Thursday, August 26, 2010

There's nothing as unpopular as being a victim

Yesterday Salon published another of my essays, which they titled, "Please don't come back to New Orleans." They had actually wanted to title it "Don't come back to New Orleans" but I asked them to add the word "Please." They said they needed to be provocative in order to get people to click on the story, because no one really cares about New Orleans anymore.

Of course, my editor and I both knew that the story was likely to generate a lot of hate--because people don't hate anything more than someone who has been a victim of meaningless violence, and because we're only supposed to say nice things about New Orleans. And that is why we both felt it was important to go ahead with the piece. Initially, I'd imagined it as a lighter piece, in which I pine for the quiet days of my then-abandoned neighborhood. But in an early draft, my mugging appeared, and I knew that people would point to that, whether I wanted them to or not, and decided to just push that to the front of the piece.

I also decided not to read any of the idiotic comments that were likely to follow. But a few people have filled me. Apparently I deserved it. Because I moved to a black neighborhood, and I should have known better than that. Aside from the fact that this theory actually ignores the specifics of the story (the mugging didn't happen in my neighborhood), it is also a mortifying racist suggestion in response to a story that doesn't once mention race. But that's the internet for you, isn't it?

11 comments:

Nate K said...

Hi Ken

I'm actually one of the people who commented on your article. While I didn't accuse you of being racist, and I certainly don't know enough about New Orleans socio/economic/political history to delve too deeply into the nuances of your piece, my point remains. You (or Salon) framed your entire article around this thought: "After Katrina, I took offense when people said they hoped some folks wouldn't return. Now, I've become one of them."

Maybe you really did mean crooked cops and slum lords (as you said in your own comment), but to the vast majority of Americans following the aftermath of Katrina "some folks," for better or worse, meant/means poor black people. Or, at the very least, poor people. (Correct me if I'm wrong, though, but the most depressed economic class in New Orleans is composed of, by and large, black people.)

Your article then delves into your harrowing attack (which I would never, ever imply you deserved or should have expected). How does one not connect that attack with your thesis statement? Or even your secondary thesis (even though it occurred in a different neighborhood) that you wish the Lower Ninth would go back to its quiet immediate-post-Katrina days?

The Lower Ninth was a fairly bustling, boisterous historically black neighborhood pre-Katrina, no? How can you not see some folks taking offense to your wish for it to return to its days of tranquility when that very tranquility occurred only because all the residents of your neighborhood were washed away?

I care deeply about the future of New Orleans because I think it points to the future of our nation. And I truly believe your article was well intended; however, I really don't think the point (you claim) you tried to make came across at all. And I would be curious to see you try to restate it, at least to me.

This isn’t meant to be argumentative or provocative, but a genuine attempt to try to understand something I may have missed the first time.

Thanks,

Nate K

Anonymous said...

"...a mortifying racist suggestion in response to a story that doesn't once mention race." Two things: are you sure about the word choice "mortifying" in this instance; and by this statement do you mean to say the people who attacked you are NOT black?

Anonymous said...

Congratulations, you made it to American Renaissance! You may find the comments helpful.

http://www.amren.com/mtnews/archives/2010/08/please_dont_com.php

Anonymous said...

Ken, are you saying that even after experience rampant Black violence yourself you still haven't accepted reality yet?

Oh well, no need to try to talk sense into you, it would be easier to convince a Schizophrenic. In any event, I look at this as a form of Darwinism. If after experiencing what you have you still can't face reality in fear of being regarded as "racist" then you deserve to be removed from the gene pool.

kfoz said...

Nate,

Actually, the words used by people post-Katrina were "thug", "animal" and "the element." The term "some folks" is one that I use with surprising frequency, as it even shows up in my books.

If you read the essay, and I'm still not sure that you really have, you'll see that you are choosing to focus on two words out of 1400. Yet you claim you aren't trying to be argumentative. The vast majority of the response I've received from people who actually live in New Orleans is that the essay attacks the city officials who have allowed violence to return, not just to my neighborhood, but to the city as a whole. People are tired of all the positive spin of rebuilding which ignores some of the very real problems that the city is reluctant to discuss.

As the essay states, and most people have understood, I do sometimes wish for the quiet that came with an empty neighborhood--but I feel guilty because a) it reminds me of the people who hoped that people wouldn't return and b) I know I don't really want an empty neighborhood.

Since you care deeply about the city, you should probably be aware that my neighborhood was built by a mix of European and African American people. The previous owner of my house (who put in on the market before Katrina) looked so much like me, that many people thought that I was, in fact, him.

Let me know if you want to come volunteer. There are a number of organizations that I'm involved in that could use your help. SilenceIsViolence, which I co-founded, provides youth music clinics and programs in public schools. Sankofa Market, of which I'm a founding board member, provides a farmer's market and health education in the Lower Ninth. Or, if you would rather, my Sula Foundation provides low-cost vaccinations to pit bulls in low-income neighborhoods.

The majority of the comments that I'm getting, even on this blog, are from crazy white supremists who are angry that I didn't make the essay about race. They have my name on their websites. They post things here, and they send me anonymous emails. I'm still not sure how the race of either myself or my neighbors or my attackers would make this situation either better or worse than it actually is.

Alexandra said...

A lot of us are race realists, not so much white supremacists. Tell me how a white supremacist can accept Asians doing somewhat better IQ-wise! I guess the "white supremacist" label isn't exactly accurate, is it...?

Look at the statistics. Cities that are majority black have the most crime. Poverty has nothing to do with it--case in point, West Virginia, one of the poorest states, it has a low crime rate, and it's majority white.

I used to live in inner-city Detroit, then its suburbs. Now I live in rural Ohio. What a difference!

I'll leave you with this: Truth is hate to those who hate truth.

kfoz said...

Alexandra,

Then how do you explain the large populations of Africans around the world that aren't violent. Is it something about being American that is at the core of violence?

Anonymous said...

kfoz sputtered "Then how do you explain the large populations of Africans around the world that aren't violent?".
Examples being...? Poor you, plodding along with your inflexible mind, resolutely living by 1960's cliches, remaining clueless in spite of the obvious. Does being a race realist necessarily make one a race supremacist? Yes. It allows for the fact that races, cultures and societies are not all created equal. Some, ours being one, North-East Asians being another, are superior in every way, other than athletically, to African societies.

kfoz said...

For Anonymous:

I know this will require some challenging reading for you, but here you go:


Rank Countries Amount
# 1 Colombia: 0.617847 per 1,000 people
# 2 South Africa: 0.496008 per 1,000 people
# 3 Jamaica: 0.324196 per 1,000 people
# 4 Venezuela: 0.316138 per 1,000 people
# 5 Russia: 0.201534 per 1,000 people
# 6 Mexico: 0.130213 per 1,000 people
# 7 Estonia: 0.107277 per 1,000 people
# 8 Latvia: 0.10393 per 1,000 people
# 9 Lithuania: 0.102863 per 1,000 people
# 10 Belarus: 0.0983495 per 1,000 people
# 11 Ukraine: 0.094006 per 1,000 people
# 12 Papua New Guinea: 0.0838593 per 1,000 people
# 13 Kyrgyzstan: 0.0802565 per 1,000 people
# 14 Thailand: 0.0800798 per 1,000 people
# 15 Moldova: 0.0781145 per 1,000 people
# 16 Zimbabwe: 0.0749938 per 1,000 people
# 17 Seychelles: 0.0739025 per 1,000 people
# 18 Zambia: 0.070769 per 1,000 people
# 19 Costa Rica: 0.061006 per 1,000 people
# 20 Poland: 0.0562789 per 1,000 people
# 21 Georgia: 0.0511011 per 1,000 people
# 22 Uruguay: 0.045082 per 1,000 people
# 23 Bulgaria: 0.0445638 per 1,000 people
# 24 United States: 0.042802 per 1,000 people
# 25 Armenia: 0.0425746 per 1,000 people
# 26 India: 0.0344083 per 1,000 people
# 27 Yemen: 0.0336276 per 1,000 people
# 28 Dominica: 0.0289733 per 1,000 people
# 29 Azerbaijan: 0.0285642 per 1,000 people
# 30 Finland: 0.0283362 per 1,000 people
# 31 Slovakia: 0.0263303 per 1,000 people
# 32 Romania: 0.0250784 per 1,000 people
# 33 Portugal: 0.0233769 per 1,000 people
# 34 Malaysia: 0.0230034 per 1,000 people
# 35 Macedonia, The Former Yugoslav Republic of: 0.0229829 per 1,000 people
# 36 Mauritius: 0.021121 per 1,000 people
# 37 Hungary: 0.0204857 per 1,000 people
# 38 Korea, South: 0.0196336 per 1,000 people
# 39 Slovenia: 0.0179015 per 1,000 people
# 40 France: 0.0173272 per 1,000 people
# 41 Czech Republic: 0.0169905 per 1,000 people
# 42 Iceland: 0.0168499 per 1,000 people
# 43 Australia: 0.0150324 per 1,000 people
# 44 Canada: 0.0149063 per 1,000 people
# 45 Chile: 0.014705 per 1,000 people
# 46 United Kingdom: 0.0140633 per 1,000 people
# 47 Italy: 0.0128393 per 1,000 people
# 48 Spain: 0.0122456 per 1,000 people
# 49 Germany: 0.0116461 per 1,000 people
# 50 Tunisia: 0.0112159 per 1,000 people
# 51 Netherlands: 0.0111538 per 1,000 people
# 52 New Zealand: 0.0111524 per 1,000 people
# 53 Denmark: 0.0106775 per 1,000 people
# 54 Norway: 0.0106684 per 1,000 people
# 55 Ireland: 0.00946215 per 1,000 people
# 56 Switzerland: 0.00921351 per 1,000 people
# 57 Indonesia: 0.00910842 per 1,000 people
# 58 Greece: 0.0075928 per 1,000 people
# 59 Hong Kong: 0.00550804 per 1,000 people
# 60 Japan: 0.00499933 per 1,000 people
# 61 Saudi Arabia: 0.00397456 per 1,000 people
# 62 Qatar: 0.00115868 per 1,000 people

Anonymous said...

The fact that you don’t mention race doesn’t make the story non-racial, it just makes it dishonest, assuming your assaulters were black. It’s worse than that: it makes it brutally racist. It is lying in support of black on white racist violence, it isn’t racially neutral, it’s murderously anti-white, typical white-hating liberal racism of precisely the sort that caused the ethnic cleansing of New Orleans in the first place.

“[N]ot so different, after all, from what it always was.” No, liberal, not what it always was, but what your hate made it.

Anonymous said...

Ken, why waste your time arguing with these people? If they haven't ever been to New Orleans, let alone your neighborhood, they don't know what they're talking about.

It's funny how people who consider themselves "anti-racism" are starting to sound like pro-segregation people from the fifties. Is the message that if you move to the wrong neighborhood, you get what you deserve?!? People should stick to their own kind?!?! Also funny--but horrifyingly racist--is their assumption that if you don't want criminals in your neighborhood, you don't want people of color. You, of course, never said anything of the kind. WTF?!?! I think these people are projecting their own troubling thoughts onto you.

The blatantly racist people are just too silly and boring to even talk about.

Sara