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Saturday, October 01, 2005

Timing is everything

I don't believe this.

Three weeks ago, a good portion of people in the States were upset because of the not-so-subtle racial undertones that were surfacing in the situation in Hurricane Katrina's aftermath. Rightly or wrongly, the poor were the ones (for the most part) left in the New Orleans stadium, for I'm sure are for a variety of reasons that.

Years ago, in learning how to sell, it was drilled into my head that "Perception is reality". The customer, in believing that his current unit is garbage, then has a unit that is garbage. If the customer believes that the competitor's offering in this bid package is better than yours because it is white and yours is blue, then, sure as there are little green apples, his white one is better. It is hard to persuade people to NOT believe something. If they have no preconceived notions or beliefs, then the world is your oyster. But if they already believe something to be true, it is difficult (but not impossible) to swing them to your side and see and accept what you see as truth.

The devastation in New Orleans was only in part physical. The storm surge eroded layers of 21st century sludge that covered antebellum notions. This man sees things from one particular point of view, and his passion in his beliefs make this his reality, despite how you might argue with him. While I've never walked in his shoes, I can only imagine his anger at the apparent hypocrisy of his dinner neighbour. Those most priviledged can sometimes be astonishingly compassionate. These people aren't them.

He says "Can you imagine what would happen if it were well-off white folks stranded without buses to get them out, without nourishment, without hope?

Putting aside the absurdity of the imagery--after all, such folks always have the means to seek safety, or the money to rebuild, or the political significance to ensure a much speedier response for their concerns – can you just imagine?"

What would Bennett say to this man?

And in the move toward the future, it is possible that the city planners have other things in mind. The demographics in New Orleans are already changing, in ways some call “ethnic cleansing.” Before the second evacuation just prior to Hurricane Rita, those returning to New Orleans were largely white, "while those with no homes to return to are overwhelmingly black." Apparently, the more expensive properties in N.O. are those at higher altitudes. Therefore, the more affluent neighbourhoods turn out to be the whitest, and, coincidentally, the driest: "the French Quarter is 90 percent white; the Garden District, 89 percent; Audubon, 86 percent; neighboring Jefferson Parish, where people were also allowed to return, 65 percent". Those areas that were dry, like Algiers, that also had significant populations of low-income Afro-Americans, were left empty because in all the money that was being spent on the rebuilding of New Orleans there was little or nothing for transportation for those citizens left in far-off shelters. Those whites who drove out of town in their SUVs in advance of the storm could return under their own power.

Also, there's a strangely high vacancy rate in New Orleans more affluent neighbourhoods. Rather than lower rents, landlords would board up their properties. But how many of those would be open to the 150,000 Katrina refugees? In the neighbourhoods of gardens and historical homes, how would Bennett feel if he lived there and they decided to open the vacant real estate to lower income blacks? Would he move? Would he protest? Would he double his security system?

Bennett and his supporters have said that his words have been taken out of context, that what he described would be morally reprehensible. My question is does he believe that it is reprehensible becaues it is abortion (meaning another method of eliminating extra African-Americans would be acceptable) or that it is reprehensible because of the implication of murder (I can't get past that one to give him the benefit of the doubt)? Because I don't think he gets the larger connection he has made between being black and crime. His implication is that the two go together like arthritis and pain, impossibly intertwined.

Bennett's timing is bad, but it could've been worse.

Somehow I think, though, had he said this three weeks ago, the lynch rope would've been out.


Blogger moodymicello said...
I read your blog with great interest today. And let me say I was not surprised to hear a such a comment come out of Bennett's mouth. I think he must make a practice of saying foolish things. I think, however, the real problem in this instance is the welfare state that has been created in Louisiana -- it's percentages worse than any other state in the U.S. For details refer to http://www.opinionjournal.com/columnists/bminiter/?id=110007250. He has some interesting things to say.  

Blogger blondzila said...
Great piece, thanks for the reference. I think the "blame" for the situation would appear to be non-partisan. The tendrils of fault spread in many directions and from many sources. In Toronto, we have one particular neighbourhood, Jane and Finch, that has become synonymous with violence. There are several townhouse projects where poor families, mostly black, live in a isolation that is partly self-induced: whenever there's a murder, the code of silence of the neighbourhood means the police get few witnesses coming forward even if it happened in a crowd of 100. Poverty can breed some sad situations. Believe me, I don't put Toronto on a pedestal. But when disaster strikes, we should be colour blind, and the fares should be free.  

Blogger digibrill said...
Michele, I'd be interested to see what else you have in relation to Bennett's mouth. What other evidence do you have that he is racist?  

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