Reexamining and addressing open racism in the South

Photo by Tyler Meuter

Whenever there’s an accident on the I-10/610 Split, the people of New Orleans East take a more scenic route to get to Mid-City.Get onto Hayne Blvd.; turn onto Leon C. Simon Drive; look out to the right at Lake Pontchartrain, as one does. Merge onto Robert E. Lee Blvd.; head down to Canal St. Since there’s always an accident at the Split, I’ve been down Lee many times on my way to school. One day in school, I learned that he was General of the Confederate States of America, founded to uphold slavery. I never stopped feeling weird about the scenic route.

The City Council of New Orleans recently voted to remove several statues and other monuments around the city that promoted the Confederacy. One of these is the northward-facing statue of General Lee that resides in Lee Circle, the once and future Tivoli Circle. The plan is to move these monoliths to a museum or to commission a new park to place them in. It was a 6-1 vote for, and there had been increasing activism to have them removed, so it seemed like something NOLA as a whole wanted. Well, let me be the first to tell you that some white people are pissed off about this. Their heroes, their heritage, their pieces of cast metal will no longer headline the tours around the city. Instead, that honor might go to things all New Orleanians and tourists love, like Cafe du Monde’s beignets, the unofficial state dessert, Sno-balls, the only form of snow we ever get, or Monkey Hill, the highest point in the city (slightly above sea level).

The proposition was decried by some (of my Facebook friends) as racist against white people. I mean … A) no it’s not and B) ugh, shut up. Racism is about structural oppression and inequality, like how statues reinforce the idea that a specific group of people are less than human. Let the records show that white people are not oppressed. Having one’s hot air balloon of an ego brought down from the stratosphere is not racist when everyone else is below sea level.

It seems that Hometown Facebook these days falls into four categories: photos with family or friends, someone got engaged, someone got married and BLACK-ON-BLACK CRIME (I’ve never seen it lowercased, and I’ve seen it a lot). Apparently, BLACK-ON-BLACK CRIME should be Louisiana’s sole focus rather than the awful public education, awful local infrastructure or awful Saints season. Racists love BLACK-ON-BLACK crime because to them, it justifies racial discrimination, removing all forms of gun control and citing Breitbart as a journalistic source. If a fair population of the black community is poor and is forced to live in certain areas of the city, it’s not like any criminals are going to drive across the Causeway to rob a white family on the Northshore.

What it really seems to be is an attempt to maintain the status quo, distracting people with a misinformed, nebulous concept and the caps lock key. “Status quo” happens to be the shortened and meaningless version of “status quo res erant ante bellum,” translated “the state in which things were before the war.” They were talking about a different war back in the 1300s, but the antebellum status quo in the 1800s was the oppression of minorities. I personally don’t see why people would take the Confederate States to be their heritage: the losing team from 200 years ago founded upon a crime against humanity.

Despite how depressing the state of affairs can be in New Orleans, I learned this past summer that all the crap I’ve dealt with was only “fairly” racist. If all the Confederate flags in Gatlinburg, Tenn., were laid out side by side, you could see them from space with the naked eye:  the planetary version of a Donald Trump bumper sticker. There were more dinner shows than black people in the entire city.

It all comes back to white privilege. I speak for everyone when I say that white male privilege is the worst. Twitter’s new Head of Diversity is a white guy from Silicon Valley, which is listed in the thesaurus as an antonym for “diversity.” White people blissfully unaware of diversity sit at the heads and hiring hands of companies, convinced that the “best” candidates are the ones with firm handshakes, non-threatening melanin counts and easy-to-pronounce names. People campaigned against seeing Star Wars since Rey, Finn and Poe appeal to a wider group of people (you already know they lied and watched it anyway). In Oregon, armed, militant YeeHawdists from Y’all Qaeda took over a federal building, threatened to kill federal officers and were called protesters instead of terrorists. Don’t get me started on Donald Trump.

For the reasonable white people out there, no one wants to hear your objectively incorrect opinions and assertions about diversity. Shut up and listen to what diverse people have to say.