Thursday, September 12, 2013

Going Home to New Orleans...My Annual Pilgrimage

Every summer since I started working for my local school system I go home to New Orleans to visit my family and my oldest and best friends. Never will I lose the love I have for the people, food, customs, music, colloquialisms and history of New Orleans. Like Austin in Texas, New Orleans is an anomaly in a backwards red state. The city is mostly blue with a strong underlining of white privilege control of money and patronage. The economy is built upon tourism. Those who work in that industry work hard labor paying miserly wages. The system was sustained through low rents, family homes handed down and simple needs. In other words, those not so economically successful could survive since food was relatively cheap and utilities too. After Hurricane Katrina, real estate taxes went up and with it insurance rates, and rental housing too. There are fewer grocery stores and those that exist in areas like New Orleans East are not as well kept as those in the predominantly white affluent or up and coming neighborhoods.

Many former New Orleanians want to return home. The home they left does not exist. The new systems in place are not for them. New Orleans is fast becoming a mini New York meant for the wealthy while stuck with the stubborn poor. The school system is a hodgepodge of wildly fluctuating and various quality schools. Only the wise consumer oriented parents with excellent detective skills manage to locate good schools. The school system students are mostly black and mostly poor. The exam schools are majority white. Most affluent parents send their children to parochial schools that have always been segregated or mostly segregated.

Multi-million dollar housing development using HUD (Housing and Urban Development) money is designated to build luxury apartments. Meanwhile there is a severe shortage of affordable housing for the working poor. So, where is the fight against this mess? A few people have raised concerns but the very people who need the housing, decent education for their children are focused on surviving.

I love going home. I am glad though to come back to a blue state and especially a blue city where the discussion is not about how to shaft the working poor. It would be wonderful if the powers that be in New Orleans would be more interested in helping than ridding themselves of poor people.

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