Colorblind in the Crescent City
By Todd A. Smith
From the historic 1965 election of Carl Stokes as mayor of Cleveland to the momentous joy felt throughout Black America after President Barack Obama’s election in 2008, the history of Black politics has been filled with highs that still cause many in the community to be filled with jubilation years later.
However, during President Obama’s historic rise to the highest office in the land, critics of Black politics have argued that Black America seemed content with just electing a person of color, regardless of his qualifications or what was best for the community.
True, many rejoiced at the fact that they could now honestly tell younger generations of Blacks that they truly could aspire to achieve anything in life, regardless of whom they were or where they came from.
The joy seen throughout Black America in 2008 was similar to that experienced in Cleveland in the mid-1960s. It was simply a reflection of a people who had experienced so much pain in life, finally experiencing what true joy felt like.
Nevertheless, Black America is still a microcosm of America as a whole, just with a darker skin tone. And what all Americans want is what is best for themselves, their family and their community.
Although many have doubted whether Black politics could ever be truly colorblind, the recent election of Mitch Landrieu in predominately Black New Orleans is a blow to all of those critics that said the majority of Black America voted for President Obama simply because of the color of his skin.
The city of New Orleans has suffered like no other city in recent American history. The devastation of Hurricane Katrina seems like yesterday, when residents of this mighty city helplessly cried out for salvation as the rest of the country watched in agony, not knowing how to be of assistance.
Children and grandparents died. Homes were destroyed and lives were permanently uprooted as a result of the catastrophic storm.
While some have returned to the Crescent City, the recovery has been slow if not nonexistent and many of the residents of this city in which Black politics has been a mainstay for decades, had simply grown tired of politics as usual and elected the first White mayor since 1978.
Mayor-elect Landrieu stated the city decided to “strike a blow for unity, strike a blow for a city that decided to be unified rather than divided, a city that understands where there is equal opportunity, there is equal responsibility.”
In a state where the Landrieu family is the equivalent of the Kennedy’s in Massachusetts, the mayor-elect’s father Mitch became a historic figure in the area as he spearheaded the city’s integration efforts and was the last White mayor of the city.
The reputation the senior Landrieu had in the Black community undoubtedly assisted his son in his attempt to gain the Black vote. However, it shows more importantly that Black politics is simply politicians and policies that affect the Black community. And at the end of the day, the Black community simply wants the politician that is going to look out for the interest of the community, not necessarily the one that looks the most like them.
And that disproves the myth that the Black community is unable to view life through a colorblind point-of-view.
Smith is publisher of Regal Black Men’s Magazine.