For a French Quarter blog, this is a subject that must be covered. Anyone who watches the news or lives in or near the fancier areas of town has noted the outright racism shown by authorities to groups or individuals of color as they walk through these streets. And, we residents should also note the juxtaposition of all white faces of residents behind the gates as people of color walk in from Rampart at 6 am in kitchenwear, maid outfits and maintenance shirts to service our community. How many executive chefs are Creole anymore? How many of our gallery managers or front desk managers are anything but overwhelmingly white? How long do heroic statues of those who fought (and lost) a civil war to enslave their neighbors stand?
It matters because institutional racism limits access without thinking, discourages incentive and punishes those with the “wrong” color with bullets and beatings for simply walking, or driving with a broken tail light or for a million mundane activities that those of us with white faces do without thinking. As for the response of “just do what the cop says and you won’t get hurt” I hope Sandra Bland or Michael Brown are at least examples of how that is a lie, and now as of this week, our most recent neighbor Alton Sterling as seen in the horrifying videos shot by witnesses.
I promise my neighbors to always be a witness too.
Two local women talk about this issue below, both cut and pasted from their FB page.
From local photographer Cheryl Gerber:
That awesome conversation that always goes south. That joke that makes you cringe. That Obama comment that goes way too far. As a white person growing up in the south, these things are all too common. If you grew up here, you know exactly what I’m talking about. I’ve had to examine my own prejudices and reprogram my thinking over a lifetime. I’m still learning. To my dear black friends, I’m sorry. I sorry for every time I didn’t speak up in the face of ignorance. I’m sorry I didn’t bring my black boyfriend to the company Christmas party because I was afraid of the backlash. And I’m sorry I didn’t feel more outrage when this continually happened before cellphone videos captured what you’ve been saying for years. I was young and programmed to be racist. I never hated anyone. But I didn’t understand white privilege and what my black friends were up against. But I can’t go back in time. I can only move forward. I’m teaching Kid G the complexities of racism and how to check himself. How to stand up and never be afraid to speak up in the face of racism. So far, I think I’ve done a good job. I have hope for the future. But right now I feel a sadness to the depths I’ve never known before. I was sad for Michael Brown and Freddy Gray and Eric Garner and all the others. But this time
It was in our backyard. Where racist policies are made. Where football fans fly purple and gold confederate flags. Where people publish hateful comments after a disaster. Where other mothers at the skate park feel so comfortable in our mutual whiteness that they can express their racist vitriol to me. I’m so glad I checked myself and my fears as a young woman. But it doesn’t seem like enough. I’m digging deep. I can’t stop hearing the cries of the woman who videotaped the shooting. Or the image of Alton’s 15-year-old son standing next to his crying mother at the press conference. Let justice be swift.
Tricia Boutté-Langlo Langevåg, Norway ·People always ask me, “Why did you move to Norway?” My initial response was, “It’s a beautiful country with a great social system, a fertile arts environment with great musicians and a stable future.” It’s become so much more than that over the past few years. One of the #1 reasons now, I FEEL, SAFE.Last year a lady in New Orleans asked me the same question and I gave her my standard response. She still didn’t get it. She said, “But it gets so cold there!” “Yea, but we have good winter clothes, warm, well insulated homes, oh, and the chances of a cop killing me for no reason, are basically nonexistent.” She was white. My statement made her uncomfortable. Good.Norway isn’t perfect. No place is perfect, but I choose to be in a place where I have NEVER had a police officer follow me around in shops thinking I might be stealing something. I have NEVER been trailed by a police car waiting or hoping I forget to use a turn signal or make a full stop to have a “reason” to pull me over and kill me. I have NEVER been randomly targeted by law enforcement in any form in the country that I now call home. I FEEL, SAFE.People, as a right of being human, deserve to FEEL SAFE. Especially from those who swore to protect and serve ALL CITIZENS EQUALLY.Why does my hue make me expendable? Why is my brown a target?My mother always told me, don’t stay in a place where you don’t feel welcome. I didn’t.