Thursday, September 20, 2007

Jesse Jackson, Hurricane Katrina, & the Jena 6

Outside the United States, everyone seems to love a story that shows that race relations are very bad indeed in this country. While I wouldn't go looking in backwoods Louisiana for examples of anything modern or 21st century, the Jena 6 story has legs. One piece of the story involves free speech (or freedom of expression), so I'll point you to the best collection of viewpoints I've found--the comments following this story on what has happened in the town of Jena. Louisiana's Shreveport Times is providing continuing coverage on its front page--from which I plucked the photo above.

The Jena story is a true story of the rural south, and includes some typical themes: racial tensions, high school football, the strong arm of The Law, and hot tempers, all of which characterize this region. There isn't any mention of alcohol, another rural Southern leitmotif, but I imagine there's a story about that too in the incidents in Jena, and in best Southern style (to protect one another, most likely) neither blacks nor whites are talking about that one. Blacks and whites in the rural South have been going at it Hatfield and McCoy style for generations, but when it comes to outsiders, they know whose side they are on.

The story behind the story is the fact that following Hurricane Katrina in 2005, people are not returning to their Louisiana homes in the numbers required to keep Louisiana's Congressional delegation at its current strength when redistricting occurs in 2010. It's estimated that 100,000 Katrina evacuees are here in Chicago alone, where they voted in the last New Orleans election, open to New Orleans residents throughout the country, and where New Orleans mayor, Ray Nagin, made campaign appearances.

I wouldn't be looking for the evacuees in the Chicago area to be rushing back to Louisiana any time soon. Chicago provides real economic opportunity for persons of all races, and a lot of former Louisiana residents are benefiting from that on a daily basis. Race relations are good here, which many Louisianians might find to be a plus.

Many of the blacks who left New Orleans and other towns in Louisiana in 2005 are affiliated with Rev. Jesse Jackson's Operation Push in Chicago, which easily explains his involvement with the Jena 6. Of course, the State of Illinois now has enough Democrats to ensure sweeping Democrat victories, and there has been a continuing effort on the part of Jackson (and Ray Nagin) to encourage many blacks to return to New Orleans to hold down the Democrat fort, so to speak. The truth is, many are preferring to stay in Chicago, which only goes to show "voting with your feet" isn't limited to foreign immigrants.

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