Monday, January 08, 2007

Think Like a Houstonian

Hurricane Katrina evacuees take note: You’re not in New Orleans anymore.

It’s time to “think like a Houstonian.”

That is the message from two displaced New Orleanians in a lighthearted new video prepared by Houston social agencies to help survivors of the 2005 hurricane find work and establish new roots here in the nation’s fourth largest city.
I watched the video. It has good advice for job seekers and useful information about the city of Houston.

I hope, though, that those New Orleanians who decide to stay in Houston don’t have to disavow their New Orleans-ness to assimilate:
“Now that you’re in Houston looking for work,” Mr. Johnson says, “you should think of yourself as a Houstonian, not a homesick New Orleanian.”
I suspect many New Orleanians that evacuated or were bused to Houston will choose to stay in Houston. That is, the choice, in many cases, will be made for them by the slow pace of the leaderless recovery. There is no community for many of the evacuees to return to. Nor is there adequate or affordable housing.

There will be many homesick New Orleanians looking for jobs in Houston with one foot in the Bayou City and the other in the Bayou State. But do they have to sell their New Orleans soul for a job?
A Houstonian does not keep a cellphone with a 504 New Orleans area code. “You want to make sure that the employer knows that you are planning on staying in Houston,” Mr. Johnson says.

Make sure, Ms. Jackson agrees, “to put a 713 or 832 or another local number on that application.”
Thinking “like a Houstonian” in this sense is really thinking like a good job seeker. I am confident that one can both “think like a New Orleanian” and get a job in Houston.

Now, if Houston businesses are refusing to hire people who are “obviously” New Orleanian (hmm, I wonder what that means?), then the problem lies not in the job seekers’ state of mind, but in the Houston business world. Being from New Orleans should not be an obstacle blocking one from getting a job. I have met many a Texan working here in New Orleans and, believe me, they are still thinking like a Texan.

I realize that a couple of New Orleans evacuees put the video together. I see that as an admirable response to a problem in their community and it should accomplish its intended result and help New Orleanians get jobs.

But it also is a response to negative myths that have evolved in Houston concerning New Orleans evacuees. The evacuees have already been characterized as an undesirable group. Asking the evacuees to cover up their New Orleans-ness supports this unfavorable stereotype, even though it may get a few of them jobs.

I guess, as a New Orleanian, my problem is with the choice of words. I don’t ever want someone to tell me not to think like a New Orleanian. Plus, I want the evacuees to get jobs here in New Orleans – their home – and help spur on the recovery.

Oops, there I go exhibiting my New Orleans-ness again. You know, the eternal optimism New Orleanians have that our leaders will do the right thing to get people home and speed up the recovery, or speed up the recovery to get people home.

Eternal optimism from a life long Saints fan. Imagine that.

Five oh fo’ eva.

UPDATE: New Orleanians in Houston get a video to help them find jobs. Iraqis get a billion dollars.
President Bush’s new Iraq strategy calls for a rapid influx of forces that could add as many as 20,000 American combat troops to Baghdad, supplemented with a jobs program costing as much as $1 billion intended to employ Iraqis in projects including painting schools and cleaning streets, according to American officials who are piecing together the last parts of the initiative.
Via dangerblond, who observes:
And the president is really smart to do this, because with all the training and jobs, they will not only be able to rebuild their destroyed homes and communities, but they’ll have less of an incentive to turn to violence. What? Why are you looking at me like that?
I wonder if the new plan will teach the Iraqis to "think like an American."


rickngentilly said...

dude that is over the top in that you are only taking one side of the argument.

yah this sucks but it is also based in reality.

whats your take?

da po' boy said...

"I realize that a couple of New Orleans evacuees put the video together. I see that as an admirable response to a problem in their community and it should accomplish its intended result and help New Orleanians get jobs."

I admire their efforts. They saw members of their community having problems, and set out to solve those problems. In the video is important information about public transportation in Houston, for example.

As I said, I guess my problem is choice of words. There is nothing wrong with "thinking like a Houstonian." However, the two in the video are not really asking people to think like a Houstonian, but to think like good job seekers.

By asking the viewers of the video to "think like a Houstonian," they are saying that there is something wrong with thinking like a New Orleanian.

But, you are right. This is based in reality. If the people are staying in Houston, they need to think of themselves as Houstonians. They shouldn't have to give up their NOLA-ness, though.

Sophmom said...

Ooooo.... "Five oh fo’ eva" has t-shirt written all over it (or maybe the other way 'round). Excellent. TM. Cafe Press?

Anonymous said...

i agree with the da po'boy. why does one have to change his or her cell phone number to get a job? the employers need videos reminding them not to discriminate based on geographic origin. i know well qualified and educated new orleanians who've had problems getting hired in TX because they are from here. what if we refused to hire contractors from TX because eventually they will just return to TX anyway. how dumb.