Monday, May 22, 2006

Let's Remember Something

Da Po Blog makes a great point:
Remember how New Orleans became a Chocolate City. Chocolate wasn’t added. The Vanilla left. And African-Americans do not share the same majority in the surrounding parishes:
Jefferson – 23% black
St. Bernard – 8% black
Plaquemines – 23% black
St. Tammany – 10% black
After the floods, almost all of Chocolate City’s residents were forced to leave. New Orleans’ population percentages today are a result of the Chocolate leaving and only the Vanilla coming back.

(In that last sentence, I think he overstates the case. The parts of Orleans Parish that are functioning relatively normally--the sliver by the River--don't feel much "whiter" to me than they used to.)

Da Po Blog's main point is spot on, however. I have had discussions with former Orleanians (now Kennerites or Westbankers or Northshorians) who remember "how the city used to be" and who are probably upset that Nagin was re-elected. I'm can hear exurban types in other parts of the USA saying that Nagin re-election just shows how New Orleans doesn't deserve help.

I agree that we need to remember why New Orleans became and is and will be for some time a Chocolate City. White people ran away--from black people, urban density, older housing stock, congested streets, and other things.

Humid Haney's great Tshirt and motto (So Far Behind, We're Ahead) crystallizes the bright future that we can pursue. The generations who ran away from New Orleans proper are now inhabiting some of what they and their parents fled: (sub)urban density and congested streets. And when they want to feel like they're part of something, they come back to New Orleans for concerts, parades, food, bars, Da Zoo, Da Quarter.

Now gas costs three bucks a gallon, so it's pretty expensive to keep fleeing. And it turns out that older housing stock actually lasts a lot longer than the stuff that people are buying in the outer rings of cities (e.g. which flooded houses do you think fared better after Katrina--the 80 year-old places in Mid City, or the 40 year-old places in New Orleans East? My money is on Mid City.)

I'm rambling, but it's worth it to give a shout-out to Da Po Blog.


humidhaney said...

Shout out.

mchebert said...

When I went to Jazz Fest, I parked my car right in front of City Park near Ralph's on the Park. I couldn't help but notice that most of the houses around CP had front porches and doors that were 10 feet plus above the street. These houses were high!. Some had basements or garages at street level. Others had unfinished living spaces. All the houses were 80+ years old.

What did builders know in 1920 that they forgot in 1960? The reason we flooded is not because we didn't know we could flood. It is because we forgot we could flood.

How to you forget the past? Oh yeah, poor education. Silly me.

da po' boy said...

Great points.