bicycles or even (gasp) walking. We’d get a little more exercise and be healthier while consuming less fuel.
Consuming less saves you money. It has the added benefit of making us less “beholden” to “dangerous foreign regimes that supply much of our energy.”
It annoys me when politicians (of any party) talk about energy and don’t emphasize the benefits of consuming less. It seems to me that, as a nation, we should be on a collective quest to figure out how to consume radically less energy. Imagine if we set a goal of reducing our national energy consumption by half in the next decade. I’m sure we could do it.
The pundits and politicians don’t talk about this. Instead they tell us what we want to hear, or what they think we want to hear. It’s a sad comment that in our current political climate, the message of consuming less seems almost subversive or un-American. That shouldn’t be the case.
This rant was inspired by a quote from Sarah Palin, but I want to make it clear that the failure of leadership is much broader than any single person. There is plenty of blame to go around. It would be nice to hear the “consume less” message coming from the White House, but I haven’t seen that from Brack Obama’s administration. Maybe I missed it.
But leadership can be exercised by anyone. Clearly a movement to consume less will have to come up from the grass roots.
It might seem to the rest of the country that New Orleanians are insular and self-absorbed. There’s some truth to that; sometimes this place feels like a distant province of the United States rather than a part of the mainland. But events like the terrorist attacks of September 11th touch us all, and after suffering through a major (not entirely natural) disaster ourselves, I think most New Orleanians feel a special sympathy for New Yorkers. I have seen grown men cry here at the mere mention of September 11th, even after all these years.
Of all our national ideals, freedom of speech and religion, pluralism and tolerance are the ones that inspire me the most. Lately they seem to be crumbling as tensions increase between Christians and Muslims in this country. That, of course, was part of the terrorists’ aim. It’s not clear to me whether or not we have passed the point of no return. I hope not.
Laws are like sausages, it is better not to see them being made.
— Otto von Bismarck
I had the chance to observe a bit of sausage-making yesterday. I attended the meeting of a committee charged with selecting a team to design a greenway for the Lafitte Corridor.
A little context may be in order. Some sixteen months ago, the previous mayoral administration selected Design Workshop, from a field of fourteen applicants, to begin design of a greenway in the Lafitte Corridor. We (meaning the board of Friends of Lafitte Corridor) were happy with the selection, but the process was a bit mysterious and vague, taking place behind closed doors. That June, a couple hundred people turned out to hike the Lafitte Corridor and meet the designers. Our spirits were high, and it seemed that real progress was imminent.
By contrast, our spirits were quite low when the administration terminated the contract with Design Workshop in January. It represented a major setback for the project. I hasten to add that the termination didn’t reflect in any way on Design Workshop but had to do with obscure technical matters relating to a conflict between the city’s policies and procedures versus the requirements of the federal government. The policies and procedures were tweaked accordingly. The administration re-issued the request for proposals, but before they could be evaluated, their term in office was up.
Then a new guy comes into office. First order of business: gotta revamp those policies and procedures again. Gotta make it more open and transparent. Well, OK, that sounds good, but could we please get on with it?
So here we are again, right back where we were sixteen months ago. And yet what a difference a new mayoral administration makes. Last time, this process was hidden from view behind closed doors. Citizen groups like Friends of Lafitte Corridor had to rely on rumor and gossip just to divine what was going on in our own government. This time, everything was different. This meeting represented the very first selection for procurement of services made under the new policies and procedures. I was able to attend the meeting and observe as the committee discussed their criteria, proposals were evaluated on a matrix, scores tallied up, and a selection made.
All I gotta say is, despite the immortal wisdom of Otto von Bismarck, that’s some pretty sweet sausage. Sunshine would appear to be the best spice.
Oh, the selected team? Design Workshop. Yes, again. They have been chosen as the best applicants twice now. Last time there were fourteen proposals. This time there were thirteen, but they were not all the same as before. So the process may be different, but the result was the same. I think it’s safe to say that Design Workshop is well-qualified for this work. The citizens of New Orleans can have confidence in this choice — and also in a process for spending public money that is open to public scrutiny. It’s a far cry from participatory budgeting, but it is a step in the right direction.
I’m certainly happy with the selection. It’s great news for this project. But it’s important to keep this in perspective. We’re finally back to where we were in April of 2009. The contract still has to be negotiated. Last time that process took half a year. Hopefully it will go more quickly this time, since it was already negotiated once before. After that, of course, the contract has to be signed by all relevant parties. That took a month last time. Then a notice to proceed has to be issued. Then and only then can the work begin — the design work, mind you. Not construction, not yet. It will still be a good while before we break ground. A good design phase is absolutely essential for a quality product, and the active participation of all relevant stakeholders is essential. And I think that is the message we need to keep front and center in the months ahead.
The mayor came to our campus yesterday to deliver a speech with the theme “Eyes Wide Open.” Strangely enough, few of my co-workers seemed to be aware of this, but I got an invite from the mayor’s office via e-mail. By another strange coincidence, I’d forgotten all about it until my memory was jogged during a meeting with Councilmember Kristin Palmer at City Hall about the Lafitte Corridor greenway project. I rode back to campus and got there in time to catch the speech.
The University Center ballroom was packed. Music was playing, which I thought was prerecorded until I noticed a number of men in suits on microphones at the front of the room — the Zion Harmonizers. Father Tony gave the invocation and Dr. Francis introduced the mayor.
For me, it was pretty cool to see all these guys on the same stage in such a familiar setting. It was cool to see the City’s seal on front of the podium and the University’s seal in back. Also, I’d never heard Mitch Landrieu speak before, and I’ve got to say he’s pretty good at it.
I’ve made it a point not to offer my own analysis of local politics here recently, and I think I’ll stick to that policy. However, I’d be curious to know what others might think. Here’s the text of the speech.
Continue reading “Eyes Wide Open”
A few weeks back I had a bit of an educational experience. I can’t get into specifics, but I’m wondering if I might be able to abstract the essence.
A party approached a group that I work with asking for our support on a particular initiative. This party has considerable power and influence, and our little group does not — or so I thought. I was under the impression that the party in question would ultimately get what they wanted, whether we supported them or not. I thought it would behoove us to support their initiative so that we could develop a friendly relationship and perhaps steer them in a mutually beneficial direction.
When we sat down to talk about it, they revealed that they had already approached some governmental authorities about the matter at hand. The governmental authorities had deferred to our little group. I was a bit surprised by this. Our group has been working for some while to advance our cause. Apparently along the way we have gained a smidgen of influence. In some small way, we have successfully inserted ourselves into the political process. I felt pretty good about that.
Back to the initiative in question, which we were being asked to support. Suddenly my realpolitik rationale for supporting the initiative had evaporated. I was still inclined to say yes. By virtue of my profession I’m oriented to helping people. I’m in the habit of saying yes. Of course, that was a qualified yes. It would have to be cleared with the rest of the group.
Over the next few days, I and others in the group heard from our friends in various branches of government. Many of them were not pleased with the idea that we would support this initiative. Some were quite passionate on this point. They felt it would be a big mistake. The authority who had initially deferred to us was still deferential: “If your group doesn’t have a problem with this, then we don’t have a problem either.” But there was clearly some concern, and these concerns were spelled out to me in detail.
Finally, when our group met and discussed the issue, our consensus was clear. We decided not to support the initiative. The reasons were various but above all there was a matter of long-standing principle which I’d neglected to consider. I had to backpedal a bit, since I had initially indicated that we could support the initiative, but it was not too difficult to explain our position to all interested parties.
So what did I learn after all of that? Clearly, it’s easier to stand by your principles if you’ve got solid footing. But it seems there’s something more. I guess I could put it like this: You can insert yourself into the political process, but the political process will also be inserted into you.
Despite the rain, hundreds of people turned out for the protest yesterday, so many I couldn’t fit them all even in this wide panoramic shot.
It was a good turnout, despite the weather. In fact the rain kept me stranded at home and I missed the first hour or so. (Bike was my only available means of transport and I just don’t like getting wet.) So I arrived late and missed seeing my friend John Clark speak. I arrived to hear the latter part of Ian Hoch’s speech, which was excellent. (Levees Not War calls it “the hottest and most articulate rant.”) There’s a video clip of the whole speech. I extracted the audio so you can just listen if that’s more your speed.
There were perhaps a thousand people in attendance, yet I found myself reflecting how in some countries, thousands of people would be marching in the streets every day raising a ruckus. Why are we so complacent here? Is it because of our affluence? No — the Nordic countries have an even higher standard of living, but they’ll take to the streets at the drop of a hat. (Or so it seemed to me when I lived there.) And in poorer countries too people seem to have a greater propensity to express their collective displeasure. So what’s our problem?
It’s extremely hard to organize something like this, so hats off to the organizers for pulling it together. There were a few awkward moments, but generally I thought it went pretty well. The last speaker had the megaphone yanked from his hand, apparently for saying a “militant response” was required. This was to be a peaceful protest, you see. But I think that’s another indication of our general timidity. I mean, the guy said “militant response,” not “military response.” Militant does not necessarily mean violent. They should have let him speak.
A much uglier confrontation happened right in front of me. There was this long-haired Latino dude who seemed to inebriated or otherwise slightly incoherent. He was shouting things at odd moments and being a bit of a nuisance but not hurting anyone. He shouted something about the Gulf of Mexico and a man standing directly in front of me said, sarcastically, “Why don’t you go back to Mexico?” It could have gotten real ugly real quick but some women got between them and demanded the white guy say sorry. “That’s racist!” He didn’t want to apologize, so he and his entourage departed. I think they were tourists who just happened to be passing by and got caught up in the event.
I was recently contacted by a college student at a certain large Midwestern state-sponsored university. It seems he was enrolled in a revolutionary film studies class, and was working on an assignment to give a Marxist reading of a radical media text, and he chose ROX.
His task: to compare us on a scale of most-to-least Marxist between Vertov, Eisenstein, Alvarez and Gutierrez Alea. He thought we were, perhaps, second to Eisenstein. His friend however, though that we weren’t Marxist at all; she said we were certainly socialist sympathizers, but not explicitly Marxist.
So he wrote to ask me the question: Just how Marxist are you, anyhow?
Never one to disappoint a seeker, I of course wrote back. Here is my reply.
Wow that is a really great question. I think Marx is absolutely correct in his theory of labor-value, and that perspective is essential to my understanding of how the world works. However, I don’t generally describe myself as a Marxist for several reasons. For one thing, Marx has a bad rap amongst a lot of Americans, and if you start quoting him you’re just going to turn people off. Another thing is the intellectual heritage of the left. I feel Proudhon’s analysis of property is just as fundamental as Marx, yet Proudhon doesn’t get nearly the credit. In fact, the rift between Marx and Proudhon is emblematic of a deep division between the authoritarians and anti-authoritarians, and I locate myself firmly with the latter. I hope that’s evident in my work, and in fact it’s made explicit in ROX #91 & #92.
This response caused the intrepid student to revise his estimate of my relative Marxianism downward several notches. He quoted me and got a B+ on the paper. I’ve always dreamed of being cited as “transgressive” in an academic paper, and now my dream has come true.
As I am writing this the very last minutes of the Nagin administration are ticking away. I for one am relieved. Of course I’m hopeful the new administration does better, but it’s more personal than that. Over the past couple years I’ve had some paranoid fantasies that Nagin was out to get me. I know that sounds perfectly ridiculous, so let me explain. I criticized Nagin very publicly at the March for Survival in January of 2007. My words were picked up by the media and that clip of me saying “Shame on you, Mayor Nagin” was repeated around the world. I saw it dragged out again and again after the fact. Therefore I’m pretty sure Nagin knows who I am, even if in his mind I’m nothing more than “that guy who spoke at that rally.” I didn’t realize at that time that I’d end up becoming president of an organization that would interface with City Hall extensively. Oops. When we encountered obstacles, I couldn’t help wondering if my personality was a liability. For the record, I don’t really think Nagin would be that petty and vindictive to derail a worthy project just to get at me. I know I’m not that important. But the thought definitely crossed my mind. And I have bit my tongue in recent months, kept quiet and not criticized the administration, even though I really wanted to, for fear it would hamper the advancement of the greenway project. I don’t know if that was wise or necessary. But as of today, I think I can finally stop worrying about my relationship with C. Ray Nagin.
Here are a couple mashups to remember the man by. I mixed these up in 2008 but never posted them here for the reasons cited above.
I think by the time anyone reads this we will officially have a new mayor. I am breathing a deep sigh of relief today. Now I can concentrate on screwing up my relationship with the new boss.
We have shot an amazing number of people, but to my knowledge, none has ever proven to be a threat.
— Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, senior American and NATO commander in Afghanistan
I got this update from Baty Landis via e-mail. She’s on the task force assigned by the incoming mayor to find a new police chief. I respect Baty’s efforts on this front; she is made of sterner stuff than I. What she reports is cause for concern for all New Orleanians.
Continue reading “NOPD Task Force Update”
Since I don’t seem to have anything interesting to say, I thought I’d just link to Oyster’s brilliant short essay on why we need to repeal that unfortunate recent legislation we’ve all heard so much about. I considered myself vaguely in favor of the new rules until I read this. Give it a look, it might just change your mind.
This passage in a news story caught my eye. Mary Rickard for Reuters:
Along with a championship team, New Orleans has a new mayor in Mitch Landrieu, who won election on Saturday by a wide margin. Landrieu, the city’s first white mayor in more than 30 years, pledged to bridge racial divides that have grown under Ray Nagin, the current mayor.
I’m one of those white voters who always thought the mayor of New Orleans should be black. That is to say, I see the value in having a mayor of color in a place with a long, ugly, bloody legacy of racial oppression. Even though I’m just as Nordic as can be, I sympathize with the perspective of African-Americans who fought for political power and want to hold on to it and view white candidates with suspicion. No, I haven’t walked in their shoes. But I know about the systematic suppression of the black vote. That was wrong, and I always figured having a black mayor kind of helped make up for it in some way.
So that’s where I align myself. All other considerations being equal, I’m pulling for the black guy. Call me a self-loathing honky if you like; it won’t hurt my feelings.
And therefore the notion in the Reuters article intrigues me — the idea that a white man could unify a city in which politics are so racially polarized. Is that really possible? Can white unite? It seems counter-intuitive at first glance. Outsiders might even be tempted to dismiss Landrieu’s election as an effect of black voters being displaced by the flooding of New Orleans. But in fact Landrieu won something like 60% of the black vote — which is still the majority in Orleans Parish. In fact, Landrieu won every precinct but one, and that was lost by only a handful of votes. (An election map is available on NolaStat.) His victory is considered a landslide of historic proportions, considering especially it was an open primary which he won outright. It should also be noted that Mitch’s father, Moon, was famous for integrating City Hall. That was before my time, but I gather that he was quite respected by many African-Americans. Apparently he was also hated by some white folks for the same reason.
Once upon a time I was an outsider who could pretend to be above it all, or at least ignorant. The longer I live here, of course, the more I become ensnared in the local political mindset. Being a white “Yankee” working at a historically black college puts some interesting twists in it to be sure. I’m still far from understanding all the nuances of race in New Orleans, but I do know this: The racial distrust cuts both ways here. It strikes me as possible that black folks may be ready to trust a white guy. I’m not sure if the reverse is true at this particular moment.
Of course, it must be said, the white guy has to perform. Landrieu has to make good on his promises and demonstrate from the start that he intends to govern equitably. There are surely plenty of black folks who are nervous and distrustful at this turn, and surely plenty of white folks who are gleeful for all the wrong reasons. But maybe, just maybe, the time is right and the people are ready and this guy has the stuff to bring some unity and a period of healing to the city.
It strikes me as vaguely improbable. But even the improbable seems possible in New Orleans today. After the all, the Saints just won the Super Bowl.
Yes, that’s right, New Orleans is having an election tomorrow, right in the midst of Superbowl mania and Carnival madness.
I’m a little shy this time around about voicing my own opinion, but others are not so afflicted. Here’s a roundup of what some other bloggers think.