Friday, March 06, 2009

Ugh, Stacy, Stop it.

Stop doing things like this.

Following the lead of some nearby parishes, the New Orleans City Council voted Thursday to continue using 2006 advisory base flood elevation maps to determine minimum construction elevations in Orleans Parish until at least 2011.

The vote was 5-0, but Councilwoman Stacy Head used the occasion to denounce eastern New Orleans and Lower 9th Ward "activists" who refuse to look at the good of the city as a whole and insist on special treatment for their heavily storm-damaged neighborhoods, she said.

--

She then compared her willingness to "do the right thing" with what she depicted as the selfishness of "activists" in eastern New Orleans and the Lower 9th Ward. She said they demand preferential treatment for their parts of the city as "a perceived right" because those areas suffered heavily after Hurricane Katrina, even though many other parts of the city also were flooded and badly damaged.

Head did not include any council members in her criticism, but Councilwomen Cynthia Hedge-Morrell and Cynthia Willard-Lewis, who represent the areas to which Head referred, have in the past complained that their districts have been treated unfairly in the distribution of post-Katrina aid.


Totally inflammatory and 100% unnecessary.

Guess what? Eastern New Orleans and the Lower 9th Ward DO deserve preferential treatment. They do! They do! They totally do!

I don't want to have to go into a long rant about privilege and victimization before, during, and after Katrina right now. I really don't. I hope that my position has been consistently clear.

But even if you've never understood it or still don't buy it, you have to recognize how out-of-touch or intentionally mean-spirited this kind of language is.

The words and tone are explicitly evocative of Reagan-era Republican arguments against helping inner cities and emblematic of why Stacy Head has become such a magnet for criticism from the African American community. "Activist" and "perceived right" are especially insulting code words when used in this context.

I would have thought someone as sharp as Stacy Head would have picked up on this by now.

It's infuriating.

And of all the times for Cynthia Willard-Lewis to hold her tongue...

17 comments:

jeffrey said...

I've said it before. Head is this generation's Peggy Wilson.

mominem said...

It seems perfectly reasonable for Head to point out she was voting against the interests of her constituents for the good of the city, but she just can't stop whne she's a Head.

civitch said...

Both Peggy and Stacy would be horrified by that comparison, with Stacy being the only one justified in feeling so.

jeffrey said...

I know, civitch. That's part of what makes the comparison so funny to me. It's the things Stacy does without realizing it... or at least without appearing to realize it.. that give movements like this their validity.

jeffrey said...

But seriously. It seems to me that Stacy Head repeatedly misses the point that we aren't going to make it through this unless the hardest hit and poorest among us make it through. Too often, she ends up taking the wrong side.

Puddinhead said...

"Guess what? Eastern New Orleans and the Lower 9th Ward DO deserve preferential treatment. They do! They do! They totally do!"

I know I'll be totally out of step with the kewl kidz on this one, but.....this Gentilly resident asks...."Why?".

Angelique said...

Thanks, Puddinhead for speaking up for Gentilly.

Clifton said...

If it makes you anyone feel better no one I know separates Gentilly from the East or the Lower Nine. We are all one big flooded group. There's no need for neighborhood squabbles. You guys got Holy Cross and a new high school. Don't feel so left out.

The next time Stacy Head makes a legitimate concern and black people think she is motivated by class and race remember this story. What's wrong with me and my middle class neighbors wanting to know why we don't have an elementary school or a damn hospital? If that's the activists are asking about then more power to them.

Anonymous said...

I think the argument is that the predominantly black neighborhoods of Broadmoor, Gentilly, and East of the Industrial canal were all on the BNOBC hit list, so I always lump those together and, besides, Hedge-Morell represents the Gentilly area--so Stacey, a recent import from Greensburg, Lousiana, doesn't even know her city geography. Attending a whites-only academy in Amite didn't broaden her horizons much either.

People whose neighborhoods were planned for extinction in their abscence do deserve some special consideration and have every reason to beleive that in some quarters, people are still working to discourage the return of these neighborhoods. For example, tearing down and closing schools is a great way to destroy a neighborhood.

Remember, there were no "greenspaces" over Lakeview, though it sits two feet lower below sea level than the lower 9. When 9th ward folks saw that big green dot over their neighborhood, they had a right to ask why and they had a right to ask for proof that they were not being targetted, e.g. Entergy originally planned to rework rest of the city nut but not the lower 9th ward--Brad Pitt's project forced them to put the lines in. That's what Head calls "preferential treatment." Getting a hosptial in the East is what she calls "preferential treatment" (I have five hospitals within five minutes in my neighborhood)

This jargon of "special rights" and "preferential treatment" is right device intended to deligitimate social justice demands. Justice gets converted into "privileges."

Whites who buy into this denial of inequality will find themselves victims of the same thinking. Remember that Bush rejected the Baker plan in January 2006--essentially abandoning all of New Orleans--by using the same language--"you all built in flood zones--didn't act prudently, and now you want preferential treatment and you are not going to get it."

That really pissed off local loyal white Republicans and it took about two weeks before Bush he realized he had used the rhetoric against his own base, and that's when he reversed himself and went with block grants. There but for the grace of god...

D-BB said...

The contributions of the Lower 9th and N.O. East to the City of New Orleans have not been missed.

Until crime statistics drop, I don't see the need to revitalized these two havens let alone giving them preferential treatment.

Besides, it is so refreshing to go over to Rocky's and Carlo's without having to dodge bullets.

Cousin Pat from Georgia said...

Wait a second here. What was the "preferential treatment" she was talking about?

Does "preferential treatment" have to do with high schools, hospitals and services or does it have to do with base flood elevation? Those are two very different things.

After reading the article, this post and these comments, it sounds to me like she's talking specifically about activists who don't want NOE or the L9W to adhere to a specific base flood elevation.

Is it unreasonable to require higher elevation zoning for new structures in those areas? You can talk about her unfortunate syntax all you want - because if the vote lets rebuilding go on at lower elevation codes based on nothing more than faith that the USACoE will be able to finish adequate protection by 2011 and we won't get hit by another storm by then, then she's making a very important point.

publiucious said...

I'm glad we've established that being from a southern small town automatically makes you a racist, classicist a-hole. No one who came out of an urban environment in the north was ever a racist, classicist a-hole. Have at it with the whites-only academy thing (although people can come out of those and see the light later), but judging her by her hometown is as narrow-minded and ignorant as anything that has come out of Stacy Head's mouth, at least in public.

I've read this reference to her hometown two or three times already. Please stop it.

Anonymous said...

It is not where you come from, but whether or not you have in subsequent public actions and behaviors repudiated the past. (George Wallace won the majority of the black vote near the end of hisi life by renouncing his past and advocating policies for the poor). Journalist's, for good reason, dont ignore Jindal's or Obamas early socialization and education.

And I absolutely agree: the local blogs prove every day that in New Orleans since Katrina, Northern white liberal imports can be more racist than rural whites.

publiucious said...

Journalist's, for good reason, dont ignore Jindal's or Obamas early socialization and education.

Yes, but I only saw enemies of Obama dwell on that early socialization and elementary and secondary education, to the exclusion of anything else. You don't get to choose where you grow up or high school, although of course these influence you in ways good and bad, wherever you're from.

In Obama's case, however, I'm guessing the early years got more attention, both positive and negative, because they were so unique. And he'd written about those experiences in his own writing. Do you know where John McCain went to high school? I don't. I know plenty about his Vietnam experience, though. (Sighs.)

In any case, mentioning the fact that Stacy Head grew up in a southern small town (so did plenty of our great southern non-racist politicians, artists and musicians, great authors, etc.) and went to an all-white academy makes that the primary story she has to repudiate. You don't mention where she went to college, what her other formative experiences might have been then or later. I would be appalled by this latest comment if the context were proven to be accurate--it sounds like political suicide to me, regardless--but otherwise she hasn't exactly struck me as the second coming of George Wallace in his heyday. So why focus so intently on where she grew up, and where her parents sent her to school? Maybe she's more influenced by the environment in which she operates now, has since her college years?

I read elsewhere that one of the big quote-unquote secrets in the council e-mails is that she actively campaigned for James Carter for Congress in some fashion. How does someone who went to a white flight academy end up endorsing a black man? Because he's liked in the circles in which she travels, whereas the two Cynthias aren't?

ZingZang said...

"a recent import from Greensburg, LA."

And here we've all been told she was an Uptown plutocrat.

By the way, "recent import"? She's lived here for, what, 16-17 years? Talk about typical New Orleans snootery!

New Orleans is the only place in the country where people ask you "where did you go to school?" and expect you to tell them which elementary school you attended.

Stacy can be blunt. Boo-hoo. One of the great things about her is that she doesnt worry too much about hand-wringing progressives that find her too bitchy any more than she does the racist crackpots parading in front of her home. She just keeps on.

We need a lot more like her - even if they all get booted after one term for not playing nice - hell, that's not a bug, that's a feature.

D-BB said...

It is impossible know anything about anyone because of where they are from. This is nothing more than "profiling".

Take me for instance. Unlike most people born in New Orleans, I have never been murdered.

E said...

I have a lot of respect for Councilwoman Head's work ethic and intelligence.

That's precisely why she should know better than to use such incendiary language for no real reason.