Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Infuriating Article

No time to comment, but from the September Commentary:
New Orleans—An Autopsy
Ben C. Toledano

Abstract –

Reports of the death of New Orleans as a major American city have not been greatly exaggerated; they have only been greatly delayed. Although the funeral was not conducted until Katrina struck, the death took place several decades ago.

The complete article is available in an unlikely place. I knew the author's name from local politics but couldn't quite place it, he ran as the Republican candidate against Landrieu back when the general election was meaningless -- the winner of the Democratic run-off was assured of victory. I've only had a chance to glance at the article, but, even though it seems to be a right wing hate piece, the Bobo Report, which the article mentions, is worth remembering. I didn't notice any mention of federal responsibility for failed levees.

The article itself may have appeared in a right-wing publication, but the read I get from it is more about an examination of race and class in New Orleans mixed in with a degree of sour grapes at not being able to get further in local politics. The stuff Toledano describes in terms of being discriminated against because he was Jewish, however, is not unique to him. Read about the lives of the Sterns sometime. Check out Eli Evans' "The Provincials" about Southern Jewry and see how Southern mores and prejudices hamstrung Jewish communities all over the South for well over a century. The chapter he writes about Jews and Mardi Gras in New Orleans is especially heartbreaking.

The article you cite simply takes on issues other than the levee breaches and who was responsible for that. Toledano is saying that there were major problems with this city before 8-29 came along.

He's right about THAT.

Something has to change. Period. And kicking the class system in the teeth around these parts is a damn good way to start.
I agree with you to some degree, that's why I posted the links. However, if you combine the first and last paragraphs with some other articles that have appeared in Commentary and it seems like a "New Orleans doesn't need help" or "why throw money into a cesspool?" article. At least, that's way it will read to Toledano's national audience. It's a shame because Toledano has some good points. I remember "Pro bono Publico' being discussed for years after it was released; as I recall (I was a kid when it was written), everybody agreed with it, but everybody thought that nothing would be done about it. Of course, I didn't discuss it with any of the city's uptown gentry or new black leadership.
I just read the article and I came to the same conclusions, without the anti-semitic angle long ago.

Katrina has simply accelerated a already steep decline.

I also think that if Jefferson Davis had listened to Judah P. Benjamin, we would now be living in the Confederate States of America, if it hadn't collapsed economically or been consumed by internal revolt.
I remember something from Freshman English composition about target audience. I don't want to say that only New Orleanians have the right to criticize New Orleans, I've often said that there's much effort to shout down criticism, but at Commentary it strikes as part of an effort to give intellectual justification to writing N.O. off.

There was a Commentary article by a former Tulane professor that appeared soon after the flood that was horrendous. I can't find a link to the actual article, but Joe (at Blagueur and I both posted about it.

Actually, the Toledano has made me decide to go back and read the Bobo report when I get a chance.
I think that Toledano has simply rehashed many criticisms of New Orleans which have been out there for a long time.

In fact historically I think he errs by giving too much emphasis to the Civil War. The "Americans" were arriving in large numbers in the 1840's and 50's. They challenged the existing status quo but were largely coopted.

The Creoles of Color seem to have adopted the customs of the White Creoles and allied themselves with the existing social order. This makes economic sense. A fairly large and stable community of Creoles of Color, often allied and related to prominent white families allied developed.

When blacks were given a wide franchise, the Creoles of Color were quick to seize the opportunity and belatedly identify with the blacks immigrating to New Orleans from more rural areas, mostly beginning in the 1920's and accelerating through the 1960's.

This immigration was almost as much responsible for the shift in power as the outmigration to the suburbs.

It's easy to find stories from not long ago of Schewgman Bag parties. No one darker than a Schewegman Bag was admitted.

Look at a group picture of the elected officials of Orleans Parish and draw your own conclusions.

In essence the change in demographics in the city of New Orleans merely substituted the white elite for a mocha one.
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