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Chocolate city?

Posted by Richard on January 17, 2006

Mayor Ray Nagin shared his vision of New Orleans on M.L. King Day. Cajuns, the French Quarter, and crawfish etouffé don’t have much of a place. Note that every news source I’ve checked has the same quote, punctuated the same way, and it’s wrong. I’ve heard the audio twice, and I’m re-punctuating and adding emphasis to more closely match what Nagin said:

“We as black people, it´s time — it’s time for us to come together. It´s time for us to rebuild a New Orleans, the one that should be: a chocolate New Orleans. And I don’t care what people are saying Uptown or wherever they are, this city will be chocolate at the end of the day. This city will be a majority African American city. It´s the way God wants it to be."

Imagine the reaction if, say, Paul Prudhomme invoked his Cajun (Arcadian, or French Canadian) heritage and called for a "vanilla New Orleans."

I have a dream, Ray.

Nagin didn’t just imitate Louis Farrakhan, though. He imitated Pat Robertson, too (I’m correcting some sections of this quote, too, based on watching the actual video at CNN):

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’s sending hurricane after hurricane after hurricane, and it’s destroying and putting stress on this country," Nagin, who is black, said as he and other city leaders marked Martin Luther King Day.

"Surely he’s not approval of us being in Iraq under false pretenses. But surely he is upset at black America also. We’re not taking care of ourselves."

Life is so much simpler when you have God on your side telling you what he wants.

Meanwhile, Cathy Young dispelled some of the myths that have surrounded the Katrina tragedy:

From the beginning, reports on Katrina portrayed the hurricane as not just a natural disaster, not even just a tragic case of government bungling, but a devastating indictment of American racism and social injustice. … Democratic Party chairman Howard Dean declared, ”We must come to terms with the ugly truth that skin color, age, and economics played a deadly role in who survived and who did not."

As it turns out, Dean got two out of three wrong.

… A study of the locations where bodies were recovered showed that they were not disproportionately concentrated in low-income neighborhoods. According to the story, ”42 percent of the bodies found in Orleans and St. Bernard parishes were recovered in neighborhoods with poverty rates higher than 30 percent. That’s only slightly higher than the 39 percent of residents who lived in such neighborhoods."

And race? In a database on 486 Katrina victims, ”African-Americans outnumbered whites 51 percent to 44 percent. In the area overall, African-Americans outnumber whites 61 percent to 36 percent."

So black residents were less likely to die than white residents. Who would have figured that from any of the news coverage? Well, Dean did get one factor right — but it’s hard to blame a conspiracy or injustice:

Age did matter. People 60 and older made up about 15 percent of New Orleans residents but 74 percent of the known victims. Many reports suggest that this sad statistic is due not to callous abandonment of the most helpless but to the fact that many elderly people, who had weathered many previous storms, refused to evacuate. … 

Or maybe God was mad at old people for piling so much debt on their children and grandchildren.

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