What Anti-Racism in St. Bernard Parish Could Look Like

I was thinking about the St. Bernard Parish Housing Discrimination Saga while at work today. Or should I say, while I was bathing in cash from the huge payments I’ve been getting from Provident to write this. ;) And I was mulling over how several commenters at the above thread expressed anger at St. Bernard Parish being labeled racist, or at the label of racist being applied to themselves individually.

To wit, Amy wrote: “I am not NOT talking about race or what not. I am talking about Low-Income housing that people are on welfare and expect to get everything for free.”

Amusingly, lsder said: “In My Honest Opinion, The only racist people are the people screaming it.”

Yet in a later comment wrote: “answer two questions for me, who sold the black people into slavery(not who purchased slaves) who freed the slaves? ”

And then we have the immediately-banned Kay:

I am so sick of the race card always being played. What is funny it is the blacks who are always using it. The Blacks are their worse enemy. Look at the stats, who does the killings….blacks, who screams about race……blacks. Turn on the TV an the first thing you hear is about the murder or murders of someone……who is the suspect……..a black person.

While still arguing for an outcome in this housing battle that would have racially disparate effects and undeniable racial implications, these particular commenters claim that they are not racist and have some other motive in mind that is 100% divorced from race. Which in a situation where a white majority is making it nearly impossible for a black minority to live amongst them, is a hard argument to make.

Por ejemplo Jude (the guy who figured out I make the BIG BUCKS being a social justice blogger) escribe:

if you had any common decency you would be demanding that this developer place these apartments in a place where there is a hospital, services, and a tax base that could provide needed services. This blog isn’t about what’s best, or the right thing to do, it’s about jumping into a fight that you know little to nothing about and sadly people are going to pay for it with their lives. It’s too bad you don’t get it, but then you are probably being paid not to

Yet while his concern that low income blacks have the best possible housing built for them is one that I share, somehow I can’t bring myself to believe that the resistance to public housing in SBP is due to the fact that whites are concerned it won’t be good enough for blacks.

Perhaps my skepticism (besides it being a natural Czech trait) is due in part to comments like George Crossman’s: “Wow, all these wasted words and time on this, the bottom line is when the blacks moved to village square [demolished public housing] it ruined st bernard parish there is statistical proof of it.”

So I sez to myself, what kind of statement could a white St. Bernard Parish resident make that would make me not doubt their sincerity when they say they are not racist, or even, as some commenters have said, only have the best interest of blacks at heart?

Here’s what that would look like to me:

1. I assembled a community group who met with concerned blacks about what kind of housing would best suit the poor black community’s needs.

2. I arranged a meeting between the Parish Council and black leaders in St. Bernard.

3. I lobbied the Parish Council to ask Provident to build several smaller public housing units scattered throughout the Parish instead of simply one giant building.

4. I met with local housing advocates and asked for their opinions on affordable housing and preventing housing discrimination in St. Bernard.

5. I read up on the Fair Housing Act and the history of racial discrimination in housing in the US.

6. I organized some people to survey low income residents in St. Bernard and established a task force to implement their suggestions.

7. I took an anti-oppression class.

8. I located the former residents of the Village Square and wrote to the newspaper about their current situation and solutions to improve it.

9. I looked at recent cases where cities, parishes or counties experienced similar housing problems and learned x, y and z from their examples.

10. I learned to question common stereotypes about poor people, recipients of government aid, and blacks.

11. I volunteered my time to work in low-income communities on neighborhood beautification projects.

12. I talk with my neighbors about the harm racial discrimination brings to St. Bernard Parish.

13. I accepted that St. Bernard Parish has a terrible history of racial discrimination and decided to make sure history doesn’t repeat itself, starting with myself.

14. I learned what terms are considered offensive by minorities in my community and have stopped using them.

But I have not heard anything like this. Instead, I have heard decades-old arguments that whites use when forcing shitty situations onto blacks and trying to wash their hands of the racist label.

So if anyone is wondering what it would take for me to believe white St. Bernard residents sincerely have the best interests of the black residents and former residents of SBP at heart, something like the above would convince me.

Anyone have any other positive anti-racist suggestions for steps forward in SBP?

This thread will be strongly moderated for racist language, personal insults, and threats. Sadly, after my previous St. Bernard post, this has now become a problem.

“Every society is judged by how it treats the least fortunate amongst them.”

-Thomas Douglas

UPDATE: Anti-racism =/= racism against whites. Do we really have to play that game? Try reading Color Blinded by Whiteness.

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2 thoughts on “What Anti-Racism in St. Bernard Parish Could Look Like

  1. Forget about the residents of St. Bernard, how the structures are to be built, and anything else outside of one question: is the proposed location for the development good for those living at or below the poverty line?

    I personally just want this answered. Here in Tampa, the public housing developments are near major bus lines and short distances to major hospitals. They look like regular apartment complexes, not the pictures of the projects in New Orleans. Nice respectable places for people to feel like they are worth something rather than being shoveled out to the places no one else would choose to live.

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