Tuesday, December 09, 2008

More on Jefferson-Cao

From Dr. Lance Hill, before the results came in:

So will race continue to play a role in elections? New Orleans remains one of the most racially polarized cities in the United States. At the heart of the distrust is the fear that many blacks have that whites have not relented in their plans to demolish black neighborhoods under the banner of protecting residents or reducing government costs. Indeed, while the debate on reducing the “footprint” of the city at the expense of black neighborhoods has largely been put to rest, some white leaders continue to float proposals to selectively “greenspace” poor neighborhoods into parks or retention ponds but this time through zoning laws or withholding public services and utilities.

This kind of talk does little to inspire trust and promote voting across racial lines; history tells us that when people feel threatened, they tend to coalesce along racial lines and block-vote to enhance their power and defend their group interests. In a political climate of fear and mistrust, every election can potentially be transformed into a symbolic contest of power in which voters end up supporting candidates as a show of racial solidarity, despite the candidate’s flaws.

The long-term solution to New Orleans’ racial polarization is to put an end to the divisive proposals that pit one neighborhood against another and that make income the measure of who has a right to return. If we want to be free of the politics of fear, we need to eliminate the threats that breed fear.


It is a testament to Bill Jefferson's diminished pulpit, and perhaps also to Cao's origins in New Orleans East, that 'greenspacegate' wasn't a central issue in this election.

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

You trust this guy? The original "green dots" were placed over some of the more affluent neighborhoods in Eastern NOLA. Broadmoor and Gentilly, meanwhile, were certainly not all black. It's eastern NOLA that is now more worried about footprint stuff, however. Even former footprint proposal backers like Jed Horne of the Times-Pic and one of the ULI honchos have sung praises to Broadmoor, Gentilly's had the city buy a mall for it, etc.

E said...

the hill passage is about african american perception of white racism in recovery policy.

Anonymous said...

Oh, come now. He doesn't specifically mention that he's talking about perception. He goes so far as to say the following: "Indeed, while the debate on reducing the 'footprint' of the city at the expense of black neighborhoods has largely been put to rest, some white leaders continue ..."

That's not a scholarly consideration of black perception of the issues. That's him making accusations against "some white leaders" and what he feels were decisions made at the expense of black neighborhoods (although he doesn't say what these were). If he means the public housing issue, black reps voted in favor of that too. That's more of a class issue. If he means Lower Mid-City, he has a point, but he doesn't name that area.

Big Red said...

mmm... I'm not really feeling his analysis. I'm reminded of what blogger Cliff H. said "if there’s one thing we have learned since Katrina is you can’t stop New Orleans folks from coming home if they really want to." I take that a step further and say if there's another thing we've learned since the storm is you can't stop New Orleanians in general and Black folks in particular from rebuilding their neighborhoods, regardless of the agenda of some conspiracy organizers. If nothing else, the neighborhood groups have roared the loudest in this recovery and are well out of the gate in this mission, albeit with mixed results thus far.

I think Black people's fill of Jefferson corrupt shenanigans trumped their fear of green space or (name your pill). The sheer audacity of their behind-the-scenes machinations that brought Derrick Shepard down showed this city that he was not about to slow his roll - even while indicted! And, after voting for the most amazing agent of change this country's seen in decades, we're not feeling like drinking that backwash that is 'the Jefferson Way'. you can't say you support Obama's journey then turn around and vote for Dollar Bill's way of doing business. I think people are finally getting that. We are, bit by bit, eating the elephant, rooting corruption out of our community and raising our expectations of government locally and nationally.

E said...

I think the point is that Jefferson was unable to make the election a fear-based referendum on greenspace-gate, which might have more effectively drawn attention away from his nefarious shenanigans. My personal analysis touched a little bit more on the 'grassroots AA disillusionment with the elite and entrenched AA leadership class' side of things.

Anon,

The Hill piece discusses African American "fear" of white racism and African American "mistrust" of the white establishment. Or he makes reference to how voting behavior changes when "people feel threatened." Those are the terms he used. To me, these things are pretty intimately related to 'perception.' I like the piece because it provides an excellent frame from which to think about issues of race and class in a way that challenges me to think about things in a different way.

Anonymous said...

He's clearly pointing fingers. I don't see any way around it.