Tuesday, January 17, 2006

The Only Mayor I've Ever Dug - Really Dug - Done Gone Crazy?

So, there's been quite the brouhaha over Ray Nagin's remarks yesterday.

He's been branded everything from a racist to a fool by online ideologues and the ever-so righteous Caucasian persuasion. I agree that his comments went too far in the "I am God's mouthpiece" direction. I can't stand when people declare God angry or say we are being punished in the wake of a disaster for the same reason I don't trust priests and rabbis; they're middle management, meaning they're most likely incompetent and power-hungry - just ask an altar boy.

Yes, I know there are exceptions - I've been fortunate enough to know some - but the utter hypocrisy of most institutions, like organized religion, renders them null and void in my eyes. Not to mention the pervasive trend of looking the other way while priests molest children, which is still all the rage with Catholics - and, yeah, maybe if I hadn't been brought up as one, with all the psychological malaise that belief system entails, I'd be a bit less disgusted with "religion" in general. Either way, blaming the victims strikes me as a tad sacrilegious, though it's very much the popular pasttime among faux Christians.

Unlike a seemingly growing number of people, I still believe in the separation of church and state if only to prevent politicians from playing the God card in an effort to obtain votes.

Is that what Nagin was doing?

Having read through the transcript a few times, I think the above misguided and somewhat embarrassing comments were meant to appeal to the more evangelical portion of the black community in the wake of the discrimination the latest levee failure revealed - hence, his fervent tone, which a lot of us are not comfortable with. A lot of us are also not comfortable with said discrimination, either, and comments to the effect that New Orleans shouldn't be rebuilt are also born of classism - we really don't like poor people in this country because they make us so darn, gee-whiz! uncomfortable, a pathetic tendency some of my more affluent suburban friends underlined for me while I was dislocated and which Major Educational Publisher recently reminded me of in dropping me as a freelance editor by virtue of the city I call home, regardless of the fact that the mail is functioning just fine in my neighborhood (and sheesh, don't they know better than to send their only hard copy of something?).

This city will be a majority African-American city. It's the way God wants it to be. You can't have New Orleans no other way; it wouldn't be New Orleans.

Okay, I'm with him on two out of three of those sentences. I for one do not want to live in a white-majority city; if I did, well, I could live just about anywhere else in this increasingly banal nation.

Just as I have a hard time blasting Nagin or my fellow New Orleanians right now, especially given all the abuse we're taking both in and out of town, I can't raise much rage over perhaps prejudiced remarks by black people in the media; the latter are the result of centuries of oppression - having one's limbs hacked off, re-attached and hacked off again, as opposed to stubbing one's toe every year or so.

I simply cannot stand when white people cry and whine that they are the victims of racism on the rare occasion a black person publicly expresses his or her distaste for white people, a distaste I - on the historical, big-picture scale - share. I don't hear or see these same white people castigating human refuse like Pat Robertson or the KKK, but, damn, they've been quick to blast Nagin for dreaming of a "chocolate city," a strange, tacky phrase. Facts are still facts, however; this city was a black-majority city before Katrina and while it's the alternating collision and fusion of cultures - Creole, black, white, Cajun, French, etc. - that make New Orleans what it is, the black voice is paramount in the cultural sense. Unfortunately, a little something known as institutional racism has ensured that black citizens here, as in the rest of America, have limited access to quality schools, healthcare and court representation.

Of course, the same white people who are currently jumping down the mayor's throat - not merely objecting, disagreeing or discussing but going, well, apeshit and making borderline racist comments themselves - are probably the same people who deny the existence of inequity between blacks and whites, the very definition of ignorance, and something I heard more than once as an English composition instructor at UNO.

If nothing else, these remarks are a jumbled mess of contradictions that reflect the contradiction inherent in our lives here now. Like a lot of us, Nagin is both acting a fool and asking important questions, such as, "Why do our young men hate each other so much that they look their brother in the face and they will take a gun and kill him in cold blood?" and "Mr. King, when they were marching across the Mississippi River bridge, some of the folks that were stuck in the Convention Center, that were tired of waiting for food and tired of waiting on buses to come rescue them, what would he say as they marched across that bridge? And they were met at the parish line with attack dogs and machine guns firing shots over their heads?"

What's everyone else's excuse?


Anonymous arajay said...

I for one have no qualms about my racism. I hate white people, and am proud to live in Gawd's Chocolate City.

Nice looking blog. Sorry about your freelance work. Bitches, I swear.

Nagin for president.

5:22 PM  

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