Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Chocolate City

Well, the mayor stepped in deep cocoa Monday. I just caught it yesterday, but he said that New Orleans will be a "chocolate city" by the end of the day.

The right-wingers are jumping on the potential divisiveness of this statement, without realizing the real problems with it and its context. I have several reactions.

1) I have no problem with New Orleans being "chocolate," which, to most of us, would mean "Black." The truth is, New Orleans has been predominantly Black for a long time now, and African and African American culture give the city its soul. I believe that Nagin did not mean that Whites should not be in the city. I'm not sure if his claim that he means chocolate in the form of "dark chocolate mixing with white milk to make a delicious drink" (to paraphrase his explanation) is genuine, but I don't really care that much. If anything, Nagin has been overly-conciliatory to White New Orleans, so I think he was just trying to compensate a bit, not incite a race war.

2) The bigger problems come from the truly divisive aspects of what he said. One was that God and MLK were talking to him about all this. The other was that he didn't care what Uptown people said, we're going to be Chocolate.

First, the God thing. I have very little tolerance for people who think they know what God wants. I think it shows the absolute lack of critical thinking if someone says that an event is God's punishment or God's reward, without looking for evidence that contradicts it. If you're going to say that Sharon's stroke is God's punishment, but Ryan White was called to be with his creator, that's screwing with the data. Why hasn't David Duke had a stroke? Gimme a break.

Now, the Uptown thing. I live in Uptown, and part of the reason I live there is because it's diverse and generally not full of bigots. Now I've heard some people talk about the improvements to the city since "those people" have left, but I don't know them, and I don't want to. My neighborhood is richly diverse (although gentrifying--guilty as charged), in terms of race, class, age, etc. In fact, I have a friend who ridicules the people driving to the 'burbs by saying, "Go back to honkytown." Most of us Uptown value the diversity and want to maintain it. And everyone I know who lives there wants the city to stay majority Black.

3) Later, I just started laughing when watching the local news people try to get through the newscast with a straight face. Reminded me of Eddie Murphy impersonating Jesse Jackson's gaffe on SNL long ago: "Don't let me down...Hymietown." I actually see these comments as an ingenious move toward the normal banana republic style of politics we have here. It doesn't make me mad; it cracks me up. I don't think anyone but Hannity took it seriously enough to think it's going to hurt our chances for aid.

I'm thinking about t-shirts, bumper stickers, everything. I think those little oval stickers that show your car was imported from Ireland or somewhere would be good. Just the CC and then Chocolate City underneath.

And Chris Rose couldn't resist interrupting his vacation with another classic column.

Reporting from Chocolate City--HammHawk

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