[News] 'New Orleans is our Gettysburg'
News at freedomarchives.org
Thu Apr 20 11:31:03 EDT 2006
April 20, 2006 - Issue 180
'New Orleans is our Gettysburg'
A Generation's Defining Event
by BC Publishers Glen Ford and Peter Gamble
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This Saturdays elections in New Orleans
represent yet another element of the vast crime
committed against Black America. With as many as
300,000 residents, overwhelmingly African
American, strewn about the country in
government-engineered exile, the elections are an
insult to the very idea of democracy, and to the dignity of all Black people.
This farcical exercise in faux democracy will no
doubt be followed by corporate media declarations
that New Orleans is returning to normalcy the
same term that the media bandied about when the
city held a shrunken Mardi Gras, in February.
Behind that bland word, normalcy, lies a wish
list and narrative that sees white rule as
normative in America the way things should be
and Black electoral power as an aberration, a
kind of organized pathology in which people are
assumed to be up to no good. Despite Katrinas
vast damage to Louisiana infrastructure and
commerce, there is a current of elation among
white elites and common folk alike, at the winds
and waters that cleansed New Orleans of its
two-thirds Black majority, which was seen as a
sore on the body politic, a den of Otherness and iniquity.
The white American narrative, which begins with
national democratic elections after the birth
of the republic in which only a tiny fraction of
the population white male owners of substantial
property could vote, bestows mythic
significance to the electoral exercise, no matter
how bogus and profoundly undemocratic. Thus, two
ink-dipped elections in U.S.-occupied Iraq are
heralded as benchmarks of progress, despite the
deepening and widening conflict and misery that
afflict the Iraqi people. In New Orleans, the
mystical mantra of elections in which the
majority of the population cannot fully
participate, is equated with a kind of recovery
from the storm and flood when no such thing has occurred.
But the whites of New Orleans are free of the
overwhelming Black presence free at last! a
prerequisite for the creation of a new and
better city. Some speak openly of the new lease
on life that the dispersal of Black residents has
afforded the high-ground whites that have found
themselves the new majority. (See New Orleans
20, 2006). When their rule is sanctioned by this
weekends elections, normalcy will be just around the corner.
At the same time that they were talking about
holding elections, they were holding evictions,
said Rev. Lennox Yearwood, chairman and CEO of
<http://www.hiphopcaucus.org/h2c/>Hip Hop Caucus,
who has immersed his organization in New Orleans
political organizing and relief work. What needs
to happen is the organizing of our people, wherever they are.
The task is formidable, because the entire
national and state white power structure is
determined to be permanently rid of those exiled
by Katrina. The Louisiana state legislature has
rushed to put New Orleans schools up for sale, to
preclude the return of Black families. The bill
states that "the recovery district may sell any
property which the school district determines
will not be used for providing educational
services on or before August 29, 2006."
Recovery district. What a deformation of the
English language. The white powers-that-be want
only to recover New Orleans for themselves, and
ensure that there will be no place for even the
most determined Black exiles to return to. The
white search for normalcy is, in reality, an
ongoing crime against humanity. Saturdays
election is intended to bestow respectability to the crime.
However, a bleached New Orleans will never be
legitimate to African Americans, who understand
that they have been collectively raped of their
personhood, not by weather, but by man. Bogus
elections provide a false facade of due process
a fragrance to hide the stench of raw expulsion
of a people but it does not fool a single
African American anywhere in the nation.
In the words of University of Chicago political
Dawson, Katrina could very well shape this
generation of young people in the same way that
the assassinations of Malcolm X and Martin Luther
King shaped our generation the men and women
who developed their political consciousness in the Sixties.
Rev. Yearwood agrees. People are becoming much
more political, said the 26-year-old minister.
The common person in Houston, Atlanta, New
Orleans is much more engrossed in politics, in
the spirit of self-determination. Im encouraged.
Katrina is becoming a rallying cry for all of
Black America, creating a new generation of
activists. Im beginning to see more
Lou Hamers emerging, said Rev.
Yearwood. "People dont need more organizations
telling them what to do. They are saying, Just
give me the tools and Ill get the job done."
While the powerful conspire to make a fait
accompli of the New Orleans diaspora, the results
of which will be certified by the most
undemocratic election since passage of the Voting
Rights Act in 1965, the political consciousness
of Black America is being transformed. A horrible
lesson has been relearned: Katrina "suggested to
Blacks the utter lack of the liberal possibility
in the United States," says Prof Dawson. We must
strike out on our own path, with whatever allies
are willing to make common cause with us. The New
Orleans election will never be closure for us.
New Orleans is our Gettysburg, said Rev.
Yearwood. If we lose there, we lose all the marbles.
The forces arrayed against a Black return to New
Orleans do not realize that they have set in
motion the entire national Black polity. Just as
President John Kennedy inspired western Europeans
when he declared Ich bin ein Berliner (I am a
Berliner) in 1963, all Black people see their
fates entwined with the New Orleans diaspora I am a New Orleanian.
We understand that the enforced exile of hundreds
of thousands of our brothers and sisters is an
assault and disenfranchisement of us all, and
that we cannot afford to lose in this twilight
struggle. Defeat is not an option. As Rev.
Yearwood put it: You can live in LA you lose.
You can be in New York you lose. If we lose in New Orleans, we lose it all.
Elections be damned.
BC Publishers Glen Ford and Peter Gamble are
writing a book to be entitled, Barack Obama and the Crisis of Black Leadership.
The Freedom Archives
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San Francisco, CA 94110
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