Monday, April 24, 2006

Mayor candidates avoid race in racially-charged New Orleans run-off

Mayor Ray Nagin and Lt. Governor Mitch Landrieu said they don't want race to become an issue in their contest for New Orleans mayor.

Both have been known to traditionally avoid racial issues in election campaigns. However, since 9/11 race has become a nagging issue in this multi-cultural city.

Visions of poor, mostly black "refugees" huddled at the Superdome and convention center still linger. Only days after the disaster, news commentators were asking whether the racial demographic of the city would change.

Analysts pondered over whether the city would be transformed from a majority black urban center to one dominated by middle class whites and strip malls.

Against this backdrop, Nagin responded that New Orleans would retain its former ethnic identity raising eyebrows by using the term "Chocolate City."

The interesting phenomenon that has occured since 9/11 is that Nagin has lost many of his white supporters. The race now seems polarized on color lines in the "Big Easy."

Maybe this highlights something happening in many big cities across the United States, most of which are becoming majority non-white. Political empowerment of the non-white populations is coming more slowly, and some degree of racial tension is generally present, at least below the surface.

We need to watch New Orleans and see how it is rebuilt. What will happen to the great African American culture that once flourished there? The response will indicate the types of challenges many multi-ethnic cities will face in dealing with the federal government in the future.

To be fair though, there were many rural conservative, mostly white communities that were demolished by last year's hurricanes as well. These were located along the coasts of Louisana, Mississippi and Alabama. Most are in pretty much the same shape as New Orleans.

Racial shift in New Orleans Mayor's Race

Nagin, Landrieu to vie for New Orleans Mayor

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