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Selling Wolf Tickets to Ginny Women August 16, 2008

Posted by Mark Folse in New Orleans, NOLA, Toulouse Street, We Are Not OK.
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4 comments

N.B. While I understand Carmen’s concern in her comment below that Nagin boosters will dismiss this (I know the dude, and he’s not…), I am determined to move the bar, to make it clear that the word applies to those like Nagin (or Head or the rest of them) who play the card to win.

Times-Picayune editorial writer and columnist Jarvis DeBerry show us he still still a man “in touch with the street”, as old white guys in politics used to say when I was a young white guy in politics. He treats us to a bit of street talk in his Aug. 10 column on Mayor C. Ray Nagin’s latest show of tail feathers over the blogger-sourced NOAH scandal. Nagin is, he tells us

A walking embodiment of the black vernacular, he called certain mail critics “ginny women.: He accused others of “selling wolf tickets”….

Sadly, Mr. DeBerry doesn’t bother to explain to us cracker-ass, recovery-hating bloggers what these terms mean. Thank bog for the Internets, that series of tubes which we nattering nabobs of negativism have excavated beneath the city’s recovery like medieval miners trying to fell a castle wall.

Oddly, I found the definition for “ginny woman”, a man who likes to gossip or involve himself in “women’s business”, under the Wikipedia entry for Yat (scroll down to the glossary), a uniquely working class white vernacular. I wonder if all of the Yat’s are supposed to drop using ginny woman now the way blacks stopped saying “brah” for brother the minute the white guys at Kennedy High School took it up.

Selling wolf tickets is more genuinely black vernacular, if the unruly mob behind Wikipedia are to be trusted. Sadly DeBerry missed a grand opportunity for irony in the service of clarify when he didn’t use the Lord Mayor’s own feeble threat to “cold cock” members of the local news media as a living definition. Either that or he ran over his word count, as people who live and die by the column inch must sometimes do when they’re on a roll, and something had to go.

In all fairness, DeBerry and columnist Stephanie Grace deserve full credit for their tag team Sunday columns (his here, her’s here)calling out the mayor. Jumping Nagin is something the Picayune seems very cautious about in its news column. I especially like the part where Stephanie jumped into the ring with the folding chair and whacked Hizzoner upside the head. (OK, that was gratuitous and entirely too much fun to type). Others have analyzed the full dynamic of their one-two punch better than I: Moldy City in particular.

All frustrated newspaper columnist cleverness on my part aside, I have a lot of respect for DeBerry. If I’ve deeply insulted him by any of the above, I apologize and in the same breath suggest he needs to lighten up and get out of the newsroom a little more often. I respect him because he is the child of middle-class Black parents who is an editorial writer at a paper ruled by the white uptown elite in the person of Ashton Phelps, Jr. I am sure DeBerry must walk a very fine line between what he wants to say and what he can or must say if he wants to keep his job, much as the politicians he sometimes writes about must do.

That may be the reason behind the failure of his Sunday column fails. It fails because it starts down a path it does not follow to its logical end. DeBery is in a unique position to speak out to all communities, as an editorialist for a mainstream newspaper who routinely speaks to the Op-Ed reading elite, and as a son of black New Orleans. I think he could call the mayor out on the most important score of all more effectively than my sorry Bunny Bread ass ever can, sitting here typing for an audience of a hundred (on a good day). Still, that is a Rubicon DeBerry has not yet crossed, and perhaps never can with Phelps looking over his shoulder. So once again I’m stuck out here in the wilderness with locusts and honey stuck in my teeth and not so much as a twig in sight, speaking what must be said:

Nagin is a racist.

His use of black street slang isn’t just machismo, as DeBerry suggests. Nagin is speaking in racial code to advance his agenda, circling “his people” around him as a buffer from any criticism. Anyone who so openly panders to one race over the other, who falls back upon the defense that “they” are out to get one of “us”, differs from David Duke in degree and not kind. Speaking in code just makes it worse, more insidious. Were the White Citizen Councils somehow different or better than the Ku Klux Klan? When I say this (or if James Gill or Stephanie Grace try it), well, we’re just them: Exhibit A in the argument that We’re out to get the Brother-In-Chief of the city.

What bullshit.

If you pander to racial divisiveness, you are a racist. It doesn’t matter if you drape yourself in your wife’s best sheets or the lingo of the streets, the game is the same. And that is what Nagin does, just as Cynthia Hedge-Morrell and Cynthia Willard-Lewis did with the Inspector General debate When you pack the council with an angry, racial mob to get your way, does it matter if they are black or white? What difference does it make? Not that Nagin or the Cynthias are alone. Stacey Head is not above giving tit-for-tat, publicly disrespecting the other side to curry favor with her own. She is the obverse of the Nagin coin. Her taunting of public housing residents and clash with Tamborine and Fan are equally unacceptable.

What no one in the Times Picayune is likely to step up to say is the one thing that needs most to be said: people who stir up racial division are the ones who do the greatest damage to the recovery, even more than the looters in suits who siphon off recovery money.

Yes, you, C. Ray Nagin. You are not only a racist, you are one of the greatest threats to the city’s recovery. You are what I have railed against since I started blogging back in August 2005 and all through the darkest days of the rest of that dark year, back when I wrote about the Knights of the Invisible Hand, or a year and a half later when I wrote about the inspector general battle.

My position remains the same: We can not afford this. We couldn’t in September 2005, or November 2006 or August 2008. At the one bright moment in the history of the entire slavery-cursed South when everyone in one community had the largest event of their lives in common, were united in solidarity by the flood; when history presented us our Augenblick, our opportunity to seize the day and make the revolution Martin Luther King prophesied, you chose instead to whip it out and piss all over it just to show you’re one of the folk, one of the guys. When you were done you shook the brothers down for all they had in their pockets for your car fare to get uptown and collect your campaign checks, and you laughed all the way to the bank.

What a tremendous accomplishment and legacy. We shall have to erect a statue to you in memory of these times, perhaps where the Liberty Monument once stood, to remind us how you helped to destroy the second reconstruction of New Orleans. We can all look at it and hope that some day we will all join together to pull it down.

Oh, and Mr. Mayor: if you think the bloggers are out to get you, we are. In case you haven’t noticed, the NOLA Bloggeres are out to get anyone who threatens or interferes with the recovery. FYYFF.

The Hard Questions May 8, 2008

Posted by Mark Folse in Crime, New Orleans, NOLA, Toulouse Street, We Are Not OK.
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4 comments

“And when we speak we are afraid our words will not be heard nor welcome, but when we are silent we are still afraid. So it is better to speak remembering we were never meant to survive.”
– Audie Lorde

Cliff of Cliff’s Crib blog asks some hard questions about crime and how people deal with it:

“Last week, when I read the story of those guys that kicked in that door on Laharpe St. and shot those three people, the first thing I thought about was “well, at least they didn’t shoot the baby. Had they shot the baby too, we would have been outraged because the baby is not part of the game. Since they let the baby live, there is part of us that considers that kind of event part of the life those folks choose to live. The question is how can that be ok when the folks in question are our family, friends, classmates, and neighbors.”

Maybe it’s not my place to jump into this discussion, since his blog post directly addresses the local African-American community and bloggers of color in particular. (Not in that quote but in the longer piece). Me, I’m as white as a truck load of of Bunny Bread. But I live here, too, and not enough people of any sort are asking the hard question: how can we just let this go one because it’s “them”, whether that’s a class them (we’re not in the ‘hood, that’s not us) or a race question (they’re black, I’m white; that’s not us).

It’s the hard question everyone in every community in this town regardless of race or section needs to be asking themselves.

I think about this every day. Earlier this year, I posted up a list of all of the people who died violently in New Orleans on this site. And not a day goes by but someone comes by searching for one of those who died. I don’t know who George Hankton was, but there seem to be a lot of people with access to the internet who cared. Someone Googling that name shows up almost every day. Still, no one who knew him leaves a comment on that page. I’ve looked out on the net myself for any more info, but there are only a couple of cryptic “my cousin died” posts on My Space pages that are marked private. The Book wrote a post about his cousin Chanell Sanchell which prompted a post of my own, but most of those who die vanish into obscurity, forgotten by all but those who knew them personally.

What happened to George Hankton (age 40, not some punk kid) and Chanell Schanell should be the concern of everyone who choses to live here, who insists on making New Orleans home. The death of every person here by violence is your concern. If you think it’s not your concern, you’re probably reading the wrong web page. This blog is primarily about New Orleans, and if you think you care about New Orleans and don’t care about the young black men (and women) dying in the streets, well, then you don’t care about New Orleans as deeply as you think you do.

The problem is none of us know what to do about it. I don’t. Cliff admits he doesn’t. Our so-called leaders sure as hell don’t have a clue. But before we get to answers, at least we ought to be able to start with some questions. We’ll take the easy ones first. How did this come about? And what can I do today that will make it stop, someday? I don’t have the answer for the 13-year olds who were just busted for sticking people up in my neighborhood. They’re the age of my own son, and may be lost already. But they probably have little brother’s and sisters going to Recovery District schools. Will they even have a chance at something better, something other than what their brothers found? Are these siblings their only role models? What about the culture these kids pick up on TV and the radio glorifying what their “big” brothers did? What about the people who profit by recording and broadcasting that?

Who are these kids’ role models? What about everyone who fled certain parts of the city but stayed “in New Orleans” (if you tell people when you’re out of town that “I’m from New Orleans, then yes that’s you regardless of where you actually live). It doesn’t matter if you fled into the suburbs and Catholic school in the early ’60s or into the East and the magnet schools in the 70s and 80s: all the people who could make a difference–white and black–seem to have turned their back on the weakest among us. This city is ringed by churches full of Good Christians who seemed to have slept through all of the homilies they ever heard.

The kids who are killing and dying, and the families they come from, were left behind like too many animals in a too small a cage with not enough to eat, and you don’t need a degree in sociology to figure out how that plays out. And now many of the best and brightest of the people who grew up in the hard neighborhoods aren’t coming back from The Evacuation. They’ve discovered a place where jobs pay decently and the schools work. They’re the next wave of the middle-class out-of-poverty story, and how many of them are staying in Atlanta or Texas or Nashville?

I think only the hand of a loving god could reach down and pluck some teenager with a pistol in his waste band off the streets and save him. I’m pretty sure I can’t, and I doubt the rest of you could either. But we have to start somewhere. The first step is to decide to give a damn. The next step is to figure out the next step. If I knew what it was I’d be charging you $1,500 for the advice and trying to sell you the companion books and tapes. I don’t have the answers, but I have an inkling of what the questions are. And thanks to Cliff (and The Book and m.d. filter) the impulse to start to ask them. That’s a beginning.

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