Wednesday, January 18, 2006
Ray Nagin's "Chocolate City"? 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
Mayor Ray Nagin is catching flak for his comments on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day that New Orleans will once again be a "chocolate city":
On Monday, Nagin said God wanted New Orleans to be predominantly black and said he didn't care what the predominantly white Uptown section of the city had to say about it. "I don't care what people are saying Uptown or wherever they are. This city will be chocolate at the end of the day," he said. "This city will be a majority African-American city. It's the way God wants it to be."
Yesterday, Nagin engaged in some serious - and I mean fudge-smooth - backpedaling.
After the statement, [Nagin] insisted he wasn't being divisive. "How do you make chocolate? You take dark chocolate, you mix it with white milk, and it becomes a delicious drink. That is the chocolate I am talking about," he said. "New Orleans was a chocolate city before Katrina. It is going to be a chocolate city after. How is that divisive? It is white and black working together, coming together and making something special."
Oh, please...I can almost hear the strains of "Ebony and Ivory" or Three Dog Night's "Black and White":
The milk is White
The chocolate is Brown
Together they make
A luscious town
Now, it may sound racist to say this, but can you imagine the uproar if Nagin were a white mayor, and he declared New Orleans at "the end of the day" would be a "vanilla city" because that's "the way God wants it to be"?

It probably was just an off-the-cuff statement more intended to express solidarity with the city's African-American community than any attempt to stir up racial divisiveness. In reality, yes, the "chocolate" comment made by an African-American mayor has a very different tenor than the converse statement made by a white politician. The average, low-to-moderate-income New Orleans resident - regardless of race, although statistics show that average resident is very likely to be Black - has good reason to worry that Katrina set the stage for a spectacular gentrifying land-grab by wealthy residents and out of town opportunists. We saw exactly how starkly the color lines were drawn in the hurricane's aftermath, but Nagin would gave been more politic expressing the city's concern and solidarity with the "common man" regardless of skin color.

In any case, Nagin should really lay off the colorful 'dairy' metaphors, lest he curdle the "chocolate milk" further.