Friday, February 20, 2009

How To Close the Mind of an Open Minded Black Man Part One


As I was sitting at my desk writing all this junk it hit me all of a sudden that I had written almost the exact same thing before. That let's me know that the way I feel about this is genuine and I have no problems saying it again. I might as well use the same picture. These are the kind of things that take an open minded cat like me and make him isolated.


I’m trying to be as open minded as possible with this situation between the mayor and the city council. I don’t want to take anyone’s side because most of these folks will soon be out of office and we will all still be living here and dealing with the same issues. This is not to defend the mayor’s job performance at all. I didn’t vote for him in either election. The point I am about to make is really a personal issue that I have as a black man and it just so happens the mayor is the focal point of it. I know when people see his name they instantly go on attack so that will probably happen this time too. If people choose to go that direction so be it. It won’t change how I feel.

The law says that the mayor is not supposed to delete any public records for three years. If for some reason he purposely did that then that’s his problem to deal with. I am not condoning irresponsible behavior. I also don’t really care about city contracts as it relates to who gets them. As long as they do a good job, everything was legal, and we are not grossly overpaying so be it. I don’t have time to follow every contract that comes up for bid. At some point we have to trust officials to do the right thing and vote them out if they don’t.


My issue right now is the premise that because Mayor Nagin is friends with some of the contractors who received city business there must be something funny going on. This is when I get uneasy and the good government movement loses me. Black New Orleans is an intimate community. There is only about 3 degrees of separation from one another. There’s a serious gap between the haves and have not financially but socially the gap is much more narrow. I am certain there is a guy digging a ditch somewhere right now that could get Mayor Nagin on his personal cell phone if he needed to. I remember when he first got elected and did the corruption sweep in the Taxi Bureau. One of the people arrested was his cousin. That’s how interwoven everyone is. It’s one of the reasons why some problems we have are so difficult to fix because we have to go against people we know in some form. It’s my belief that it is impossible for any black mayor of New Orleans to do business with any local minority business here in the city without knowing the owners or someone closely connected to the company. If I was mayor I would have the exact same problem. The only way I could avoid being accused of being corrupt following these guidelines is to award contracts to all out of town companies or all white ones. I would have to hurt the minority companies in my own city just to avoid a witch hunt using that reasoning.


There’s a difference between doing business with someone you know and hooking up someone you know. I am totally against blocking out other people just to give money to your friends. I am also against blowing millions of dollars on contracts without any performance. If that’s happening in the city then I don’t care if the company is own by a family member; that person shouldn’t be paid and we need to fix that. I have no sympathy for those people and everyone who helped Pampy squander all that money and set the city back should go to jail. All I am asking for the benefit of future race relations in this city is that if anyone has evidence that Mayor Nagin and any of the people who currently have city contracts has done anything of this nature to please make it known. It’s the only way I can get on board. Please don’t send me any messages about him taking his wife out to dinner on the city credit card or having two take home vehicles. While those things may be wrong and irresponsible, they pale in comparison to the rhetoric and awful words that are thrown around to describe this man.


Personally speaking, I refuse to turn black men into criminals just because I don’t approve of the way they are doing their job. I think Ray Nagin has not done a good job at articulating the frustration, urgency and severity of the needs the citizens in his city have. I feel if we had a mayor that knew how to speak out all the time instead of when he is personally offended it would go a long way to bringing the city together. There are many things that he could do differently. At the same time I am not ready to make him a criminal without evidence. I’m also not ready to paint everyone whose been rewarded a contract with that same criminal brush just because they are friends with or know the mayor. To me that crosses the line when you don’t have any facts to prove that. All black people are not guilty by association. Even if you caught a few people in City Hall doing something wrong, it doesn't mean that every person in the entire building and all those connected to them are part of a criminal operation. Real fairness in America is when you can look at one person and say "they suck" and leave it at that. Racism is looking at that same guy and saying "they suck so everyone of the people involved with him must suck too and they should all be punished". As a black man who has had to defend himself, his family and his community against pre-conceived notions based on media stories and stereotypes, I simply can’t fall in line with this agenda. To do so in my mind is an insult to the black men who raised me. Besides, I have enough real criminals roaming the streets to affect my image and standing in society. I don’t need to create false ones.


To me it’s just like that New York Post cartoon of those policemen shooting that monkey or Senator Gregg turning down the Secretary of Commerce post. Some things bother you right at the core and you have to say something. I had to get this off my chest because it's getting to the point where I can't follow the news and think rationally like a responsible citizen should without being personally offended.


7 comments:

Brian D said...

I hope we can get to a place where you don't feel like you need to preface your comments by saying you're a black man. It's people like Ray Nagin who make you say it, because of the way he's using the race card. I have seldom ever had to preface a comment with my race. I respect you the same no matter what. I know you to be a kind, thoughtful person, struggling as we all are with some challenging issues about how to turn around our city. Ray Nagin isn't even in the same class of person that you are. Maybe we should start defining people by their attitudes, not the color of the skin. Cliff: Thoughtful. Ray Nagin: Dumbass.

Brian D said...

BTW, I don't even know what your anti-sniper agenda is.

Clifton said...

Brian,
Thank you and the sniper thing was a joke on E's page so ignore that.

I agree that you should think of everything along racial lines. I really try not to do that because if someone can improve the quality of life for everyone in the city I don't care if they are purple. In order to get to the point where can judge everyone strictly on merit we have to start discussing how different people see things now and then how we can change those perceptions. In this instance I have to preface it by saying I am black because that's the fact that triggers my reaction.

Our issues are the same but the progress is being lost in the translation.

bliss said...

Yeah...

We had a guest Rev. speak at church last Sunday. The topic of her sermon was White Privilege.

Mind you, my daughter and I are about half the colored folk who attend this church of maybe 200. The congregation was a very quiet that day and I'm sure there were all kinds of thoughts swirling about.

The Rev. spoke about her own experience as a white woman who grew up in a town where she didn't know any African-Americans and how she is coming to understand the struggles we still face in this country because some people don't understand or don't care to admit that yes, racism still exists in America.

She also read an excerpt from "White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack".

You can find it here: http://mmcisaac.faculty.asu.edu/emc598ge/Unpacking.html.

Enjoy brotha but you know this ain't really for YOU. I know others read your blog... This is for the ones who don't understand what it's like to be a non-white person in this country and how White Privilege is NOT a figment of Black folks' imaginations.

Sending Black Love from the Queen City... 'o)

Clifton said...

Whats up Bliss..

Privilege in this city has more to do with money than race. This post was more about what I feel is a personal offense as it relates to how issues are being presented. If we had a white mayor who was doing a good job I wouldn't care. I just don't think that if people weren't satisfied with the job he was doing, they wouldn't assume that every person he know or does business with is a crook by association. That's my beef.

Kevin Allman said...

All black people are not guilty by association. Even if you caught a few people in City Hall doing something wrong, it doesn't mean that every person in the entire building and all those connected to them are part of a criminal operation. Real fairness in America is when you can look at one person and say "they suck" and leave it at that. Racism is looking at that same guy and saying "they suck so everyone of the people involved with him must suck too and they should all be punished". As a black man who has had to defend himself, his family and his community against pre-conceived notions based on media stories and stereotypes, I simply can’t fall in line with this agenda. To do so in my mind is an insult to the black men who raised me. Besides, I have enough real criminals roaming the streets to affect my image and standing in society. I don’t need to create false ones.

This is one of the best (and maybe most important) things I've ever read on your blog, Cliff. I think a lot of folks right now would benefit from stepping back and taking a deep breath.

Happy Mardi Gras. I hope it's a good one for you and your family.

Brian D said...

"Privilege in this city has more to do with money than race."

That's it exactly. As a white male, I'm just as easily excluded from the privilege of class in black society as I am from the privilege of class in white society. It's the same as if I were a black male. The difference in experiences, however, would be difficult to judge, because I went to a good public school system in another state, so I think my opportunities have been comparatively better thanks to a better public education system. That's precisely what needs to change. The equity in the distribution of public services in this town is totally skewed to favor class -- and Ray Nagin is playing the race card to perpetuate that system. It's an insidious system of using race to disguise cronyism, while ripping off the taxpayers, and giving the less privileged crappy schools, recreation facilities, social services, and streets. I really want to believe that Ray Nagin isn't a crook, but to appropriate the language of Cynthia Hedge-Morrell, if that's my perception, then it's my reality. It should be Ray Nagin's priority to turn that perception around. The fact that he's fighting hard to continue operating in secrecy, only confirms everyone's impression that he's crooked, while exploiting the race card to deflect attention.