Thursday, April 07, 2005

A City Divided?

From Yahoo! by way of

Mayor Ray Nagin said tension between the races in New Orleans is holding the city back, and until residents adopt a more modern attitude, the city will languish. "We have to figure out a way to have some serious dialogue about race relations," Nagin said.

Political analyst Silas Lee is a pollster who leads focus groups and takes the political pulse of the city. Lee said the old racism of New Orleans has been replaced by a new type of racism. "Race relations in this community resemble a simmering volcano in the sense that it's always on the verge of erupting," Lee said. "The new racism is practiced by groups or institutions who deny access to opportunities, access to capital and access to resources based on race.

In the past four months, two racially charged events have polarized the city: A black college student was killed outside Razoo bar by white bouncers, and the city's first black district attorney was found liable in a racial discrimination case for firing white workers and replacing them with black workers. "We, as a city, still have a long way to go as it relates to coming together in a meaningful way," Nagin said. "The way (these incidents) were handled was done poorly, and the result -- the perception supports discrimination. There's another segment of the population of the city that is basically saying, 'You're changing the rules when a black man becomes district attorney.'"

The mayor said there are times when black and white New Orleanians come together. "We, as a city across racial lines, come together at Mardi Gras and Jazz Fest and what have you, but for the most part, we live in separate worlds. And economically, we're a very divided city."
Nagin believes the racial divide is harming both groups. "In order for us to be a world-class city, we have to figure out a way to have some serious dialogue on race problems to move this city forward," he said.

Nagin is in the final year of his first term. He hopes to win re-election and make racial equality one of his key goals.


jbv's Competitive Edge 


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