Summer is heating up
Yeah, I think every New Orleanian needs to read and reflect on this article. Go read it, or at least read the edited selections in the “extended entry” portion (highlights mine).
And when I say reflect, I mean reflect on what you individually could do to help diminish the racial/economic strife in the city. There’ll be a thousand opportunities later to blame it on the usual suspects or trot out your pet “root cause” theory or to ignore the subject entirely.
Rather than direct blame outwards, I’d love to hear about the productive things that can be done on an individual level to break down the divisions in our city. What has worked well for you in the recent past?
I’ll start: two weeks ago a couple friends (1 white like me, 1 black) became concerned about the imminent closure of William Frantz Elementary, especially as it related to the school’s important civil rights history. Now it’s an all-black school in the 9th ward. So we went to William Frantz and just struck up conversations about the school with any interested neighbor or parent who wanted to share a thought on the matter. Plenty did. I listened earnestly, and gained a whole host of insights that would have never occurred to me otherwise. A small crowd formed, and there was an excellent, impassioned discussion on the sidewalk outside the school. A teacher even brought her class outside to see what was going on, and we chatted with the 3rd graders about Ruby Bridges’ heroism at that school– nearly 50 years ago.
Not only did I learn a great deal, but I went an extra step outside my comfort zone that day, openly visiting with residents of a neighborhood I’d normally avoid, and doing much more listening than talking. It broke down some of my provincialisms and I’m better for it. And I’ll be inclined to do more of the same in the future.
Selections from an LA Times article:
The college student’s death five months ago [at Razoo’s] has become a flashpoint for New Orleans, plunging a city famous for its easygoing vibe into a painful period of introspection and antagonism.
In March, a jury found the city’s first black district attorney guilty of discrimination for firing 42 white employees and replacing them with blacks.
In April, Mayor C. Ray Nagin, an African American, said the ouster of schools Supt. Anthony Amato, a Latino, was a “lynching,” while offering, at least at first, a response to Jones’ death that many blacks called tepid.
Now, it seems that every piece of legislation that lands in City Hall becomes mired in race. When one city councilman recently proposed scrapping a rule requiring police officers to live in the city, the measure was seen by supporters as a way to make recruitment easier. But many blacks have condemned the plan, fearing that new recruits would be suburban whites.
Enmity and distrust have grown so deep that some white community activists trying to participate in a recent antiracism demonstration were ordered to leave by black activists.
“There has been a perfect storm that has ripped the cover off of race relations in New Orleans,” said the Rev. Anthony Mitchell, a Baptist pastor who is African American. “The people who control public discourse here don’t like to talk about it. It’s not good for business. But this is really two cities.”
With a tourism industry that generates about $5 billion a year in revenue, New Orleans bills itself as the quintessential melting pot, a city of uncommon diversity, where food, architecture and ethos trace their lineages to a bright spectrum of influences