I have been avoiding this commentary for the entire history of this blog. It’s one of those topics I have continually wrestled with because I’m really not sure if I have anything constructive to add to the dialogue. By nature, this blog is pretty accusatory and at times vitriolic…so be it…it is the nature of the beast. So I’ve debated whether or not this platform is the proper place to broach this particular subject. After having reflected on some of my recent posts regarding E-maelstrom…particularly this one…..I’ve decided it would behoove me to pull the trigger on this taboo of taboo subjects.
I think I am obliged to start by explaining who I am and why I see things the way I do.
I am white, of Irish descent (dad’s side…not sure what mom’s side is)….hillbilly to be specific. I grew up in an incredibly racist environment. It was an interesting type of racism though…because it was kind of like an inactive virus. 98% of the people around me were white, we had almost no African-Americans, Asians, Latinos, or any other races around us for miles. The few folks of color who were around, were treated very poorly and looking back, it saddens me to think of the prejudices they must have endured.
I left that environment and went on to get a degree in anthropology. I was always a little different and much more tolerant than my peers, growing up in the hills....but I still had a lot of ingrained prejudices which I carried with me to college.
Having chosen to study social science, anthropology no less, I submerged myself in the study of human culture, religion, behavior, sexuality, ritual, etc. That path shifted my consciousness and global perspective in magnificent ways. I often look back on my youth and experience moments of compunction over the way I spoke and even treated people….but I suppose we all have those moments…with perhaps the exception of Dick Cheney and Karl Rove.
Ok, that’s my background, just so you know who is preaching here.
After 20 full years of studying human behavior, human culture, and evolutionary disciplines, I have come to the conclusion that “race” as we define it….is actually a myth. I could take you down the physiological path of my theory (genotypes to phenotypes), but I don’t think anyone really wants to hear that….suffice to say I would make the argument that speciation is actually a myth as well. Here I will stick to the cerebral interpretation of my theory.
I think more often than not, in the current psyche of the average American, we confuse the semantics of “race” with “culture”.
A good example of this was sometime last year, when the chief of police in Chalmette said they were going to stop everyone with “Chee Wee hairstyles, white T shirts, and baggy pants.” The racism charges immediately followed….even on a national level. I’m not saying the man is or is not a racist, I don’t know….but if you actually look at what he said, he was identifying culture, not race. It was true, and still is, that a disproportionate number of people committing crimes in our city, fit that profile….and that profile did not denote race, it denoted style...which is a product of culture that transcends race. I think it was a very stupid thing for him to say politically, but regardless, what he was denoting was culture, not race. I bring this up because I think it is incredibly important to make a distinction between the two, and more often than not, that distinction isn't qualified.
I also think much of the current turmoil we are witnessing within City Hall is truly a debate of culture…not race. In some cases I think people are purposely using this confusion to their advantage, i.e. Ray Nagin.
Someone once said “Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel.” We witnessed that first hand on a national level for the past 8 years. In our case (New Orleans) I would say, quite often, racism could supplant patriotism in that adage.
If there is a cogent and constructive point to this diatribe I offer it here:
This city is crippled. It is not crippled by Katrina or the threat of hurricanes….we can overcome that. It is not crippled by a lack of economic development….we can overcome that too. It is not crippled by lawmakers in Baton Rouge….we generate more money than them and we can overcome that as well. It’s not even crippled by it’s education system…I believe we can overcome that and in fact have made great strides in recent years to do so.
This city is crippled by its bombastic perception of race. It’s not actually racism….it’s the perception of race and the confusion created by those invoking racial sentiments.
I think every city in this nation deals with issues of “race” in some form or another…it’s just that in New Orleans….it tends to pervade and eventually destroy everything we do.
Why? Why is that?
Is there truly a grand conspiracy by some group of people, based on their skin color, to gain control of this city’s political process by ousting any other group of people whose skin color doesn’t match theirs? Black, White, Asian, etc?
I believe the answer is no….on all accounts. And I mean all accounts…so don’t extract that question and comment that Tracie Washington and crew are in that number…because I don’t believe that is their true motivation.
I do believe, however, that there are cultural cliques within this city that wield enormous power. I believe those cliques use the perception of race to manipulate, polarize, confuse, and inflame people to achieve their political, financial, and egomaniacal goals. I believe there is a CULTURE of corruption within this city which has rotted everything from our education system to our public transit system to our public housing to our technology systems…..essentially everything that has a public budget behind it. I believe that culture of corruption is race neutral, but the people ingrained in this culture want you to believe race is the motivating factor behind every action within our government.
The bigger the budget, the bigger the corruption….case in point, the pre-K, NOPS budget which topped out as the largest in the state at over 500 million. The layers of corruption within that school system were legendary, from the lowest levels to the highest. The result was the worst public school system in the nation. The number of public officials and private enterprises, white and black, who were grafting money out of that system, at the expense of the children within it, was truly sickening. To make matters worse, many of these thieves portrayed themselves as champions of the children while methodically siphoning off as much cash from the system as they could.
When faced with accusations of corruption and theft in the documentary, Left Behind, former school board member, Ellenese Brook Simms responded, “I’ve been black my whole life…these are my children…what is your motivation…what are you after?” She went on to accuse Jackie Clarkson of being “racist” because she was backing another candidate for her position on the school board.
Within a year of that interview, she was indicted for accepting kickbacks for favoring a specific software package being offered by Mos Jefferson, former congressman Bill Jefferson’s brother. She plead guilty to the charges.
There were many other crimes she committed while seated on the board which will probably never come to light…when confronted with her transgressions, her immediate response was to portray her accusers of racism.
Was Clarkson’s support of another candidate (Lourdes Moran of Honduran heritage) to run against Simms motivated simply because Simms was African-American? Or was it because she knew Ellenese was corrupt? I think, perhaps, the track record now speaks for itself.
But here we are again….and now the target is Stacy Head. Head has been instrumental in routing out issues regarding trash contracts, and in case you didn’t know this…..MIS/Tech contracts including the crime cameras. Now that these issues are being brought to the public’s attention, she’s suddenly being charged with racist motivations.
Veronica White, Tracie Washington, and Ray Nagin would have us believe that Head has spent the last three years of her life digging into contracts and trying to get a hold on city expenditures for the sheer motivation of ill will towards black people. They would have us believe that Stacy Head’s primary motivating factor in life is to expunge New Orleans' government of any black person which may hold office.
Never mind that White has been unable to produce any semblance of an audited report on our city sanitation contracts….which is her job. Never mind that our Inspector General’s office released a painstaking report which detailed massive corruption within Nagin’s technology office….with the lynchpin (Meffert) being as white as the driven snow. Never mind that the majority of the contract and financial benefactors of Nagin’s 8 years were white republicans, i.e., HSOA/Benetech. Cipher, LSI, Imagine & shell companies.
No don’t pay attention to the facts….this is a “racist” conspiracy.
I bet there is a group of old and young, white aristocrats who meet every full moon in the backyard of an uptown mansion on St. Charles street. There, they burn effigies of black politicians and dance naked around a fire, while chanting racial slurs and worshipping a 30-foot tall, ivory (of course) statue of Stacy Head.
No, not really....
That kind of stuff happens on the North Shore, because there are some true freaks up there.
No, not really....
That kind of stuff happens in Baton Rouge because they're so consumed with religiosity and moral confusion they have to act out their frustrations in deviant, orgiastic, rituals.
Maybe? Sounds plausible to me.
Sarcasm aside, my hope in this whole scandal….E-maelstrom, Crime Cameras, and everything else that is transpiring….is that justice is served blindly and the public sees clearly that this is truly about corruption. It’s about a culture of corruption which transcends race or the notion of race. The only motivating color in this scandal is green. Oh how I hope, we as a city, come to Buddha on this…I believe our future is contingent upon this realization.
KamaAina has left a new comment on your post "Black and White? Not so much...":
Jack Strain, of "Chee Wee hairdo" fame (or at least notoriety), is the sheriff of St. Tammany Parish, not Chalmette.
Then again, half of St. Bernard Parish (literally) seems to have resettled over there...
Update: My somewhat irate mother informed me that I am German on her side. She also mentioned Bohemian, but I'm not sure I can claim that as a nationality...Oh what the hell, its sounds cool. I would say above all....I am hillbilly, which for all it's faults, I am rather proud of.