"Totally Black" in New Orleans:
Before Katrina, one way that white middle and upper class people in New Orleans used to show that they were hip, cool, and down with the city was to find out where the coolest bars and clubs and the tastiest restaurants were in the black neighborhoods and streets of the Crescent City. White people loved discovering these places (if by "discover," you mean the same thing as "Columbus discovered America") and then bringing their white friends to chow on the soul food at Chez Helene or listen to the funky brass bands at Donna's. When these places showed up in your Fodor's and filled with tourists, the DeSoto-like white people would keep searching for the the Fountain of Authenticity that, of course, only the poorest, blackest places could bring. Chez Helene closes? Move on to Big Shirley's in Treme. Donna's not dark enough to be exotic anymore? Head deep into the Bywater and go to Vaughan's for Kermit Ruffins' Sunday Barbecue and Jazz. Yessirree, nothin' showed how cool you were as a white person than bein' able to come down from Uptown to party where the negroes played.
At Antoine's Restaurant in New Orleans, wealthy white people would have their favorite black waiters who could cater to their every whim, who, for that couple of hours of interchange, made those white people feel as if every joke was hilarious, every story compelling. And the Rude Pundit knew young white people who could sit with musicians in the crappiest little dives and have intense conversations about what makes a jazz improv transcendant. Either way, though, at the end of the day, the white people headed off to one New Orleans, and the blacks headed to or remained in another. Either way, for all but a few whites, those in social services, those who chose to live where the rents were cheapest, the real black New Orleans was a hidden place of poverty, gangs, run-down housing projects, and the evidence of the neglect of a society as surely as the unfortified levees surrounding them. And, like the waters that have filled the streets, it is hidden no more.
So when the head of FEMA, a poor bastard who's way out of his league named Michael Brown, says, "The lawlessness, the crime that is occurring, did surprise us," it's just like saying you didn't know the levees would be breached. Hungry people steal food. Parents will feed their children no matter what the niceties of your laws are. As New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin said in his heartbreaking interview on WWL radio, drug addicts will get their fixes. And, yes, some will be stupid enough to steal TVs, which in a city that won't have electricity for weeks or months, is either the most optimistic or idiotic of gestures. To not anticipate looting and lawlessness is a crime of incompetence, a blindness to the wretched poverty so many in New Orleans attempted to exist under, something real and not just exotic and thrilling for whites to touch on for their entertainment.
And now that the President has been injected with the mad array of chemicals that are needed to jump start his brain like the coughing, oil-leaking lawnmower motor that it is, he declares that "The results [of the relief effort] are not acceptable." And that's great, but they were also unacceptable on Tuesday, when Bush was making one of his worthless piece of shit speeches about how mighty a battle the Iraq War is, just like World War II or some such nonsense. But the Bush adminstration has broken the basic social contract in New Orleans, the one that goes all the way back to Thomas Hobbes and John Locke, the one that says we adhere to laws because you agree to protect us, and thus the city and its citizens have returned to the state of nature, which is to survive, motherfuckers, just survive.
Bush is visiting the affected areas as this is written. You can bet he's gonna hug some negro, maybe two, maybe he'll feed a negro child. It's the way of black people in New Orleans, you know, to always be the props and the set dressing to make the white people feel powerful.
(The title comes from a CNN reporter talking about the lack of light in the city at night.)