Dear Black People:
New Orleans made history on Saturday night. Regardless of the outcome of the mayoral runoff, we have known since Oct. 14 that history would be made and New Orleans’ next mayor would be a Black woman.
That fact alone made this election one for the books—two highly qualified, intelligent and competent Black women beating out a crowded field of 16 other candidates—all of them men—to square off in a runoff. We, the people of New Orleans, were winners either way.
It was quite a race; but today is Monday, Nov. 20. That means it’s over, and regardless of who you supported, it’s time for the work to begin. Mayor-Elect LaToya Cantrell has her work cut out, to be sure. There is no shortage of issues that the current District B councilwoman will face as mayor.
You know the list, but we will run through a few for good measure: Unemployment, poverty, wage disparity, economic inequality, affordable housing, economic development and infrastructure.
If the mayor and the next incarnation of the City Council can tackle half that list with favorable results, they will be doing good work. The challenges are many and great. And as is the case with just about any and everything, the negative impacts associated with the issues above have a disproportionate effect on Black folk. They, however, are not insurmountable. And though, they will require much effort on the part of us all, we at The New Orleans Tribune pledge our support to the new administration. For those who cannot help with the work, we ask only one thing. Please don’t hurt it.
We can start right now by ending the troubling discourse that has been allowed to infiltrate our community. As for The New Orleans Tribune, we will not take any part in conversations surrounding what the election of a Black person who is not from the Seventh Ward or does not identify as “creole” or has a last name that can be traced back to the earliest days of New Orleans means with regard to Black politics, culture and society in the city.
For those of you intrigued by this question, we do have the short answer—NOTHING. The long answer is ABSOLUTELY NOTHING. And our favorite response, though a bit wordy, is WHO IN THE HELL CARES?
It is not lost on us that this conversation has been started from outside of the Black community. We have seen it—even during the campaigning—in right-winged, conservative blogs. We heard it on election night on local news stations. We have seen it in the pages of both local and weekly mainstream newspapers before and after the election. They have used words like “pedigree” as if they were talking about breeding dogs instead of talking about people. And here we are, once again, falling for the foolery. That a publisher of a leading weekly would waste good ink and newsprint, commenting that Mayor-Elect Cantrell’s win signals an “end of the Creole Era” is bad enough, but not particularly surprising. That Black New Orleanians are picking up on that conversation and running with it, is demoralizing, disturbing and discouraging.
Black folks, come on. Stevie Wonder can see through this natter. It has been instigated by and through White-owned and controlled media and is nothing short of an attempt to divide us (as it has been historically), distract us and disempower us. News flash, while we’re sitting around having all these internal debates about colorism, lineages, the Seventh Ward, Uptown, Downtown, back-a-town, and so-called pedigrees, giving each other the side-eyed glance, we will remain left out of lucrative contracts and business dealings, our unemployment rate will remain in the high double digits, affordable housing will become even more scarce, too many of our children will still live in poverty and too many of our workers will still struggle to survive on low wages.
How about we talk about what this election means for the 44 percent of working age Black men without jobs? Let’s talk about what it foretells for the disproportionate number of Black children living in poverty in this city. Wait, maybe we can talk about what it portends for Black businesses that are all too often left out of economic bounty. And we are real anxious to learn how if figures in the lives of New Orleanians paying more than half their income on housing.
We could go on, but you get where we are coming from.
The precarious situation Black New Orleans finds itself in 2017 has no respect of person. And the circumstances Black New Orleanians face aren’t sparing any of us based on how the tone of our skin lines up next to a brown paper bag or whether we grew up in the Seventh Ward, the Ninth Ward, New Orleans East or Algiers.
Let’s stay focused on what is important. Let’s hold ALL of our elected officials accountable for producing results that benefit ALL New Orleanians. And above all, let’s stop allowing those who have no concern for our communities define who we are, what we do and what is important to us.