Tough questions. It is very convenient if you were a Landrieu supporter to blame race for his loss. But no one can know that with certainty.
However, if it was about race, it wasn’t about individual racism. The majority African-American precincts did not vote against Landrieu because they don’t like white people. They didn’t vote against an *individual* who they thought could not represent them. They voted against an *institution* – symbolized by a white face – that has never represented them.
Seventy-five percent of the African-American residents in New Orleans was affected by Katrina’s floods while only half of New Orleans’ white residents was affected. With a population breakdown of 67% African-American and 27% white in pre-Katrina New Orleans, that means more than 240,000 African-Americans were effected compared to around 64,000 whites. Therefore, while there are 2.5 times more black than white residents in New Orleans, 3.75 times more black residents were affected by the storm. [EDIT - thanks to Jim in comments]
No, a hurricane is not racist. But the institutional policies that led to the segregation we see in New Orleans were racist. And the segregation we see in New Orleans led to the disparate numbers of blacks affected by the storm.
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% blackAfter 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.
St. Bernard – 8% black
Plaquemines – 23% black
St. Tammany – 10% black
If this election was about race, it was about racial preservation. The existence of an African-American culture in New Orleans is endangered. Not just African-American political power.
I felt Landrieu was the better administrator of the two candidates, better suited to control the everyday activities of a municipal government. But, if we really want all New Orleanians to return, then reelecting Nagin sends that message.
What’s the message? At the end of the day, New Orleans will be a Chocolate City. And that’s a good thing.
At least, it’s a good thing if a bigger piece of the democratic pie is divided amongst all residents. Greater numbers in a democracy should translate into greater advantages. Instead, as we see in this comparison of the 90% majority African-American Lower 9th Ward with the rest of the city, state, and country, neither advantages nor equality exist in various social categories for many of our black residents.
This is Nagin’s charge. The residents will return. But to what?
I don’t like Nagin’s style. I didn’t like his victory speech. I don’t like his visibly cavalier nature as he performs his duties as mayor. Behind closed doors, he might act differently. But I do not have x-ray vision and therefore can not see that. And I have not seen the results of a talented behind-closed-doors negotiator. I do look around and see a lot that hasn’t been done, however.
Despite my dislikes, I think Nagin’s reelection at the very least sends a positive message to displaced black New Orleanians that they are welcomed back. And we need everyone back to bring New Orleans back. It is the residents who will rebuild the neighborhoods, not the mayor.
Long live the Chocolate City. Long live New Orleans.