Sunday, January 22, 2006

A model multi-colored 21st century American city

Were there any question that people selling T-Shirts poking fun at Nagin's chocolate city remarks are profiteers who are creating a market that caters to racists, take a look at the following searches that led to People Get Ready:

asshole nigger new orleans chocolate milk statement&ei=UTF-8&fr=FP-tab-web-t&fl=0&x=wrt CHOCOLATE CITY NIGGER&prssweb=Search&ei=UTF-8&fr=sbc-web&fl=0&x=wrt

Thanks to help from El Buzzard, we're trapping some of those people with a search engine bomb, but it appears to be working better in Yahoo than Google. Maybe those people will have recognized that not only are they missing the point about New Orleans' comparatively harmonious multi-colored society, but that if they care about New Orleans, their continuing to promote divisiveness by marketing products with images and slogans that play to an attitude of "us versus them" reinforces that divisiveness and is morally repugnant.

New Orleans has its problems, to be sure, but it also has a longer tradition of racial integration and harmony than any other U.S. city. Consider, for example, the comments made by Janene Baham, heard in the Maple Leaf podcast I did in October. She was gushing in her expression of love for racial diversity in New Orleans:
This is love. All cultures, all races. You can't get it like this anywhere else.

As other local bloggers have noted (I'm thinking of polimom and Your Right Hand Thief off of the top of my head), there are so many shades in between that it really isn't even possible to make a distinction between white and black in New Orleans. New Orleans is filled with beautiful cafe-con-leche-colored people, and its culture is representative of that alloy of races and cultures blended over hundreds of years.

Again, in a story on WWL Friday, the owner of one graphics company selling chocolate city T-Shirts boasted that he'd sold 3000 of them at $20 a piece in little more than four days. The owner of that business admitted that the racial division produced by Nagin's comments was an overnight business opportunity.

There are lots of other T-Shirts that promote a more positive spirit of return, of renewal, of rebuilding. I have photos of a multitude of them, but I'm particularly fond of the "Save Nola" shirts, part of whose proceeds go to Habitat for Humanity, and the "ReNew Orleans" shirts, part of whose proceeds benefit a musicians fund. Again, I'd refer you to the previous PGR post which explains where to find those. I bought a bunch of those shirts as Christmas gifts. I'm also a proud owner of a "Make levees, not war" shirt, and have distributed those to friends and family.

I think we should make a distinction between justifying mocking Ray Nagin's ridiculous and possibly racist comments (as I have done in a spirit of promoting racial inclusion), and base profiteering from those comments. Look at this way: Who are the people buying those T-Shirts? Whites or blacks? And if the merchandise appeals to one group more than another, isn't that proof that the message is divisive?

The people selling those T-Shirts are benefiting nobody but themselves, and are passing a debt of social division on to the community. At a minimum, to demonstrate a spirit of racial magnanimity, they should donate some of the proceeds to efforts to build racial harmony, like ERACE, or they contribute proceeds to helping residents from predominantly poor black New Orleans communities rebuild their homes, such as Common Ground. A few other places they could send proceeds are listed in the Justice for New Orleans Web site.

Finally, I still haven't heard Nagin make a solid retraction of his remarks, in particular, his dismissal of people from Uptown (presumably white people, even though a large percentage of the population Uptown isn't just white), and I still think he should resign -- most importantly because he isn't providing the leadership we need right now. I still hope someone else will run for mayor -- someone like Mitch Landrieu.

We should be promoting the rebuilding of a city that is more progressive and harmonious, a multi-colored city of the future, a model 21st century American city.


At 1/22/2006 09:09:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Is there any actual rebuilding being done? I mean, I know the tourist areas and the affluent neighborhoods are probably just about finished, but is anything even happening in the ninth ward?

I'm curious, because I can't imagine it's going to happen there any time soon.



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