Topic: Cauks Gone Crazy
Some white folks in New Orleans have turned wild and deadly. It’s time to make them stop.
By J.B. Borders
Let’s face it, Louisiana white folks aren’t noted for their intelligence. Black folks either, to be honest. Nevertheless, it’s seldom surprising when our Caucasian citizenry does something outlandishly knuckleheaded – like voting for David Duke or John McCain in overwhelming numbers or trying to rig rental policies in white communities so that anyone who’s not a blood relative of the landlord is excluded.
Unfortunately, such blatant misjudgments often blow back on the rest of us who share living space with these creatures. Sometimes the stupidity rubs off and we get infected with self-destructive foolishness, too. The worst effect, however, is when white stupidity and maliciousness lead directly to the loss of innocent black lives and livelihoods.
That’s what we’re confronted with now in New Orleans – reckless white folks terrorizing our community once again. Remember how they acted out during the public-school integration struggle in the early 1960s? Remember how rabid some of them were – foaming at the mouth, screaming and cursing at the top of their lungs? Well, they’re like that again.
It’s Cauks Gone Crazy 2, you might say. Three years after the storm, some of these individuals are still in full vigilante mode, brash and crude, attempting at every turn to seize control of any institution they can get their hands on and make it conform to their own visions of a white supremacist eden.
Until we put these loose cannons in check – behind bars, in some cases – our well-being will remain at risk.
We’ve always had lots of ignorant, whacky whites in the New Orleans area, but since the levee failures in 2005, the behavior of many of our pale-skin citizens has become increasingly more racist and polarizing.
The embodiment of this current wave of divisiveness is the New Orleans City Councilperson known variously as Spacey Stacey and Helium Head. It was she who taunted and inflamed public housing preservationists at the council’s December 2007 meeting on plans to demolish the city’s four major projects. In late 2008, it was she who publicly excoriated the city’s black-owned sanitation contractors and accused them of fraudulently billing the government for services rendered. An independent report verified that Head’s accusations were off base, that the contractors were in fact underbilling – not overbilling – the sanitation department.
These findings are not likely to halt the attacks on the contractors, however. The crux of the matter is that more than a few white folks find the garbage-collection contracts objectionable simply because the bulk of the work has gone to black-owned businesses.
What gnaws at some people is that Richard’s Disposal and Metro Disposal are the primary contractors for the City’s sanitation services, not simply subcontractors getting a small piece of the action. How could this have happened, they ask themselves. Surely something underhanded must have occurred, they insist, for black businesses to beat out white-owned companies for such a sizeable contract.
Questions about the cost of the services, the quality of the work, the need for state-of-the-art technology or the qualifications of the business owners are just probes to find a suitable excuse to revoke the contracts and eventually give the work to white-owned businesses.
These are standard ploys of economic and social segregationists.
Unfortunately, the presumption in the minds of many white people that virtually all blacks are criminals has been reinforced recently not only by the swelling of local jails and prisons with black blue-collar felons, but also by the increasing numbers of black white-collar felons from the school system, the courts, the Legislature, public transportation, City Hall and the business community. Since large numbers of white can’t distinguish us one from another, to begin with, they lump us together in their minds and think all kinds of stupid stuff, such as we must be genetically predisposed to commit crime. That’s it. End of story. Neat and simple. We’re not worth any more time or attention than that.
Of course, thinking like a fool is one thing, acting the part is another.
Head defends her abrasiveness by saying she’s just doing her job, protecting the public treasury from those who might loot it. That’s the same general rationale several white residents of Algiers Point used in the days after Hurricane Katrina. It was how they justified shooting and killing several black men they assumed were trying to infiltrate their neighborhood for criminal purposes. However, as a recent report in The Nation revealed, one of the men who survived an ambush by these Algiers Point Assassins explained that he and two companions were merely following mandatory evacuation orders and were on their way to the Algiers Ferry stop, which is in Algiers Point and which radio news advisories identified as a pick-up point.
Like Councilperson Head, the Algiers Point Assassins flew off the handle half-cocked and acted in error. Unlike Head, however, these vigilantes have almost certainly committed murder. Worse, they have not been brought to justice, even though some of them can be seen on the Internet today sniggering about their deeds as though someone has assured them that what happened in the chaos after Katrina would be condoned. But there’s no statute of limitations on murder. Or do they know something the rest of us don’t?
Head, of course, is infamous for blowing kisses to her housing-project adversaries as part of a kiss-my-behind-and-get-lost gesture. She is not the only head case, however. Councilperson Midura, a mouthpiece for the right-wing Bureau of Governmental Research, may be an even bigger Afrophobe than Head. And she doesn’t need black votes to keep her job, so she doesn’t have to make any pretense about her prejudices.
Remember Jimmy Reiss and all the reactionary Uptown whites profiled in the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times shortly after the storm? Remember the Israeli mercenaries they helicoptered in to guard Audubon Place? Remember the homeowners who loaded up on alcohol and buckshot to personally protect their mausoleum-like homes from what they were certain would be a black horde coming to ransack their mansions?
Remember that none of what they feared happened, none of it. But remember that didn’t stop CNN from running pictures over and over and over of a muscular, half-naked, stoned-looking, wild-haired young black man knee-deep in flood water banging repeatedly and ineffectually on the door of a downtown bank with a piece of pipe.
Remember, too, the constant loops of footage showing throngs of people from the Iberville project pillaging the Winn-Dixie on Basin Street? Or the shots of policemen attempting to thwart gangs of teens from making off with sneakers, caps and other merchandise from Canal Street stores? In the blink – or wink – of an eye, the script was flipped. Black folks went from being portrayed as helpless victims to being characterized as menacing savages, a standard trope in white-owned media.
At any rate, it didn’t take a great leap of imagination to assume the marauding would spread to the dry, higher-income neighborhoods, especially after word got out that the Wal-Mart and the Cadillac dealership had been gutted of inventory.
But it didn’t happen.
There were rumors, of course, that outside mercenaries had executed hundreds of suspected looters and that their bodies had been shipped in refrigerated trucks to the makeshift morgue at St. Gabriel. And since the city was crawling with national media and aid workers, I and others assumed that if there were any truth to these rumors, it would come out.
More than three years later and after exhaustive coverage by the world’s “greatest” media, some of the real dirt is just now coming to light. And even though it is not unexpected, that doesn’t make it any less shameful or disgusting: White vigilantes shooting black people on sight in Algiers Point; New Orleans police officers deliberately allowing a wounded citizen to die without treatment and then burning the body and evidence of their wrong-doing. And don’t forget the killer cops from the Danziger Bridge incident set free by an ethically compromised judge on a flimsy technicality.
The Katrina disaster has provided New Orleans with an unprecedented opportunity to reshape itself. And there has been a commendable outpouring of citizen leadership and initiative throughout the community – black, white, Latino and Asian – on a number of issues and across the ideological spectrum.
But whether you’re a progressive or a reactionary, you have to admit that there has also been a noticeable strain of anti-poor and anti-black bias among some of the do-gooders and power brokers intent on sanitizing and remolding the city. This make-the-city-safe-for-the-right-kind-of-people-at-all-costs attitude seems to have helped some folks feel empowered to kill presumed criminals with the same zeal but with less evidence than they bring to bear when confronting the Corps of Engineers about faulty levees.
This vigilante foolishness must stop now and all miscreants must be brought to justice. Things have gotten too far out of control. It’s time for a community-wide attitude adjustment. It’s time to restore civility and the rule of law.
It’s also time to build, support and defend honest black wealth-creation in New Orleans.
That’s the perfect resolution for a happy new year.