Sunday, June 05, 2005

Diversity and Economics ...

This continues our consideration of a recent article from the Los Angeles Times entitled "Big Easy Is Uneasy After Death of Black Clubgoer."

With a tourism industry that generates about $5 billion a year in revenue, New Orleans bills itself as the quintessential melting pot, a city of uncommon diversity, where food, architecture and ethos trace their lineages to a bright spectrum of influences — Spain, France, Africa, the West Indies.

By some measures, African Americans comprise a larger proportion of the population here than in any other metropolitan region in the nation, and New Orleans seems to perpetually celebrate jazz, a largely African American art.

But the city seems to have stumbled upon the awkward realization that there is a difference between cultural diversity, which the city has in abundance, and economic diversity, which it does not.

Hammered by white flight and a decaying manufacturing base, post-World War II New Orleans grew progressively poorer as the decades wore on.

By 1970, the city had 600,000 people and was 45% black. By 2000, the population had dropped to 484,000 and was 67% black.

Today, Lee said, blacks in New Orleans are more than three times as likely as whites to live below the poverty level and one-third as likely to be college graduates.

According to a recent study, blacks own 14% of New Orleans' businesses.

The city has periodic, lucrative "black weekends" aimed at black tourists, featuring, for example, the Essence Music Festival and the Bayou Classic, an annual football game between two historically black Louisiana colleges.

The rest of the year, many in New Orleans contend, the city — particularly the famous French Quarter — has become a white playground surrounded by poor, black neighborhoods.

In a recent report examining economic disparity in New Orleans, Lee called the Big Easy image a mask for a troubled city.

Next time we'll recap the incident that helped to energize the current discussion on race.


jbv's Competitive Edge 


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