Wednesday, January 18, 2006

How to Make a Chocolate City

Mayor Nagin so eloquently expressed his idea of how to make a Chocolate City:

“You take dark chocolate, you mix it with white milk, and it becomes a delicious drink.”
However, the census data tells a different story: you make a Chocolate City by taking the white milk out.

The Irish Channel is a good example:
In 1970, the Census reported that the Irish Channel was a predominantly White and working class neighborhood (CensusCD Neighborhood Change Database). With 62% White residents and 38% Black residents, the Irish Channel had a greater percentage of White residents than the city as a whole (Orleans was 55% White and 45% Black). At that time, the poverty rate in the Irish Channel (27%) was the same as the city as a whole (26%).
Today, as of the 2000 census, the Irish Channel is 68% black and 26% white.

That didn’t happen because more dark chocolate was added:
The changes in the Irish Channel since the 1970s have been dramatic. The total number of residents has declined 36% since 1970, from 6,692 persons to its current size of 4,257. The rate of population loss of the Irish Channel far exceeded the decline in population in New Orleans as a whole (the city lost 19% of its population from 1970 to 2000). Most of the drop in the Irish Channel population took place between 1970 and 1990 (down 38%).
New Orleans did not become a majority African-American city because God wanted it that way. It happened because of white flight, fueled by a city and citizenry incapable or unwilling to care for its black residents.

It doesn’t matter how high you build the levees. If we don’t confront racism and segregation and the systemic policies that lead to it, it won’t take a Cat 5 hurricane to destroy New Orleans. We’ll do it ourselves.

New Orleans is not a blank slate. But there has never been a better time to fight for what is right and just. It is right and just for all New Orleanians to be protected by an effective levee system. And it is right and just for all New Orleanians to be a part of the new New Orleans.

If God wanted the Irish Channel to be a chocolate neighborhood, maybe she has changed her mind. After 20 years of population loss, according to the census data, the last 10 years have seen a population increase, property values have gone up, the faces moving in are looking a little more café au lait, there are less vacant houses, and poverty is down.

It’s a start.

NOTE: There is nothing wrong with a “chocolate” city or neighborhood in the sense that it is majority African-American, or with a “vanilla” city or neighborhood that is majority white. Areas of concentrated numbers of the same race are common in every human settlement of any size. The problem is segregation and discrimination, when the numbers are unusually lopsided and when power and wealth are concentrated in only one group. And that group doesn’t necessarily have to be the one with more people.

2 comments:

dillyberto said...

the discussion of race

chocolate,

vanilla,

spanish,

white,

etc.

will bear no fruit we can eat.

Saturday, I'll see you at the rally on the levee to make a good point.

If not a good point, I will be having a good picnic on our scenic, well-mowed levee.

Schroeder said...

Great bit of research to support an excellent point of view. Thanks.