There have been a lot of lists circling around my screen these days that claim to list the top five or top ten most racist cities in America, and New Orleans keeps showing up on every list. Now that has me scratching my head a little bit because while yes, we are a Southern city, and yes New Orleans has lots of racism to go around, to narrow New Orleans down to the top ten in the U.S. is ill founded.
When I was in Indiana adopting my African American son, the attorney wrote into the legal plea for adoption that I would be raising him in a city that is majority African American. This meant something to him and it means something to me. New Orleans is a Chocolate City. African Americans, along with the Indigenous, Spanish, French and Acadian people created a melting pot of culture here that makes this city one of the most unique in the United States.
Our airport is named after Louis Armstrong.
Essence has held its annual festival here for the last 20 years.
Our concert hall is named after Mahalia Jackson.
Congo Square is sacred ground.
And, sadly there is racism here.
I almost think the reason New Orleans keeps showing up on these lists is on account of the indelible images of the 2005 Federal Flood that led the rest of the country to believe this is a city of poor Blacks. However, the horror that was televised around the world was a bit deceiving. What the country saw was a city under water with poor African Americans on their roofs. What I saw was a failure of the federal government to give a damn about them from the getgo, and don’t get me started on the Corp of Engineer’s unconscionable building of knowingly defective levees or President Bush’s and other politico’s turning a blind eye and not orchestrating a satisfactory response to this disaster. Yes, there is structural racism here too, and it is not just here, it is everywhere, on every list – racism isn’t just home in New Orleans.
The United States of America has racism in its DNA.
On one list, I saw someone purporting that San Francisco is not a racist city – um – hello person, there are no African Americans in San Francisco. Would it be better to live in a city like San Francisco or Seattle where there are no African Americans? I don’t think so. I lived in San Francisco for 16 years and its whiteness was blinding, or at least I thought so, and then I moved to Marin County and realized wow, there is an even whiter place to live. This is why I left the Bay Area to return home to this colorful city.
I made a decision to stay here after the storm to help New Orleans rebuild because it is my home. And now it is my son’s home.
I choose every day to raise my African American son here in this city even though I acknowledge it is a dangerous environment for Black males. Then again, I believe every environment in this country is unsafe for Black males. For the life of me, I can’t figure out what city to move to that would be safe for a young African American boy.
If you know of a place where a young African American male could grow to his fullest potential, not be judged on the basis of his skin color, and have every opportunity open to him to live free and thrive, please holler at me.