Sometimes words are insufficient to express the degree of frustration and fatigue brought on by racism. This particular -ism is dynamic and deeply entrenched in the American psyche. It is a fundamental part of who Americans are and who Americans must be. The tension around racism which resonates deepest in the hearts and minds of Black America has little to do with social slights or even authentic competition with a white majority for scarce resources. In today’s environment, a lack of class or manners can look a great deal like racism. Similarly, competition for jobs or land or contracts or other finite resources may resemble racism; however, it is not always the genuine article. There are so many factors to be considered. Our efforts, then, cannot be rushes to judgment or dashes to dish blame on the “other.” What is needed is a step back – and then, a thoughtful engagement of the problem at hand.
The scientific method has been bequeathed to us, largely thanks to Rene Descartes, to address exactly these types of questions. What is going on in New Orleans, Louisiana today?
The Washington Times reports today that a recent “survey” conducted in New Orleans is revealing what many have known to be true for centuries: that Black people face discrimination in the housing and rental markets regardless of “non-racial” factors (education, income, wealth, employment status, age, etc.).
Black folk in New Orleans do not have time to play these games with white people. Racism at this level should be met with the full force of the law. In fact, offenses such as these, given the circumstances might require a new measure of judicial interpretation. It is not enough to look at a “white” realtor and assume benevolence or incompetence. Where these patterns are found to exist, and constitute evidence of malice, severe criminal actions must be brought to achieve two aims: provide an economic correction to the marketplace; offer redress to the aggrieved parties.
Moreover, it is not enough to look in the eyes of a single mother who will be denied access to improved living conditions and ascribe these happenings to some fault of her own. It is not enough to question that married couple with incomes commensurate with their education about whether or not they met filing deadlines or had sufficient credit. Inquiries intended to absolve criminals are merely pretexts to mask an organic connection to the crime. Those pretexts must be revealed for all their ugliness because they compromise the very fabric of civil society. These small acts of inter-personal bias undermine our collective capacity to see, speak to and hear one another. Each of us walk around with a different set of collective memories which intrude into our encounters without our knowledge. When narratives of accommodation and appeasement attend these heinous acts of economic terrorism, the society loses all hope of being bound by shared rules. All that remains is force.
The hurricane has come and gone. The levees have been breached, but the holes in the heart of that community are far from healing. And there is no hope for a lasting peace in New Orleans until justice is established. Establishing justice means getting the New Orleans Landlords Association, the Apartment Association of Greater New Orleans and the New Orleans Real Estate Investors Association to answer the phone and account for the violations of law uncovered by these testers.
Consider that much of the financing to rebuild New Orleans is not coming from New Orleans. That funding is coming from Washington, DC. It is also coming from New York City. To the extent possible, consider reaching out to your FINANCIAL – REAL ESTATE networks to ensure that government and investment dollars are spent in compliance with federal laws – and in strict adherence to anti-discrimination statutes. Now is a great time to reach out to your friends in those fields who may be packaging new deals right now…to let them know that the game doesn’t end and to enlist their assistance in playing on the right team.
Apartment Association of Greater New Orleans
3017 Harvard Avenue #201
Metairie LA 70006
New Orleans Landlords Association
4309 Jeannie Marie Pl.
New Orleans LA 70122