With the recent announcement by Louisiana State Senator Ed Murray to give up the mayoral election on February 6, citing problems with fundraising, the stage has now been set for perhaps two white candidates in the run-off election. In one election cycle the city could potentially go from what outgoing Mayor Ray Nagin called a 'Chocolate City' to something very different. Something that may change how Black concerns will be addressed at the municipal level.
The question now becomes for African-Americans, how do they leverage their votes in a city where the New Orleans City Council is majority white and there is a white mayor? How will this impact issues affecting the rebuilding of African-American neighborhoods? And also, how will they fit into the power equation of the city moving forward?
Now, without a well-known African-American candidate, African-Americans must ask themselves: What is at stake in this election? Is it time for them, as some whites have done during the presidential election, to look past race and making it a non-factor in selecting a candidate to lead the city. Or will one of the lesser know African-American candidates emerge as a new voice with a new vision that can catapult them to become the face of the future Blacks of New Orleans?
This is important and is intertwined into something very complex — the six degrees of separation where racial camaraderie and chaos are intertwined. The backdrop lends itself to a cautionary tale, that this time the citizens must get it right; that this leader must have the vision to captain this ship into moving forward. Issues of race in isolation cannot determine who is chosen to be the next mayor.
Citizens cannot assume that because of the last four years that the mixed performance of the Nagin administration is a reflection of all Black leadership. And that to wave a magic wand and place someone white in office will automatically make things better. It is incumbent that evolved people and educated voters cannot or should not resort to antiquated thinking that competency and efficiency is only housed inside of white skin.
There remains a lot at stake in this election that can shape the course of what direction it will be headed. So voters must be aware of the agenda of those who are left in the race and how will it benefit the citizens of the city trying to rebuild their homes, neighborhoods, and lives. Accountability is important in selecting a new mayor and other elected officials, so it is essential that voters become aware of the vices that these candidates espouse as they canvas communities asking for their support.
Ed Murray leaving the race has left a void in terms of a well-known African-American candidate, but it is also a wonderful opportunity for the Black community to begin to re-examine its voting behavior. To really begin to look at how the community has changed, and think of new ways to flex their political muscles to strengthen the Black community.
As the country celebrated a triumph in the election of Barack Obama at the national level, the issue today is at the local level where majority black cities may have white mayors. New Orleans may have reached its Gary, Indiana moment. But as the world has changed around issues of race, today it is more and issue of wrong vs. right, not Black vs. White. Where New Orleans is headed we will know when citizens go to the polls on February 6, 2010.
Edwin Buggage is Editor-in-Chief of the Louisiana Data News Weekly.
Photo by Julian Do, New America Media.
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