Tuesday, January 17, 2006

God, Chocolate, and New Orleans

Nagin the Prophet:
“This city will be a majority African-American city. It’s the way God wants it to be,” Nagin said. “You can’t have it no other way. It wouldn’t be New Orleans.”
He then held up his staff and yelled, “Houston, Atlanta, Baton Rouge… Let my people go!”

Okay, he didn’t say that last part. But he did say this:
“It’s time for us to rebuild a New Orleans, the one that should be a chocolate New Orleans,” he said. “And I don’t care what people are saying in Uptown or wherever they are. This city will be chocolate at the end of the day.”
As a rule, we are all allowed one post-Katrina breakdown. Nagin just had his.

Later in the day, a reporter asked him to clarify his chocolate comment, to which he responded:
"I'm asking you, do you know anything about chocolate? How do you make chocolate? You take dark chocolate, you mix it with white milk, and it becomes a delicious drink," Nagin said.
Yes, a delicious drink. I think we have our new city slogan: “Chocolate New Orleans, a delicious drink!” It will make a nice t-shirt.

Because of the one post-Katrina breakdown rule, I’m going to cut Nagin some slack.

Yesterday was MLK, Jr., Day. He was speaking at a MLK, Jr., Day march. He was surrounded by black leaders. His mannerisms and inflection were more that of a preacher than a politician. Therefore, I am going to assume that I, da po’ boy, a white dude in all my vanilla goodness, was not his target audience.

However, if my assumption is correct, I think it is sad. I hope Nagin doesn’t think that he has to play preacher to reach his black constituents. I believe they are intelligent and discerning enough to understand a calm, rational discussion about the future racial make up of New Orleans. It is too important a topic to be dressed up in preacher prose and racial code words.

Anyway, it’s what you do, not what you say. And up to this point, Nagin hasn’t done much to get all New Orleanians back. Where are the basic services? Where’s the housing? Where are the trailers? Where is the plan for a hurricane-safe New Orleans?

If Nagin wants a chocolate city, how does he explain his appointed BNOB commission’s plans for a city of 250,000 residents? That number is going to require a lot of black residents *not* coming back.

Why? It’s a numbers game. Before Katrina, New Orleans was, roughly, 67% black, 27% white, and 6% all others, with a population of around 480,000. That’s 321,600 black residents and 129,600 white residents (using rounded figures).

Were those percentages to remain true in a city of 250,000, there would be 167,000 black residents and 67,500 white residents. So, basically, the new New Orleans would be less chocolaty to the tune of 154,100 and less vanilla by 62,100.

But that’s not going to happen. Let’s assume all the people who had minimal or no flooding stay. That would be 80,400 black residents and 64,800 white residents. Most of the white residents who did get flooded lived in Lakeview. Given the economic breakdown of Lakeview and their post-Katrina organization, we can assume that a lot of those white residents have the means and the desire to come back.

So let’s guess that half of the white residents that got flooded return. Now, the new New Orleans would have 97,200 vanilla beans. With 6% non-white or non-black, that leaves room for about 137,800 black residents to add up to 250,000 total. That breaks down to 55% black, 39% white, and 6% all others. Still an African-American majority, but it is starting to look a lot more like café au lait rather than that delicious drink chocolate.

If that’s the way it plays out, great. However, I really don’t put much faith in my ability to predict the racial make up of the new New Orleans. Plus, I think more than 250,000 residents want to come back. They just don’t see anything in New Orleans to come back to just yet or don’t have the financial resources to do it right away.

Nagin the Prophet might turn out to be right. Or not. Either way, I’m cool with 67%, 55%, 1%, or 99% - as long as everyone who wants to come back can.

Oh yeah, and about the Uptown remark. That might have been targeted at me, although I sincerely hope not. Whatever.

UPDATE: Schroeder doesn't believe in the one post-Katrina breakdown rule.


bayoustjohndavid said...

So many things to say about the one breakdown rule:
1)Better rule: Speeches and prepared statements get less slack than answers to questions or off the cuff comments
2)Might not have been a breakdown, but the WWL interview (no more goddamn...) followed by the backtrack to blame Blanco on Meet the Press comes close
3)The message that N.O. wants all its citizens back was correct. The choice of words was based on the fact that his two main declared opponents are white. Do you really think he would have said that if he were facing two black opponents?

Nagin started to lose me when he cynically (I thought) changed from blaming Bush to blaming Blanco. I thought he was being equally cynical yesterday. Maybe I'm just too cynical.

da po' boy said...

Yeah. He has broken down a few times. I was trying to be facetious with the one breakdown rule.
However, it might have really been a breakdown. Why else would he say such a boneheaded thing?
The chocolate comment alienated everyone, black and white. He apologized, but the damage is done.
It did make for a lot of good jokes, though.