District E Councilman Oliver M. Thomas, Jr. has issued the following statement in response to ongoing stereotypes of New Orleans East:
“Once again, we’re forced to hear and see the stories about violence and despair in New Orleans East. Once again, and sometimes daily for decades, we see and read the reports of how bad New Orleans East is. Well, if it’s been that bad for that long, why haven’t the titans in business and social science, and nonprofits and academics rallied to come together to reverse or change the direction of this area that was once was and still is a Black mecca? Is it because it’s Black? Is it so easy to dismiss the African American, Asian and Latino investors who still see value in the area and who still see people who have resources who they serve?
For decades, New Orleans West was once the most violent place in America, but there was never this media effort to devalue or stereotype it. Have we forgotten the late 70s, 80s and 90s when the city averaged 300 to 400 murders a year, most happening in New Orleans West with the big six housing developments engaged in crack wars that dominated center city or New Orleans West? There wasn’t this media rush to stereotype the area. Why? Because Black folk and people of color didn’t own New Orleans West, downtown, center city or the French Quarter.
As a real New Orleanian, we have known the unreported crime in the French Quarter and downtown dwarfed per capita crime against persons for decades. Still, the stereotype couldn’t be attached because it would devalue the property of the land barons who own it and discourage tourists and thrill seekers who love the culture that the indigenous communities who are stereotyped provide. No, those areas must maintain their value! But where we live, New Orleans East can’t be seen as an opportunity.
Barry Kern said, “If you want better property values and square footage prices, you must look at New Orleans East.” Because the West is more expensive, and God isn’t making any new land in New Orleans West, but we have plenty in New Orleans East. Didn’t early media and land barons use this tactic before in “How the West was Won?” Yes! There are savages living on their primitive reservations called subdivisions and an even lesser class living in abandoned apartment complexes subsidized by the federal government so that the neglect and despair can rival the worst housing developments.
Post-Katrina was a great example of the conspiracy that is a reality where even liberal nonprofits and education institutions played their role. Post Katrina, these institutions watched their service population, for whom they were awarded billions in grant funding for over decades, be pushed to New Orleans East, Algiers and the city’s edges. Still, these institutions didn’t move with them. They stayed downtown or in New Orleans West. How was the West won? Well, it was won by treating the West like New Orleans East and parts of the Ninth Ward are being treated.
My facts are indisputable. Racism and neglect are undeniable! But when we look at history, we know that it’s not your ultimate plan. How was the West won? Well, again, the West was won with the same tactics that are being used to stereotype New Orleans East.”
Oliver M. Thomas, Jr.
New Orleans City Council, District E
Born and Raised in Lower Nine