Saturday, December 29, 2007

Rap Beef Nigga!

Okay, so I'm admittedly flip at the mouth. Though I typically think before I say things, there are times where I intentionally use strong words and can be a bit abrasive. But that usually takes place when the topic itself is abrasive and controversial. I do not mince words.

I found myself in a exchange regarding the housing situation in New Orleans. I'm sure that many of you have been aware of the controversy related to the projects and low income housing in New Orleans. They're tearing down "da bricks" to make room for "mixed income housing." Now on the surface, it sounds good. Unfortunately, there is not one monumental task in the city of New Orleans that has been seen to fruition without a load of bullshit. Don't believe I have a cause for concern? How's that levee thing going? The BIGGEST issue in New Orleans history, and the city is still not hurricane ready, almost two-and-a-half years later. So pardon me if I don't believe that poor people will not get the shaft here.

Now, there are an abundance of people that chide project dwellers for "always wanting a handout" and "not wanting to work" and blah blah blah. When you point out the fallacy of their almost robotic regurgitation of "I got mine" rhetoric, offense is automatically taken. And honestly, that's cool. I have the right to my opinion, and everyone else has the right to be offended by my opinion. But at the end of the day, I still hold on to my opinion.

My big question, which has never been answered to any degree of satisfaction is this: who is willing to pay their janitors $30K a year? Who is willing to pay pharmacy technicians $15 an hour? How about hotel maintenance staff? The very backbone of what keeps the New Orleans tourism industry running pays crap. These are all taxing jobs. Yet, many these folks can barely make rent without public assistance, living in the projects, etc.

I remember being newly separated, with a four month old daughter and a two month old son. I worked at Hibernia National Bank FULL TIME, and after four promotions, I made $1300 a month. My rent was $500, my child care was $650 at the time. When all was said and done, I had $150 to pay for groceries, electricity, a telephone, bus fare, doctor's appointments, medicine, you name it. I remember locking myself in my room crying, because my son dropped the last roll of toilet paper in the toilet, and I didn't have enough money to get another roll AND buy the milk that we needed. Me, a woman who worked every day. A woman who kept working hard to get to the next level like she was told to, only to realize that next level came with a salary instead of overtime pay. At the end of the year, I was thanked with a $12 gift certificate to Sav-A-Center to go towards my family's holiday dinner. What made this particularly fucked up was that my landlord gave me a $25.00 gift certificate.

The end result for me, was being homeless. No, not under the bridge homeless, or in my car homeless, but homeless nonetheless. Make no mistake, when you are above the age of majority, and you "live" in a place where your name isn't on anything involved in keeping that place running, and for that matter, you don't even know if someone's bad mood require your moving, your ass is homeless. I lived in a hotel for four months. Me, a woman who worked every day.

Now, eventually, I got another job. But you'd better believe that I was replaced with SOMEONE -- someone who was probably making less than I (since, keep in mind, I attained my beloved salary after a host of promotions and five years on the job). And I had a "good" job. Hmph.

So, until someone answers me with any satisfaction, I will have major beef with this housing demolition. It's not about being pro-black. It's about a moral obligation to people who are doing the best that they can. Are there people sitting on their asses in these places? Yes. However, if we had fewer city EMPLOYEES getting paid to sit on their asses and do nothing, maybe system abuses could be better monitored. Or maybe if NOPD wasn't so damned corrupt, the criminals wouldn't be running the bricks with abandon.

But I guess that's too much like the right damned thing to do.

I could go on, but really, people are going to say what they're going to say and feel what they're going to feel. This just so happens to be my spot, so I'm doing it here.

5 comments:

jali said...

That was a very moving post and I agree with you 100%.

another conflict theorist said...

Peace Sis,

You're really breathing fire here. I'm not surprised that you're ruffling some feathers. For what it's worth, I completely agree with you. I'm not sure why the belief in a blame-worthy majority poor seems to comfort so many people - even people who should know better. I guess in order to make your own tenable situation seem stable you have to distance yourself from the impoverished. Even if the only real difference between you and them is one or two missed paychecks.

BTW, in answer to your question: "Who is willing to pay pharmacy technicians $15 an hour?"

Costco.

Maitri said...

Your post on this topic is the best one I've read so far. I'm of two minds about this whole thing - I want for hardworking people to have a place to live, especially when they have children, but feel like the bricks and similar government-corraling of a racial or economic class of people is horrendous. How can folks who live in the projects know or aim for anything other than what is around them? At the same time, our government (state and New Orleans) has a history of fucking things up royally for everyone, so I don't trust them to come through on their promises of mixed-income housing.

So, despite the pull of home and the right to return, I want the projects to be torn down so that the people who used to live in them can say, "Fuck you, New Orleans. You who have let me down for so long, used my services for dimes on the dollar and couldn't keep up your end of the bargain in return cannot have me any longer." Wherever they are, I wish them happier lives where their kids can go to decent schools and don't run the risk of abusing drugs or, worse, being killed before attaining adulthood. If it's a matter of sheer survival and then growth, the projects and the promises of misxed-income housing are not worth the hassle.

Thanks for your comments over at Cliff's. I like girls who stick to their guns.

Breez said...

@ jali - thanks much sis!

@ act - sometimes, that paycheck doesn't have to even be missed. just a smidge short. watch the shit hit the fan then. this loosely ties into your post from seven years...oops, i mean a couple of weeks ago. pardon me *guffaw*. the need that we have to separate ourselves from "those kind" of black folks. there are so many issues i have with that, i don't know where to begin.

@ maitri - first let me welcome you and thank you for visiting my spot. you present such good points. i am one of those people who left, and i feel, made a better life for myself elsewhere. just the other day i was joking with a girlfriend about the laundry list of degenerate activities and services i would have to exhaust before i returned to new orleans to live. but sometimes, i want a REAL daiquiri and a roast beef po'boy and there's just no substitute for that. it's such a hard situation.

bint alshamsa said...

Maitri,

I know plenty of people who have aimed for and achieved a life beyond the projects. My own mother grew up in one and she is now comfortably middle class. As a matter of fact, all of her siblings are also middle class now, too.

Have you ever been in the projects when school lets out in the afternoon? Have you seen how many of those kids returning to the projects are coming from magnet schools and private schools from around the city? These parents are making sure that their children will have more economic opportunities than they had.

The reality is that there is no place in the world where kids can grow up without running the risk of abusing drugs. Hell, if it weren't for all the white middle to upper class people who use drugs, those street dealers would hardly make any money at all.

Furthermore, Katrina has shown that the projects were the safest housing in the city when the shit hit the fan. Look at those buildings and then compare them to the buildings in other parts of the city. The poor people who lived in the projects were certainly better off than a lot of those folks who died in their houses. Those project buildings are the sturdiest housing in the city. Hell, they could flood up to the second floor and they'd still be left standing when the waters receded. Can the same be said for wherever else these people are living now (including the massive homeless population living under the bridges of the city now)?

And let's not forget, these are communities we're talking about. These are people who look out for one another and destroying the projects means destroying the only support system that these people have.