[News] 'New Orleans is our Gettysburg'

Anti-Imperialist News News at freedomarchives.org
Thu Apr 20 11:31:03 EDT 2006


April 20, 2006 - Issue 180

Cover Story
'New Orleans is our Gettysburg'
A Generation's Defining Event
by BC Publishers Glen Ford and Peter Gamble

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This Saturday’s 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 Katrina’s 
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 
Elections Fever,” 
20, 2006). When their rule is sanctioned by this 
weekend’s 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. Saturday’s 
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. I’m encouraged.”

Katrina is becoming a rallying cry for all of 
Black America, creating a new generation of 
activists. “I’m beginning to see more 
Lou Hamers emerging,” said Rev. 
Yearwood.  "People don’t need more organizations 
telling them what to do. They are saying, Just 
give me the tools and I’ll 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
522 Valencia Street
San Francisco, CA 94110
(415) 863-9977
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