I can (almost) understand how black voters might respond to Bill Jefferson’s appeal that he was the victim of a conspiracy by the white Republican attack machine. I don’t condone the attitude, but I can, as I said, (almost) understand it.
I don’t, however, understand the race-baiting and self-righteous calls by people around the country to punish New Orleans. As I’ve said elsewhere, it was Jefferson Parish whites who voted in large numbers for Dollar Bill that put him over the top, choosing to cynically vote for the crook so they could later front a candidate who more closely resembles the complexion of Jefferson Parish after Dollar Bill gets indicted.
There are plenty of whites in this country who vote, against their own self-interest, for corrupt, sideways talkin’ politicians: Tom Delay, Ted Stevens, Mark Foley … George W. Bush for Chrissakes! Is not the privately-managed Iraq invasion, un-reconstruction, and failed occupation, “the most gruesome (and lucrative) manifestation of endemic corruption.” Has the Republican-led Congress done anything about that in the last … oh … three and a half years since the invasion?
That doesn’t mean, of course, that black voters should be absolved of making a poor choice. It’s their choice to make, and I don’t appreciate fully the reasons for that decision. It isn’t my place to say. I probably know and have friends or acquaintences who voted for Jefferson. We ought to be able to have a rational dialog about that choice. We can use this election as a vehicle for better understanding. It isn’t right for whites to tell black Americans what to think and do. The history of white America is too marred by discrimination and violent racism against minorities. It will take a lot more time, and a lot more of an effort at educating ourselves and walking a mile in their shoes, to earn that trust. Some have earned that respect. As a general rule, however, most of us have not.
When I first moved to New Orleans, I fairly soon learned that the difference between racism in the South, in a place like New Orleans, versus other parts of the country, is that here, racism may still happen by way of silent barriers to entry into certain classes of white society even though whites and blacks have far more interaction because everyone lives so closely together, and the cultures are so intertwined. Those barriers of entry into black society also exist for whites, incidentally, and they exist for lower class whites who want access to upper class white society. The race issue is as much about class as it is about race.
Elsewhere around the country, neighborhoods are far more segregated, and those daily relationships rarely form. The institutional protections against discrimination may be better observed, but understanding is a far more distant possibility. On the other hand, the more I learn about race in New Orleans, the less I think I know. It’s a highly complex, multi-faceted problem, and made ever more complicated by differences of class.
What I absolutely don’t understand, however, is the seething hatred I’m seeing surface again in the rest of America, and here in Louisiana as well, which reinforces black suspicion of whites, and sends them back into the arms of crooks like Bill Jefferson.
I’m reluctant to post this stuff, but it is, after all, the ugly face of racist America — though it isn’t my America. One can be critical of Nagin and Jefferson (as I have been elsewhere in this forum) without tastelessly and mindlessly stereotyping an entire population.
Comments following a Washington Post article:
That Mayor Nagin supports Jefferson while demanding untold billions of dollars to fix that hell-hole of a city is an insult to every tax-payer in this country. The arrogance required to behave this way is pathological. …
The people of LA spoke, they like the lowest common denominator in a politican and that is exactly what they got. …
Woe woe woe. Please stop the race baiting. We live in a country were white America has consistently voted against its economic interest for fear blacks might get something whites might not. The modern Republican party is predicated upon the southern strategy. Please cut the self-righteous hypocrisy.
Comments following a Huffington Post report:
Africans should not be allowed to vote. Jefferson is the icing on the cake!
Charlie Rangel, Maxine Waters, Ray Nagin, Cynthia McKinney and now Jefferson: all proof that Africans do not have the intellect to vote for a qualifed candidate to represent them.
We all know who’s next: Barak Hussein Obama, the most overrated member of Congress. Eliminate the African vote and all he’s left with is you white guilt, lefty, pantywaists. …
Of course Jefferson got re-elected. Don’t you know that the money in his freezer was put there as a part of the white racist conspiracy? It’s the same racism that’s preventing Ray Nagin from rebuilding New Orleans! …
It’s no wonder the federal government dragged their feet in sending aid after Katrina. Those African idiots deserve whatever they get when they have the balls to return that corrupt, criminal to Congress. …
O.J. Simpson, Marion Barry, William Jefferson . . . This is called “enabling,” folks. This can’t be the mountain top. Many African-Americans reflexively defend criminals in their community against the accusations of “the Man.” I guess I can understand it, but it’s just a lasting symptom of social pathology, a residuum of slavery and white racism. It’s not healthy at all. You really have to be sick to vote Jefferson back into office. Very sick. And so the African-American community’s teenagers continue to crash and burn while dad is anonymous and mom lives with her boyfriend du jour while grandma does her(failing) best, and one of its congressmen gets re-elected despite being caught soliciting a bribe on video and storing $90,000 in his freezer.
Get well soon, folks. …
This comment following a Chris Bowers MyDD post really hit me in the gut:
The man was found with $90,000 in marked bills in his freezer. I have a hard time justifying, at least in my mind, another dollar in levy fixing.
If this is the best LA can do, well then, what W has done is the best they get. …
Well, the problem here is that culpability for the disaster falls pretty damn squarely on the federal government. It would be kind of like if the federal government built a bridge and told you it was safe to drive on. Then the bridge failed, and dozens of cars crashed to the ground. Then the government tells you you shouldn’t have been driving on the bridge in the first place, and you deserved what you got.
Yeah, I’d say it’s true that W has done just about the best he can do. Any ass could do better.
The rest of America should realize that dozens of neighborhoods are dying here. It’s still a wasteland for mile after mile. People who can, are gutting their homes and rebuilding as best they are able. Some are doing it successfully. Most, I’m afraid, can’t manage without the federal
assistance compensation they rightfully deserve. The fact that people realize that help isn’t on the way goes a long way toward explaining why there might be suspicion of a federal probe to remove a corrupt politician who, notwithstanding his malfeasance, has for years generally produced for citizens of Louisiana.
Remember where you get your gas to run your damn 6-ton SUV’s America. Remember that the grain stocks of the entire mid-section of the nation pass through Louisiana. Remember where a quarter of the seafood you enjoy comes from. Remember the debt America and the world owe to poor black neighborhoods of New Orleans which were significant crucibles for an entire culture of jazz and blues and food that has permeated and defined the very essence of what we are as Americans, unique in the world. Think about how economically and physically poor the rest of the nation and the world would be if that all went away. I have news for you — if something doesn’t happen very soon to help out the current generation of New Orleanians so that their knowledge is passed on to the next generation, that culture may very well disappear. What? No Louis Armstrong? No Fats Domino? No Wynton Marsalis? No Aaron Neville? No R&B? No Motown? No Rock & Roll? Consider what might be lost in the next generation.
There is absolutely no justification for anyone to criticize New Orleans unless they’ve been to New Orleans and gutted a house. Period. There begins the understanding.
Blacks and whites — and yes, Hispanics and Vietnamese and Spaniards and Chinese and Japanese and French and Serbs and Armenians and Czechs and Germans and Irish and Italians and more — the whole cultural milieu of New Orleans — we’re all here doing the best we can. Hypocritically heaping criticism on us won’t get our houses fixed. Remember the expression, “there but for the grace of God go I,” before you people go off half-cocked blaming us for making mistakes while we’re fighting for our lives.
Let’s talk about the racial thing