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February 07, 2006

into the fray

Somewhat contrary to my usual practice, I hereby opine (without expertise or evidence) on two hot topics:

1. New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin has attracted much criticism--and has apologized--for saying, "This city will be a majority African-American city. It's the way God wants it to be. You can't have it no other way. It wouldn't be New Orleans." Nagin has been called racist for setting a racial target in that way. It would certainly be out of bounds for someone to suggest (for instance) that Denver must stay 80.6% white. However, lots of people want to preserve or recreate the traditional culture of New Orleans. That culture is inextricably linked to race. I realize that the city was never monoracial. In fact, the traditional culture of New Orleans will be lost if working-class white Cajuns or rich whites from the Garden District choose not to return. It's a subtle question whether the city needs an African American majority to restore its culture. But New Orleans was 67% Black before Katrina, so anything below 50% would be a big drop--and a big cultural change.

"Culture" is a more comfortable concept than race, but the two cannot be separated. If you hope to preserve or restore the characteristic culture of New Orleans, you have to bring back the Black population.

2. Danish cartoons satirizing (or did they simply depict?) Mohammed have ignited riots in at least half a dozen countries. In cases like this, it seems important to separate the questions that could be asked:

  • Should the Danish Government ban the publication of these cartoons or punish the responsible newspaper, the Jyllands-Posten? No: that would violate freedom of the press.
  • Should the Jyllands-Posten have published the cartoons? No: they aren't funny, they don't have news value, and their only purpose appears to have been to demonstrate that the press is free in Denmark. That's a bad editorial decision, to put it mildly.
  • Should newspapers in several other European countries republish the cartoons to establish their own freedom? No: duplicating a bad editorial decision is an even worse one.
  • In response, should people attack the Danish, Norwegian, Austrian, and US embassies or consulates in multiple countries? No: that's violent. It's also a basically impotent form of rage that mainly demonstrates the vulnerability of the rioters.
  • Posted by peterlevine at February 7, 2006 07:51 AM


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