Sunday, August 29, 2010

New Orleans' newspaper representation

I've called four places home over the years, excluding the military.  While I grew up in a smallish Connecticut town, the seat of its government is pictured above, the town was close to New York City and I've always considered myself an urban animal.  I lived within walking distance of the town center and I'm used to not owning a car, expecting amenities close by.

A quick wikipedia collection of demographic percentages reveals the following about the places I've called home:

Ridgefield, CT:  96.12% white, 0.62% black, 1.97% hispanic.
New London, CT (a city with much less land but a similar total of citizens): 54.6% white, 14% black, 21.9% hispanic.
Boston, MA (the largest city in New England and twice the population of New Orleans): 56.3% white, 23.5% black, 23.5% hispanic.
New Orleans, LA (pre-Katrina-related federal levee failure): 28.05% white, 67.25% black, 3.06% hispanic.

A recent article in the Times-Picayune put New Orleans' estimated white population at 32% and the black at 61%, roughly.

You will notice that the cities are home to more racial and ethnic diversity.

One thing in common with Ridgefield's and New Orleans' newspapers is that neither regularly features many black faces.  The other day, I looked through the Times-Picayune and counted African Americans in three places:  the sports pages, which I don't read; the obituaries, which I don't read; and a list of criminals at large, which I also don't read.

While I wouldn't expect to find many African Americans in the pages of the Ridgefield Press, I would expect more in the Times-Picayune.  According to the paper of record, little is happening in two thirds of the city.  The Times-Picayne does, however feature breathless accounts of events on its society page.  Nell Nolan covers that beat and, to her credit, African Americans are covered there from time to time.   I have to admit though, I haven't yet been able to read the society page from beginning to end.

I suppose no news is good news but most of what is reported about New Orleans African American community skews toward the negative.  This can only continue adding to the negative impressions of New Orleans' "minorities" as criminals, which, I've found by direct experience, is far, far from the truth.

I've heard this chalked up to the city's patrician culture, and I believe that does play a part.  A recent, thick Sunday section dedicated to debutantes was a bewildering allocation of newsprint and ink.  You can scroll down the page of Nell Nolan's Social Scene to see a representation of who is "socializing" in New Orleans.


Anita said...

As you might surmise, racism is extraordinarily nuanced, layered, and complex here but, as always, here, too, it is everywhere.

Do you know Peggy McIntosh's little essay "White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack? If not, Google it because it's really impossible to make any progress until we understand the nature of the beast.

If you get a chance to attend an "Undoing Racism" workshop put on by The People's Institute, go.

You might have studied all this in college for all I know, but if you didn't you will want to know more about this aspect of the city as you live here longer. You'll make friends, I expect, and they'll help you, also, but we are also each responsible for continuing to learn, I believe.

Whalehead King said...

I don't think you are a pest at all. Thanks, Anita.

I see plenty of black faces in the 1st section of the T-P today. All from the Lower 9th.

Whalehead King said...

I'm not sure why your lengthier comment isn't showing up, Anita. It had some nice educational links. If you can repost it, we'd all be much obliged.

I've often found that many people expect that I am black because Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and I share the same last name and I tend to spend a lot of time on the wrong side of the tracks or, in New Orleans' case, the wrong side of St. Charles Avenue.

Whalehead King said...
This comment has been removed by the author.


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