VIEW FROM SOUTH OF THE TRINITY: RACE IS IN THE ROOM By Rufus Shaw
Mon, Dec 12, 2005, 03:44 PM
Race has come to the forefront in the quest to rebuild hurricane ravaged New Orleans and race remains in the background in our efforts to rebuild the Cotton Bowl. My wife is of Creole heritage and her family has been in New Orleans since before the Louisiana Purchase. My wife lost her eldest uncle to Katrina. Her family has been displaced and their ancestral home located across the street from one of the nation’s famous Black colleges, Dillard University, has yet to be rebuilt. I have lived, done business, and visited New Orleans for over 25 years. In that time, I have met some of the city’s most powerful African-American political players and I believe you are not getting the whole story regarding the impact of race in the rebuilding of New Orleans. The real story has significant impact on race relations in Dallas and the rebuilding of the Cotton Bowl.
The infamous 9th ward of New Orleans has vaulted into the world’s consciousness because of the massive devastation Katrina delivered to the area. Scenes of impoverished African-Americans vainly attempting to rebuild shanty-town type uninsured housing has given the nation a warped view of the 9th ward. What is not being said about the 9th ward is that a large part of it is the home of one of the nation’s most politically powerful Black middle class communities.
The 9th ward of New Orleans is also the home of New Orleans East, a community comparable to the upper income Black areas of far Oak Cliff, Desoto, Duncanville, and Cedar Hill. Nestled quietly in New Orleans East, is the ultra exclusive enclave of Eastover, where houses start at $300,000 and the majority of its inhabitants are most of New Orleans Black political, professional, and business elite. Yet, this most influential African-American crowd remains as displaced and homeless as their less fortunate Black brethren. Most Black folks feel the white professional and business elite of New Orleans were quietly allowed to fill up the city’s hotels and apartments while city officials discouraged most of its African-American citizens from returning to the city too soon. In effect, whites had a head start in revitalizing their lives in the area. You might remember the dispute between Mayor Ray Nagin who was urging an early return to the city and FEMA officials who were discouraging an early return.
This race-based dispute has entered the news again concerning Mardi Gras. Mayor Nagin, bowing to the wishes of his African-American constituents many of whom are the foundation of the Black political and business class of the city, has been ambivalent on hosting Mardi Gras while many African-Americans remain displaced. White tourism officials in New Orleans are now upset with the mayor for not fully embracing a tourist boosting Mardi Gras.
Race is the 800 pound gorilla in the room in New Orleans and he will be sitting at the table along with his old friend, denial, when Dallas begins to determine just how we will rebuild a historic Cotton Bowl that sits in the middle of an underdeveloped Black community. Mayor Miller, who is soundly vilified in the African-American community, has the dubious task of convincing her old nemesis that she means them well while at the same time trying to convince a white electorate who has already voted down attempts to rebuild the Fair Park area that rebuilding the Cotton Bowl is good for all of Dallas. It really is good for Dallas. That’s how it is from South of The Trinity.