Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Parting Remarks on "Uneasy" ...

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

In an effort to quantify some of New Orleans' problems, (Mayor Ray)Nagin commissioned the nonprofit Greater New Orleans Fair Housing Action Center — which typically investigates allegations of discrimination in the housing market — to look into claims of racism in the French Quarter this spring.

Teams of young adults, black and white, visited 28 French Quarter bars. The groups coordinated their dress — some dressed sloppily, while others made sure to wear dress shoes and no hats — and their drink orders.

In more than half of the bars visited, whites were treated better than blacks. At nearly half, blacks were victims of price-gouging. They were told more often than whites that they must abide by a drink minimum to enter, and they were more frequently told — as Williams reportedly was before the scuffle that killed Jones — that they did not satisfy a dress code.

James Perry, the executive director of the housing center, said the different standards were part of an elaborate, off-the-books effort to establish "quotas" on the number of blacks in some bars. He said some bars believed they could maintain a steadier profit margin by avoiding being labeled black clubs.

One of the white testers, Casey (the agency withheld participants' last names to protect them) said he was charged $7.25 for a Long Island iced tea, a potent drink that is popular among young adults. His black counterpart, Anthony, was charged $9 at the same bar 10 minutes later.

"Being white, I almost felt like I was part of the problem," Casey said.

Also dividing the city has been a jury's unanimous ruling that Orleans Parish Dist. Atty. Eddie Jordan, who is black, discriminated against 42 white employees when he fired them after taking office in 2003.

Jordan's office has been ordered to pay the former employees more than $3 million, which Jordan has said he cannot afford.

One plaintiff, fired typist Deborah Stansbury, said after the verdict: "Even when I knew I hadn't done anything, it was satisfying to know that [Jordan] couldn't do this and get away with it." The lifelong New Orleans resident, 53, had worked in the district attorney's office for 16 years.

Jordan, who did not return phone calls seeking comment, has said that he wanted his office to more accurately reflect the racial composition of the city.

Many blacks said that New Orleans has long run on a system of patronage and the patronage seemed to be perfectly legal when the politicians behind it were white.
"If the situation had been reversed, that case would have never made it to court," said Mitchell, the pastor. "Any black person in town will tell you that."

But many whites saw the case as clear discrimination and were taken aback when blacks criticized the jury's decision.

"I was surprised by how differently whites and blacks perceived it," Batt said. "Discrimination on any level, no matter who is doing it, is wrong."

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12:27 PM  

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