Land Use
 

Gentrification flap rooted in an older debate over New Orleans ‘exceptionalism’

New Orleanians and tourists flock to the city's first post-Katrina second-line parade in January 2006.

Skooksie/flickr

Natives and tourists alike flock to the city's first post-Katrina second-line parade in January 2006.

The rapid demographic changes in some of New Orleans’ older neighborhoods  have sparked consternation among locals as well as professional observers of the city. The firestorm over Richard Campanella’s article on gentrification is only the most recent flashpoint. Is what’s happening in places like Bywater best thought of as a renaissance or mere gentrification? And is there a difference?

As always, word choice is the lifeblood of any good dustup in the public square, and there are certainly other ways to frame the current debate. One of them, dating at least to 1803 and thus as old as Louisiana itself, pits New Orleans “exceptionalism” against “Americanism” as a model for progress.

In the simplest terms, exceptionalists savor the distinctive features of New Orleans culture as an alternative to mainstream American lifestyles and ideology. Americanists, on the other hand, bemoan our distinctive cultural and political quirks as detrimental. They’re what’s “holding the city back;” they’re why we’ve “fallen behind” Houston, Atlanta, etc. The Americanists smell mystification and self-delusion in exceptionalist paeans to New Orleans’ “uniqueness.”

Exceptionalism’s modern trappings date to the 1880s, when writers George Washington Cable, Lafcadio Hearn, and Grace King began packaging accounts of New Orleans culture and social customs for consumption by the American mainstream. While Cable often promoted an Americanist view, bemoaning the city’s cultural inheritance as rife with racism, nepotism, xenophobia, corruption, and bad business decisions, Hearn constructed an identity for New Orleans that touted the city’s polyglot diversity while mourning that so unique a cultural island would inevitably be crushed by the steamroller of American capitalist “progress.”

Both of these writers, as well as King, draw liberally on decadent aesthetics in their portrayals of New Orleans’ physical beauty. That is, they acknowledge that crumbling, dilapidated buildings have always been a source of the city’s moody beauty and allure.

A question that concerned those writers continues to rankle both residents and non-resident aficionados of the city: to what degree is New Orleans defined by its physical identity, its built environment, and to what degree by the culture we share? Indeed, this is the question at the heart of the gentrification debate. If we keep the same buildings but replace the residents, has the city been successfully “preserved”?

The popular catchphrase after Katrina was this: “New Orleans isn’t the buildings, it’s the people.” I admit that at first I found the formula too reductive. The buildings matter. Yes, people built them, but our architecture has shaped the life of we the people in distinctive ways. To a degree, this put me in stride with the exceptionalists who had long viewed our shotguns-and-stately-homes cityscape as part of its charm — an attitude the Americanists once dismissed as sentimentality and an obstacle to “progress,” whether embodied in the riverfront expressway struggle of the 1960s (an eventual triumph for preservationists) or the post-Katrina fights over tearing down the mid-century housing projects and building the giant hospital complex now going up where a Third Ward neighborhood used to be.

But casting architectural preservation as a self-sufficient alternative to American-style economic development pivots on a woefully outdated duality. In our own era, the far more common phenomenon is architectural preservation in the service of economic development. Neither tourists nor newcomers (shopping nationwide for a place to reside) are interested in a New Orleans that can’t be recognized as such in an easy iPhone photo posted on a Facebook page.

So the more germane question for our times is whether distinctive cultural traditions can have the same durability as structures. Can certain cultural practices be learned by newcomers not raised with them, and then perpetuated and adapted in the manner of all living cultures? The answer is yes, though nagging questions of authenticity and survivability remain.

In his Bywater-focused essay, Campanella outlines a cycle of gentrification common to many American cities over the past 50 years. Using my own terms rather than his, it basically begins when starving artists and assorted desperados (gutter punks) are drawn by cheap rent and a sense of adventure to an economically depressed urban  neighborhood. In New Orleans that’s going to mean an area like the Ninth Ward or St. Roch that’s home to low-income groups, usually African-American, who succeeded the blue-collar ethnics who took to their heels when the schools were integrated in the 1960s. Ideally such a neighborhood is a stroll or bike ride from a more thriving area, where the newcomers can panhandle, busk or work for tips — i.e. the Marigny Triangle or the French Quarter.

These “pioneers” are followed by better-educated hipsters and yuppies (the “creative class” or “bourgeois bohemians” or “bobos,” as they’re sometimes called). These second-wave winners are folks responsive to cheap but rising real estate values and hungry for the cachet that comes with being at least in proximity to a cultural cutting edge.

The losers are obvious: the low-income households, usually rife with kids, that are forced out of the neighborhood by rising real estate values, if not cultural estrangement. Campanella goes on to identify further stages of gentrification, including, as in today’s French Quarter, the eventual elimination of the pre-gentrification population and its replacement by tourists and the soulless rich.

As already asserted, this cycle is not unique to New Orleans. So is it still shaped by the older New Orleans duality of Americanists vs. exceptionalists? Yes, indeed. But not without an interesting synthesis having occurred, one that champions social and cultural relics of the displaced population as well as the architecture in which the working poor were housed.

It’s the preservation of this cultural overlay that prompts urban boosters to declare Bywater-style gentrification a “renaissance,” a still meaningful alternative to mainstream Americanism. (That they are irked to be lumped in with garden-variety gentrifyers is apparent from the amazingly overwrought kicking and screaming in the comment section below Campanella’s wry and erudite essay.)

Exceptionalists have celebrated New Orleans as a place where leisure is more meaningful than labor, aesthetics trumps functionalism, and the very notion of social mobility (the American Dream?) is held in suspicion. Yet the “creative class” movers and shakers who are now buying up the real estate are all about their careers. They demand a level of convenience comparable to other American cities (with their constant worry about parking permits), and have the ambition of putting New Orleans “on the map” when it comes to competing nationally for the continuing infusion of people like themselves (“brain gain”). In that respect, they are indistinguishable from the most unrelenting Americanists.

But here’s the difference.

As Campanella perceptively notes, many of these newcomers are deeply engaged with what they perceive to be the most unique features of New Orleans social and cultural practice: Carnival, second-lining, the cuisine, music, and, of course, the architecture. He calls them “supernatives,” and the shoe fits. It also pinches when, along with enthusiasm for the working class culture, the hipsters flock to the overpriced restaurants and precious boutiques that have effectively driven out the indigenous economy of corner stores and lunch counters.

Indeed, the new “supernative” celebration of New Orleans’ distinctiveness smacks of tourist industry branding practices utilized for decades by the city’s Convention and Visitors Bureau and other civic boosters. A shining example is the Idea Village’s development of a “festival season” for vetting and financing new companies. Thus, are New Orleans’ public frivolity and American competitiveness at least superficially joined.

There’s nothing new about the most ardent exceptionalists being transplants. It was true of Hearn and in every generation since. As I pointed out in a 2006 Times-Picayune column, culturally sensitive transplants were responsible for key efforts in the ’60s and ’70s to preserve unique New Orleans cultural practices, of which Preservation Hall is a perfect example.

In a sense, we could view the smitten newcomers as a socially constant class, though one that replicates itself by means other than birth. The French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu has noted that the petit-bourgeois class “endlessly remakes the history of the origins of capitalism.” Similarly, waves of newcomers re-invent and nourish New Orleans exceptionalism.

Every couple of years, it seems, especially since Katrina, a new arrival pens a column on how special New Orleans is compared to other places. A typical example of the genre, entitled “A Fool’s Journey,” was penned by Brett Will Taylor for nolavie.com’s first anniversary last year. New enterprises like Nolavie and WGNO’s News with a Twist trade in exceptionalist superlatives faster than Café du Monde shovels beignets.

But newer transplants also overlap with previous generations of like mind, as blogger Christine Horn has made clear in a well-researched critique of Campanella’s analysis. Horn also points out the way institutional interests, from local government agencies to national urban design firms, collude in redefining exceptional (or “historic”) as salable, thus bringing an area once perceived as an alternative to the national economic rat race, right up to the starting gate of a classic American real estate boom.

Which brings us back to the central question of whether New Orleans can continue to be exceptional if the buildings are preserved but the people are largely replaced. If transplants buy into certain tenets of exceptionalist ideology — our regard for public performance and embrace or at least toleration of sensuality, for example — will they and their descendants be culturally recognizable New Orleanians? (How about if they start calling each other “darling”? Will that do it?)

The paradox is that the final triumph of exceptionalist rhetoric, in convincing the nation how special New Orleans is, also represents the greatest threat to preserving the city’s exceptional social character. This is where Americanist goals and the utopian daydreams of the exceptionalists must finally part ways. Because the Americanist vision of a thriving economy and high property values clogs the paradoxical wellspring of much of the city’s exceptional culture: the proposition that grace and elegance can arise from cheap materials and a legacy of trouble.

Implicit in decadent aesthetics was the reality that beautiful and crumbling mansions bespoke economic doldrums. The only reason the French Quarter didn’t get torn down in the 1920s was because developers weren’t interested. Economic desuetude was like amber. Could it be that a good chunk of the rest of the culture was also tied to a shortage of cash? A meal at Bywater’s Maurepas Foods is much more of an investment than a pound of crawfish and a forty taken right on the sidewalk, or on somebody else’s stoop.

The racial situation is even more alarming: my Marigny neighborhood is suddenly way whiter than it’s ever been in my lifetime. True, my new neighbors are not racist as many of the old white residents certainly were. But black neighbors are becoming exceedingly rare — a major shift AWAY from the city’s traditional and quite exceptional racial mixtape.

Finally, and perhaps most significantly, too many of my newer neighbors are keen to have their fabulous New Orleans experience without children. The Marigny of my youth was poorer, more run-down, and less self-consciously exceptionalist, but it was also far more diverse in terms of race, ethnicity, age, and sexual orientation — and we kids were everywhere.

With such a thin claim to social diversity, no amount of exceptionalist posturing can hide the fact that the old downtown riverfront neighborhoods are actually becoming more American, not more distinctive. The older, non-assimilated exceptionalists, who dreamed that a move to the creole districts would be an escape from the rat race, are waking up to discover that the rat race has come to them.

C.W. Cannon teaches English and New Orleans Studies at Loyola University. 

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  • http://twitter.com/Editilla Editilla the Pun

    Whoa, you really spanked the monkey, Mr. Cannon. Thanks.

    I’m still particularly gratified by your statement [A shining example is the Idea Village’s development of a “festival season”
    for vetting and financing new companies. Thus, are New Orleans’ public
    frivolity and American competitiveness at least superficially joined.] as that little piece of social entrepreneur market’bagging put a burr up my ass. I mean, come on… we have Hurricane/Flood Season and Saints Season. All this other stuff they feel a need to “season” is simply what we do.

    As for your question of Exceptionalism and visa versica, there is a certain… vernacular isolation that comes from living in such a clime. You know even old-timers –hell esp old timers– want to GTFO of town after 4th of July and not come back until The Devil is done with his yearly vacation to New Orleans around end of September. And of course then there’s the hurricanes. Let’s face it, these youngsters didn’t see shat with Isaac. I mean really, they still had their fickn cell phone towers. I was online with a generator! HA! Yet the “social nets” rolled with it like they’d beat up Poseidon in the water park. They don’t know what it means… New Orleans is intrinsically, ineluctably enjoined at the hip to water and heavy weather. Every time I’ve come and gone back’n’forth from New Orleans to America since 1979 I’ve had to re-acclimate to it. The ground upon which we feign to take a stand matters in this discussion of gentrification, because A: they ain’t making any more of it and B: it is disappearing beneath our feet.

  • joe light

    rather than the previous trickle of newcomers new orleans welcomed for centuries, the post-katrina deluge has upset the balance and destroyed the gumbo. i know people didn’t mean to do it, and not everything new is bad, it’s just this new recipe is overpoweringly something else, kind of like a tempeh poboy on sprouted wheat french bread….

  • http://www.facebook.com/alanjosephwilliams Alan Joseph Williams

    “The older, non-assimilated exceptionalists, who dreamed that a move to the creole districts would be an escape from the rat race, are waking up to discover that the rat race has come to them.”

    – This quote is great. It captures the current anxiety downriver really well.

    “Finally, and perhaps most significantly, too many of my newer neighbors are keen to have their fabulous New Orleans experience without children.”

    – I think this is most significant as well. It probably holds true across neighborhoods that have experienced contemporary gentrification. I’m afraid, truly, that it is a sad inevitability. Declining family sizes are a well-established demographic trend. It may also be that the housing stock self selects for it. But life without kids and old folks is boring and glib.

    I think both of these extremely salient points allude to, but fail to capture, a third and equally important: Generational turnover. The echo-boom generation is large, and the change is visible, everywhere. Not only that, but the difference between New Orleanian twentysomethings and American twentysomethings is narrower than ever, in a really good way. American culture has become more like New Orleans culture. New Orleans culture has become more like global culture. You can chalk it up to everything from de-segregation to the internet.

  • http://www.facebook.com/alan.maclachlan.5 Alan Maclachlan

    The exceptionalism of New Orleans isn’t static. It is constantly under construction and constantly under assault. The city which we know as New Orleans is a city shaped by repeated catastrophes and radical changes over hundreds of years. Wars, floods, epidemics, waves of new immigrants have all made radical impacts. But is it possible to identify some point in its history when New Orleans was the “real New Orleans” and some other point at which the changes became so radical that it ceased to be the “real New Orleans”? Of course not; instead, the changes layer over upon one another and contribute to an increasingly complex identity which remains New Orleans.

    Of course New Orleans today is different than it was fifty or one hundred years ago. Lafcadio Hearn probably could not have conceived that one day a Vietnamese component would be added to the mix but it has been, and is now incorporated into the New Orleans identity. On the other hand, sometimes cultural influences wane. I also live in the Marigny, in an 1880’s house which was for several generations the home of a French creole family. In his oral history on file at Tulane, the man from whom I bought the house recalled that in his childhood years of the early 20th century both French and Italian were widely spoken in the neighborhood. No one speaks French or Italian in The Marigny now unless they are tourists; is the Marigny therefore no longer authentically New Orleans? If so, when did it stop being authentic? Was it when English-speaking African-Americans moved in, generations before the White gentrifiers made their appearance? Of course not; The Marigny was then and is now authentically New Orleans, just as it was when a wave of Phillipino-American refugees from the 1915 hurricane made it their home for several generations, and just as it remained authentically New Orleans when the Philippino-American Friendship center on Pauger Street was converted to a private residence in the early 1980’s.

    Instead, I would argue that New Orleans’ exceptionalism consists not of who lives in a given neighborhood, but of how they live. A striver from Atlanta visiting New Orleans once said to me that in Atlanta the dominant ethos is to get as much as you can, while in New Orleans the dominant ethos is to get enough to allow you to enjoy life. And, I would add, that to be a New Orleanian means enjoying life in ways which involve the perpetuation of our traditional arts of music, cooking, public celebration, and living for the day. This ethos has in many ways been our downfall–it’s why we can never seem to “get ahead,” it’s why we will never be Atlanta–but it is what makes us New Orleans, even as the details change from decade to decade and generation to generation.

  • ervin

    Terrific article, especially its mention of how much of what attracts people to New Orleans was created (and preserved) by poverty and stasis. I remember how proud people were in the late 90’s/early 00’s that New Orleans was the one city in the US whose support of local coffee shops had actually forced a Starbucks to close; now I hear residents clamoring ceaselessly for a Trader Joe’s and thrilling to the news that an H&M is coming to downtown.

    Which is why I’d argue that this is a significant shift, and you can’t dismiss it with the ol’ “cities are in a constant state of flux and change and I MAY BE WHITE AND FAUX-BOHEMIAN BUT I’M NOT DESTROYING ANYTHING, PLEASE BELIEVE ME SO I CAN CONTINUE TO DELUDE MYSELF.” If New Orleans’ exceptionalism consists of how people live, you have to face that the “new New Orleanians” live differently. They may be escaping the rat race of a wealthier, more functional city, but they still want to found start-ups and join boards of non-profits and bulk up their resume and be social entrepreneurs and bring yuppie-focused national chains to our shopping districts and all that (objectively unobjectionable) stuff that — I’m sorry — is not very New Orleanian.

  • rasputin66

    What is wrong with newcomers joining non-profits and starting new businesses? Would you prefer that they move here and contribute nothing???

  • ervin

    Ignoring your false dichotomy for the moment, I said pretty clearly that that stuff is unobjectionable — but you gotta admit, it’s markedly different from the culture that’s been here for hundreds of years (or so I’m told; I can’t speak to what it was like before I got all sentient and whatnot). And if you believe that New Orleans exceptionalism stems from how we live (which is what I was responding to), then NOLA gets less exceptional the more we live like people in Portland and Brooklyn, which is absolutely, undeniably happening.

  • http://www.facebook.com/alan.maclachlan.5 Alan Maclachlan

    A partial list of people and things which over the centuries have been “not very New Orleanian.”

    Spaniards

    Americans

    Irish

    Germans

    Protestants

    Lafcadio Hearn

    Judah Touro

    Leon Godchaux

    Judah P. Benjamin

    Kate Chopin

    Louis Prima

  • http://www.facebook.com/alan.maclachlan.5 Alan Maclachlan

    If we lived just like people in Portland and Brooklyn then people in Portland and Brooklyn wouldn’t feel a desire to move here for New Orleans’ distinctive ambience, but, year after year, many do.

  • ervin

    OH BURN

  • ervin

    Right; the point is, the balance seems to be tipping — whether the cause is the size of the influx, or the internet, or whatever, I think there’s evidence that people coming here may be having more of an influence on the city than vice versa (like the indisputably recent and completely insane NIMBY-ism directed at, ferchrissakes, music of all things). Also, with the “super-natives,” there’s the risk of turning the culture into a caricature of itself, which tends to result in a sort of cultural ossification.

    Frankly, I’d welcome all sorts of changes if we could just get a decent school system and cops that aren’t just garbagemen with guns. Maybe that comes after the food trucks.

  • http://www.facebook.com/alan.maclachlan.5 Alan Maclachlan

    Cocoa butter may help 🙂

  • http://www.facebook.com/alan.maclachlan.5 Alan Maclachlan

    Well, things never remain the same, and I am simply suspicious of expressions of nostalgia. YMMV.

  • ervin

    Or responding to my substantive points with substance. But like you said, YMMV.

  • ervin

    It’s not nostalgia — it’s the irony of people who are drawn to a place because of something, then setting about destroying that something — intentionally or not. And if I believed that NOLA was actually getting something valuable in the bargain, like a competent police force, or better schools, or a diversified economy — that’s a fair trade. But right now (and it may be different in ten years, who knows), we’re just a more expensive murder capital, with more fancy restaurants.

  • http://www.facebook.com/alan.maclachlan.5 Alan Maclachlan

    My observation about post-Katrina newcomers to New Orleans is that they are a varied group. Some may be would-be venture capitalists in the 21st century mode while others are diving into carnival and the local music scene with abandon. But, I’ll offer two observations about this latest population of newcomers; 1) New Orleans is a city that has a long tradition of changing those who would change it instead; thus the long history of failed reforms and reformers. And 2) the city has gone through periods of great dynamism as well as great stagnation, and it is IMO an error to believe that it is only poverty and stasis and never dynamism which have been the generators of those things which make New Orleans what it is.

  • http://www.facebook.com/alanjosephwilliams Alan Joseph Williams

    What specifically do you think is being destroyed by the recent immigrants?

    Even if it just spinning our wheels, I find conversations about the changing city can be really interesting when they remain civil. I have a hard time remaining civil about it sometimes though, because its all very emotional. Even though I lived in New Orleans before the storm, and found my way to the city by accident, I fit the bill of those derided in many ways.

    The main reason I get emotional is out of anger and pain though. For anybody that was here during and after, the idea of the city being destroyed hits an incredibly raw nerve. It makes me think of the litany of open woulds left by public policy and elected leadership—the unnecessary demolition of neighborhoods (public and private), the unceremonious firing of some eight thousand family breadwinners from public schools, the 7+ years of reprehensible silence from elected officials regarding displaced New Orleanians. You don’t need to look any further for destruction.

  • http://www.facebook.com/alanjosephwilliams Alan Joseph Williams

    “New Orleans is a city that has a long tradition of changing those who would change it instead; thus the long history of failed reforms and reformers”

    – As Broussard said, “I came into office a Dragonslayer and I left a Dragon!”

  • crabioscar

    I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that the author spends a good deal more time dining at Maurepas than pounding forties on his neighbors’ stoops.

    I’ve been reading these gentrification articles with tremendous interest because I’m one of the perpetrators, and with huge annoyance because of how my face gets smeared into a twisted yuppie caricature. I can’t possibly imagine that it would be useful to argue about whether or not I fit the bill, but neither can I simply ignore how absurdly lazy the thinking in this conversation can get. I do not go to that second line every Sunday, but would it really be so bad if I did? Do I lose points because I like to eat at Sui Generis? Do I gain them because I’m on a first name basis at Frady’s? I don’t devour nonsense like nolavie.com, but can that Fool’s Journey really be that much more of a choking cliche than any of the truckloads of locally written novels that slither among and outlive the ghosts of the restless dead that have always clogged New Orleans?

    So here’s a question: what am I supposed to do differently? I’m a transplant from New Jersey, moved here six years ago, I’m white, and I’m (an aspiring) professional scientist. My wife and I are trying very hard to buy a house and to lay the foundations of a life here. The (lost?) charm of the city was certainly one of the reasons that we ended up here, but much more important is that we’ve both found opportunity in New Orleans (and surroundings).

    We’re also both very much aware of the process that we’re participating in. I would guess that almost all of the “Americanists” that are mentioned here are aware of the uncomfortable position that they’re in. This city happens to be a very nice place to live, and, contrary to long standing reputation, offers some real opportunity to the ambitious. But it’s also been through tremendous social upheaval, and for some locals our presence exacerbates that. But besides simply going home (would that help? I really doubt it.) what can I do differently? I would really love it if somebody could at least at least TRY to answer that question, and transform this discussion into something more than a platform for writers to shoo hipsters off their lawn.

  • http://www.facebook.com/alan.maclachlan.5 Alan Maclachlan

    Crabioscar, stand your ground. This is a port city, and virtually every soul living here is descended from someone who at one time was an “outsider.” You have as much right to be here as anyone else. Just as The Irish Channel and its inhabitants eventually came to embody New Orleans’ identity rather than threaten it, if you stay the same will become true for you. Cities which can’t accommodate change wither and die, so keep on upholding honorable traditions like stoop sittin’ and don’t worry about the naysayers. It’s your lawn just as much as it is theirs.

  • nolanative504

    I am going to write what many native New Orleanians (and those calling New Orleans home for the last 20 or 30 years) have discussed with me only in whispers. Well, I am going to put it out there for all to read…It’s time to set the record straight…We were excited at first to see new people coming to live in New Orleans and make it their home. But, our excitement has slowly turned into dismay. We miss our Pre-Katrina city. The arrogance of these newbies thinking New Orleans is theirs for the taking makes us ill. And, the Bywater…many of us don’t even go to the Bywater anymore…makes us depressed b/c it almost no longer seems like New Orleans. Who built this city back after Katrina? New Orleanians built it back! Not the 25 or 30 year old who just moved into the Bywater 3 years ago from Chicago and lives off his Mom and Dad’s trust fund. We don’t need the newbies to “save New Orleans” as they feel the need to profess…we already saved ourselves in those early years after Katrina! And, wait did I forget to mention Hurricanes Camille and Betsy?! They need to show some respect to the people who have been calling New Orleans home for generations…instead of pushing them out of the way and knocking them to the ground as they clammer to find the latest food truck locale they found on Twitter…I am still proud to call New Orleans home, but sometimes it’s not easy feeling like a “foreigner” in your own home town…Lastly, for the “newbies” reading this that want to harp on native New Orleanians for being nostalgic…all the more reason you won’t ever truly understand what being a New Orleanian is all about…nostalgia is the heartbeat and life force of every native New Orleanian. And, your misunderstanding of our rootedness in nostalgia is exactly why you are suspect!!

  • http://www.facebook.com/alan.maclachlan.5 Alan Maclachlan

    So, nolanative504, when did those who arrived thirty years ago (of whom I am one) undergo the transformation from outsiders to true New Orleanians? Is it through shared suffering and payment of dues–there is some legitimacy in that. And, you are absolutely correct that cultural assimilation and accommodation is frequently a difficult process, as the Italian newcomers lynched by only slightly less recently established Irishmen for the purported murder of the police chief learned a century ago. As to your comments about not recognizing your city, it isn’t a new complaint; http://www.knowla.org/entry.php?rec=567

  • crabioscar

    Well thank you Alan M. I will stand (sit) my ground on my lawn (stoop).

  • rasputin66

    You don’t think anybody ran charities or started new businesses in the previous couple hundred years…??? OK…

  • LakeshoreBob

    Crabioscar, If you like New Orleans, and choose to live here I welcome you with open arms especially if you contribute by having a job, paying rent, etc. My family has been in New Orleans for 7 generations. Most of the people that you get attitude from are the folks that didn’t grow up in New Orleans. They’re hating on you because they were here first, as if there is a specific point for when someone becomes a native New Orleanian. My rule is anyone choosing to live here that makes it through July to September I consider a local. New Orleans has good and bad things about it. If the good out weighs the bad for you, then you’re welcome here. As people are pointing out, New Orleans has always had newcomers. The true New Orleans folks welcome you, that’s just what we do. And I could care less if you go or don’t go to the second line or anything else for that matter. Do whatever you enjoy.

  • “newbie”

    Hate to tell ya nolanative504 but cultural assimilation is human. Plain and simple. It’s how we survive, it’s how we thrive.

  • Nikkilynn

    The other two cities referenced in this article, Atlanta and Houston, are also predominantly African American. The author would do well to point this out. The Exceptionalists I know are black and want the city to sustain its black cultural heritage.

    I’m an Americanist because I’m black and from New York. And I would dance a little jig if the black folks in New Orleans had as much economic capital as those in Atlanta.

    The combination of race and money has the power to turn “gentrification” into a nice word. Middle-class whites with money have relocated to a working-class black city, and both groups eye each other with wary suspicion. But New Orleans was a poor black city long before Katrina, and for good or bad, the character of the city is tied to its poverty. Raising the economic profile of the city may rob it of its character, but I, for one, hope that New Orleans be able to support a vibrant, politically energized black middle class than to crumble under another decade of grinding poverty.

  • disqus_iTrPHEoPyB

    Just as long as people don’t start putting “Keep NO Exceptional” stickers on their bumpers.

  • Anthony F

    What if I’ve reached the point where I think that the only way we can keep New Orleans exceptional is by embracing the “Americanist” progress that leads to economic development that allows New Orleanians to remain in New Orleans. This sort of poor mouthing as if the only thing we ever was was dirt poor and strange and that the notion that that is the only “authentic” New Orleans culture is offensive to me and not all that helpful for keeping the city with the resources to save itself long term.

    I’d rather 200,000 new folks coming for serious economic opportunity than 20,000 culture vultures who are only here for their good time, or cause of some “coolness” factor, who have decided to embrace a kind of snobby NIMBYism that opposes any new building or business that doesn’t serve their exact needs and so impignes on that “coolness”. Most natives, I know are just happy to have a new business and a place to get new job and not have to commute for the basics of running a household. We actually preserve the people in New Orleans by getting them opportunity and THAT is way more important to the long term survival of the city than saving any of the buildings.

  • rcdjones

    I wish I could indicate a DOUBLE “up arrow” for your post. So much more I could say, but no need. You’ve captured it perfectly. Thank you.

  • rcdjones

    You’ve summed up nicely the reason why, although I was born elsewhere and lived in numerous places before I ever set foot in New Orleans in the mid 90s, I call New Orleans “the ‘home’ of my heart.” Thank you.

  • rcdjones

    Wow, never thought about it in those terms, but, ‘right on!’…kind of. I still the welcome the “newcomers”–if I may be extended the right to call them thus–but I think the characterization of all of them being trust-fund babies is a little harsh. I’m certainly no trust-fund baby, but I’m still a transplant dating from the mid-90s. I’ve learned quite a bit from my “my-family’s-been-here-7-generations” neighbors who’ve been kind enough to embrace me and share their “TRUE” native perspective with me. (How else would I know that people of a certain generation refer to a sidewalk as a “banquette”? My elderly neighbor, now deceased, was the one who imparted that sliver of linguistic New Orleans culture to me. Is it particularly relevant in 21st century New Orleans? Not really: I’ve never met ANY other native-born New Orleanian who calls a sidewalk a “banquette.”) My point? Simple: I’m not hating on the post-K newcomers, but I would admonish them to accept and absorb as much as they possibly can from those of us who have “been here” all along–even if “all along” doesn’t necessarily mean ‘born and reared here from birth’–with the emphasis on “accept.”

  • rcdjones

    “…garbagemean with guns…” Whooooooooo-WEE! Wow, that’s priceless

  • rcdjones

    Yes, indeed!! (uttered as a true New Orleanian would say it)

  • http://www.facebook.com/jane.talton Jane Rawls Talton

    “Annoyance because of how my face gets smeared into a twisted yuppie caricature”..so well put.

  • Scott Eustis

    the word “gentrification” is a trap. stop using this word, because it only confuses the issues.

    everyone wants the neighborhood to look nice, to be a beautiful place.

    what most of us are against is displacement. Displacement of locals, people of color, poor, and homeless people.

    This is done through local policies, and agreements between government and landowners and developers. the decisions are made by people with a lot of power, not renters. Crabioscar is not a “gentrifier.”

    When NOPD did a sweep of the working homeless people living on Dauphine, and put them in the paddywagon in the name of a fight against “blight”, that was the bad policy–to criminalize the poor.

    When Pres Kabacoff says that New Orleans should remove the population that is a “drag” on the economy, that is the bad policy–to criminalize black and poor people that don’t live up to Pres’ standards.

    It is true that people can re-make the neighborhood with nice homes while not displacing people, but it is a rarity because we spend most of our words discussing cultural, rather than political, differences, avoiding the politics of the situation, and not seeking political solutions.

    The whole discussion around “gentrification” assumes that we can’t make the neighborhood nicer, and improve buildings, economies, and services while keeping our brothers and sisters living here. that is false, and it plays into the hands of people who would like to make a lot of money off the neighborhood, and don’t care if it dies.

    In New Orleans, and in Louisiana, we keep giving the neighborhood up on the cheap to outside developers and corporations, rather than being patient, and developing our own businesses and associations, and developing the neighborhood from within. Witness the latest–community development block grants to Whole foods to move onto Broad St.

    If you want to learn about the displacement issue when it hit the Irish channel in the early eighties, i recommend the “Changing the Channel” documentary by Alvarez and Kolker.

    http://www.cnam.com/flash/filmog.html

    http://www.worldcat.org/title/changing-the-channel-the-renovation-question/oclc/20440337

  • Will Germain

    I’m getting rather tired of the term “gentrification” being used as a perjorative. It’s racist. I’ve spent 10 years in my hood planting trees, pulling weeds and picking up trash. When I first moved to the Treme, there were nightly gunshots, prostitutes roaming the streets by day

  • Will Germain

    and syringes scattered on the ground. If gentrification is bad then I think you have a messed up world view.

  • gorgonzola

    Speaking as a newcomer (who’s renting), I’d say that the people who are interested in the Marigny and Bywater are also interested more than property costs, they’re interested in the music, theatre, and art that makes it interesting. They want the city experience, not the suburbs.

    The real issue, as someone else pointed out, is not new people moving in, but the displacement of existing residents. New Orleans needs to make sure that the rising economic class includes lifting it’s own, not just waiting for an influx of outsiders. That means fixing the educational system, and ensuring that the entrepreneurs look to the city for talent, not just import it from elsewhere.

  • jay

    I think it’s great that you’re here. But remember that most of us who have been here for a while (17 years for me) started out working in restaurants and businesses that were staffed by a broad swath of New Orleans diversity.

    There was no industry, no internet, no cell phones (hardly any landlines!), very few air conditioners and most of us didn’t really mind much of that. We had to work wherever we could, no matter what our resume said.
    (white/male/college graduate/lower middle class for me, which is practically a golden ticket compared to most)

    This is how we survived. It was messy sometimes.
    And it also gave us access to the true freedom of living here.

    Time.

    I’ve worked at several restaurants and job sites with Mardi Gras Indians, Second Liners, Rappers, horn players, you name it. Their invitations to come out and share a good time with their families were what rooted me here. I lived next to a nursing home uptown where a father to many famous musicians lived (before they were famous). He used to come over and smoke my weed and we’d hang out, and he’d introduce me around. He took me to my first Second Line and made me a “rope man”! Years later we also went to my first Indian Chief funeral for a man we both called a friend.

    I learned that the pace of life in New Orleans was something that was malleable. I learned that interactions were of value not only for their enjoyment (a good meal, a second line), but also for their complexity (like my two neighbors who are both racists of opposite color and who also happen to be best friends).

    If this is not what you desire from their time here – diving into the cultural “river” that rushes all around you – then I can imagine it would be hard to find your footing. I’m not saying that’s what you’re doing specifically, but I’ve seen so many new people arrive with ambition and desire and passion and love for this city who can’t seem to hang out with anyone who doesn’t look like them. They work at their computers, often for clients a thousand miles away, and go to events populated by people who are living mostly familiar lives. It’s painfully reminiscent of what’s become of Portland or Austin. (Not trying to disparage either)

    Anyone can be on a first name basis with their corner store. Hell, I have to talk about kids with the girl at the bank window for 10 minutes before she even asks me why I’m there. You could do that in New York. What I’m talking about is a little more work.

    Most people want to do what feels comfortable. But this town thrives on, even revels in, contradictions; that’s what makes it uniquely other-than-american and why it’s such an amazing place to be.

    It has stories.

    For me, only one thing made life after Katrina bearable. People. Crazy fucking people and their stories.

    I would suggest to anyone who has recently moved here to go out and make friends with all kinds of people, get stories. Avoid the familiar. Maurepas will get by without you for a while. Leave your phone at home and walk around a lot. Sit on top of the rock pile by the train tracks for a few hours. Talk to everyone. Challenge your idea of what it means to have a friend that doesn’t think like you, act like you, desire what you desire, and then move into a shotgun house with those people.
    Don’t tell anyone what to do. Ever. (see photo)
    Don’t become too attached to your agenda, let things unfold. Don’t demand that the coffee shop be open when you want coffee.
    Do ride the bus more, go to the food stamp office and bring donuts, learn piano tuning from a crazy old man, buy a bunch of food and have a block party.

    Make some stories.

    How’s that? I at least TRIED 😉

    In the words of one of my very favorite people:
    “Welcome to New Orleans!. Come on in, make yourself uncomfortable.”

  • http://www.facebook.com/jane.talton Jane Rawls Talton

    It’s important to cherish one’s inherited culture, for sure. I’m not from here originally, like a lot of other people. One can not undue their birth, after all. But– can you really hold it against a person for falling in love with New Orleans? Hell, I fell in love with the city and a man who’s a direct descendant of Bienville’s frikkin blacksmith. I just smile now when my father-in-law teases me about being “a yankee” (I’m from Virginia) or my mother-in-law shakes her head at my pitiful ignorance of Moon Landrieu’s time in office, say, or my having never been to a K&B. There are just some things you’re not going to immediately get if you didn’t grow up in a place. Yeah, sure there are annoying people from elsewhere who move to New Orleans and are arrogant and vegan and obsessed with finding real estate deals and whatever else but they were probably awful before they even got here. And they probably won’t stay. As I’ve come to learn, and as my husband knows in his bones, the city– She’ll kick people out if they aren’t humble and are trying to change her in ways she doesn’t want to be changed.

  • Guest

    As another who could be described as one of Campanella’s “phase 3” gentrification perpetrators, I too fret sometimes at the changes we have witnessed since we arrived in 2002, and the rapid changes since Katrina. I had to snicker at

  • realmike

    As one who might be described by Campanella as a “phase 3” gentrification perpetrator, I too am dismayed at some of the changes I’ve seen in the past 12 years since I moved here. LakeshoreBob’s comment smarted: maybe I too am guilty of “hating on” “newcomers” simply because I was here “first” (barely pre-K for us).

    I think this is all great stuff, but what really thrills me is that folks are actually discussing this – thinking back to 2006, it was hard to imagine then that our recovery would progress so far that we now get to argue about such heady topics. We have clearly solved (or at least made progress on) many important problems to arrive at this point.

    The only thing I truly know is that this town has more soul than anywhere else I have ever lived, and the people are amazing. We are simply witnessing the observer effect applied to a social situation. Will we change New Orleans? Yes. Sometimes for the worse? Of course, that’s life. Will I still love the quarter more in August when there are fewer tourists? No doubt!

    Don’t worry, though, this town will have much more effect on us than we will on it, and I am certain it will still be an amazing place to live.

  • http://twitter.com/AhContraire AhContraire

    Scott Eustis said, “working homeless people” on Dauphine.
    Ok, what did these working homeless people do for real “work”?

    Scott Eustis said, “In New Orleans, and in Louisiana, we keep giving the neighborhood up on the cheap to outside developers and corporations, rather than being patient, and developing our own businesses and associations, and developing the neighborhood from within. Witness the latest–community development block grants to Whole foods to move onto Broad St. “

    Scott Eustis said, “on the cheap”?
    Like how did the neighborhood get to be so cheap in the first place?

    Scott Eustis said, “rather than being patient”?
    Like the last 50 years of decline are good and waiting 50 years is not really patient enough?

    Scott Eustis said “what most of us are against is displacement. Displacement of locals, people of color, poor, and homeless people.”

    If the white people of Jefferson Parish knew what was happening in the Bywater and Marigny, they would say that’s good as they were also “displaced” by the “people of color, poor and homeless people” via White Flight decades ago when the 1st Moon was elected.

    As one time, the Bywater and Marigny and 9th Ward were “HARD WORKING PEOPLE” not lazy, EBT, poor, homeless, etc….

    Places like Frady’s need to “LISTEN TO THEIR CUSTOMERS and POTENTIAL CUSTOMERS” as opposed to protecting “The Big Easy” or “The Big EBT” culture.

    America is 16 Trillion in Debt and New Orleans is not called “The Big Easy” because they work hard. It’s because of their lazy, one excuse after another, culture.

    If the “exceptionalism” and the culture of “not-living-the-rat-race” was so great, where are the 130,000 who left after Hurricane Katrina?

  • nickelndime

    Please do not use the word, “vet,” as in “vetting.” It is extremely telling. The “State” uses that word, and it is disgusting. Thank you very much.

  • http://twitter.com/AhContraire AhContraire

    New Orleans “Exceptionalism” is really New Orleans “Big Easyism”

    All this, “we don’t want to displace, the poor, homeless, blacks or locals” is really,

    just displacing, the poor poor, the poor homeless, the poor blacks and the poor locals.

    And how did they become poor, poor, poor and more poor?

    It’s because of this “We don’t want to displace”, “here’s a carrot”, “avoid-the-rat-race”, “welfare”, “Section 8”, “EBT”, “we-will-take-care-of-you-because-your-too-stupid-to-think-for-yourself” attitude.

    If you don’t want to displace the poor and blacks, then you should be against, “mixed income”, school integration, force busing, racial quotas, etc..

    How ironic, liberals out liberalizing each other. Displacement of the clearly Orleans Parish concentrated poverty is bad, but integration, mixed income, force busing is OK?

    When it comes to helping the poor blacks, liberals (In the big picture of things), I can’t think of a single thing they did to help blacks..

    That is:

    so far two lost generations of black men,

    more black men in prison than college,

    pants on the ground and hoodies all year round and even during the summer dress code,

    no role models they trust and speak to on daily, weekly, or monthly basis,

    black boys don’t know who their daddy is,

    welfare queens,

    even educated with college degree black women who are even OK with their BF and husbands who cheat.

  • http://www.facebook.com/alan.maclachlan.5 Alan Maclachlan

    Ahhh, contraire, sing a song of sorrow for the poor oppressed white people of Jefferson Parish, forced to flee their ancestral homelands by hoardes of dusky Mongols whose mere presence triggered a nearly-molecularly based panic among them. Of course they could have stayed where they were–no one forced them to move–but that would have required acceptance of neighbors whose simple hue caused such a hue and cry to be raised in the streets in front of Frantz elementary in a moment memorialized by none other than Norman Rockwell and caught on film by the television cameras of the day. It wasn’t a pretty sight–and where did all those white moms in hair curlers learn those dirty words?–but fortunately there was a White (sort of) Knight in the form of Harry Lee to create a safe bastion in the heretofore buggy swamplands to the West. Yes, sing a song of sorrow for the poor oppressed White People of Jefferson Parish, hoisted to passion on a cross of their own making, all because they never could quite wrap themselves around the biblical injunction to “love thy neighbor as thyself.”

  • http://twitter.com/AhContraire AhContraire

    > “escape from the rat race”??? “Laid back”?

    If one wanted to escape the “rat race”, why all the need for school reform if one doesn’t think there is the need to “run the race” of rats?

    Heck, why the need for schools, education, better health care, etc if one is trying to escape the “rat race”?

    Are all the gentrifiers saying, “don’t work to hard” to the poor blacks who are already on EBT, Food Stamps, and Section 8 anyway?

    TRUST FUND BABIES
    The last thing the poor blacks need are “trust fund babies” saying to the poor blacks, “don’t work to hard, you are not missing anything” as the “trust fund babies” don’t know what it’s like to be “poor”.

  • http://twitter.com/AhContraire AhContraire

    Cherish Culture?

    Ok, what culture should the young black man (who doesn’t know who his daddy) cherish?

    New Orleans is the one who needs LOTS of HUMILITY as they still think there is no problem with crime and if a murder happens 6 blocks down the street instead of 1 block down the street, it’s not their neighborhood, and not their problem.

  • Richard Bienvenu

    Seems like gentrification is just the natural order of things. Plain and simple.

  • crabioscar

    “The whole discussion around “gentrification” assumes that we can’t make the neighborhood nicer, and improve buildings, economies, and services while keeping our brothers and sisters living here. that is false, and it plays into the hands of people who would like to make a lot of money off the neighborhood, and don’t care if it dies.”

    A-MEN. Best way I’ve seen that put.

  • http://twitter.com/AhContraire AhContraire

    Another thing.

    In order to have WHITE FLIGHT, there had to be WHITES in the 1st place to fly away from the Marigny, Bywater, 9th Ward, etc. So, is this really gentrification?

    Or is it really WHITE “RETURN” FLIGHT, as opposed to Gentrification?

    By the way, St. Bernard grew because of White Flight of the 9th ward.

    “Local naacp attorneys later recalled that few black New Orleanians dared to risk their families’ well-being and livelihoods in such a public way.?
    http://www.journalofamericanhistory.org/projects/katrina/Landphair.html

    In 2013, is there such a thing as a Black FAMILY? Or does one call a black mother with children from multiple husbands and boyfriends, a family? And do black men even know what a “livelihood” is?

    By the way, back in th 1950’s both blacks and whites never had to lock their doors as they didn’t worry about crime.

    Racism, sitting at the back of the bus is one thing, but are two lost generations of black men, children who don’t know who their father is, black teenagers with their pants on the ground and hoodies 365/24/7 days a year even in the hot summer, and predicted not to grow black population worth the current liberal and democratic policies?

    In the direction the Black Population is going, pretty soon, there are not going to be any Blacks existing anywhere to even board a bus as any Black person will fear seeing (or crossing a path) with another Black person.

  • http://twitter.com/AhContraire AhContraire

    Alan Maclachlan wrote “love thy neighbor as thyself”.

    Does not the Bible in Hebrews 12:7 say:
    “Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children.

    For what children are not disciplined by their father?”

    Clearly, the Whites are far more along in every respect than the Blacks of that day, and even today. Hence, the Whites should act like the mentor, “father” to the Blacks.

    Note, there is a difference between a SLAVE MASTER and a FATHER, yet both still reward the right way and punishes the wrong way of living and working.

    Should the current policies of Section 8, quotas, EBT, children born out of wedlock, and no God in schools, be rewarded? If so, then expect the same results of more generations of lost black men, black men who don’t know their father is, pants on the ground, hoodies all day long, more black men in prison than college, and a population not expected to grown, but remain stagnant at best.

  • http://www.facebook.com/alan.maclachlan.5 Alan Maclachlan

    Holy Cow.

  • Coldbeulah

    I don’t know if this fits you or not, but the one most salient characteristic I have noticed in post-K arrivals is that they do not greet people (strangers) they encounter on the street as a matter of course. I, too, am a transplant — although that happy occasion occurred some 18 years ago — and the first thing I noticed was that everyone who passed me on the street looked me in the eye and greeted me politely. Sometimes this consisted of a quick “All right?” — but it was omnipresent. I continue to greet everyone who passes, but I can tell their newcomers by their lack of response. This one action would make a huge difference, not only to your assimilation as a New Orleanian, but to the city’s embrace of you (the generic “you”) — and to the preservation of its charm.

  • Coldbeulah

    This is wonderful.

  • Coldbeulah

    Very well articulated, and seems to be underscoring the point alluded to by a previous commenter: we all come to New Orleans by different means and at different times — but the hope is that the very peculiar and sometimes indefinable essence of “New Orleans” changes each fortunate transplant for the better, and the best qualities of the newcomers contribute to the status quo. Just as immigrants from the world’s nations become something definable as “American,” we each, in our own way, hope to become something recognizable as “New Orleanian.” The tips offered so far are really useful: turn off your phones sometimes as you walk around; don’t leave every summer; get to know as many people as possible who don’t look or sound like you. Nobody cares where or what you eat, but they’ll sure want you to talk about it if it was good.

  • http://www.facebook.com/alan.maclachlan.5 Alan Maclachlan

    Coldbeulah, you make a very important point. Though seemingly minor, this is one of the characteristics which distinguishes New Orleans from most other American cities, and it is a primary contributor to the friendly feel of the place. Traditionally in New Orleans, if a stranger refuses to make eye contact and say hello it raises suspicions about that person’s intent. Elsewhere in the U.S., it is the stranger who DOES make eye contact and say hello who is assumed to be up to no good. I have heard an anthropologist claim that this is a difference between Latin and Anglo cultural norms; but whatever it is, if all y’all who moved here would just start saying “hello” or even “awright!” when you meet someone on the street, we’ll all feel better about you 🙂

  • http://www.facebook.com/alan.maclachlan.5 Alan Maclachlan

    Sunday afternoon at French Quarter Fest I saw film put together by an organization called TimecodeNola. The film is called “Where Y’at (Hello!)” and consists of fifteen short films made by fifteen different directors, each depicting some aspect of life at a different New Orleans intersection. The whole thing is linked together by a framing device of two guys talking to each other on a bench in Washington Square Park as a disinterested young woman halfway pays attention to and halfway ignores their hilarious conversation.
    Of the fifteen film directors, twelve arrived in New Orleans post-Katrina; but….they all seem to “get it” about New Orleans. The films vary wildly in content and style, some funny, some serious, but there isn’t a dud in the bunch and the entire ensemble is engrossing. I understand that the full film (which runs about 75 minutes) will be available soon on DVD. I suggest that when it becomes available, anyone who has been a participant in this conversation get hold of a copy and view it, both for its own enjoyable sake but also as a case study of the way(s) in which newcomers can understand the city while contributing to and widening its cultural definitions.

  • http://twitter.com/AhContraire AhContraire

    Alan Maclachlan wrote, “love thy neighbor as thyself”

    Does not the Bible in Hebrews 12:6 say

    “because the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son”?

    This is what “bleeding hearts” and “liberals” somehow forget. Many are pick and choose Christians and are very much like the Pharisees who interpreted one of the 10 commandments, “Keep the Sabbath Day Holy” and took it to the extremes.

    The poor and homeless you see on the streets are almost all addicts and panhandlers of their own doing and repeated selfish decision making.

    The Blacks, especially in New Orleans, are at the bottom and hence the minority and disadvantage status by the government. The Whites, whether you like it or not, at least have “role models” with in their own immediate family. The Blacks don’t even know who their daddy is.

  • jtreynol

    Preach!

  • Disgusted

    Can you please tell us what neighborhoods white people are allowed to live in? Because that’s waht I get out of whiny rants about gentrification anymore.

  • Disgusted

    Un objectionable? I see a lot of comments here complaining about people with start up businesses being “un-New Orleanian”. And just so’s you all know I’m ALLOWED to have an opinion on the pristine-city-where-outsiders-aren’t-welcome, I am a Cajun local.

  • Disgusted

    “It’s not nostalgia — it’s the irony of people who are drawn to a place
    because of something, then setting about destroying that something —
    intentionally or not.”

    We don’t like no outsiders heah! AMIRITE?!

  • GooeyGomer

    Oh man, that is one of my FAVORITE things about New Orleans! People acknowledge you and I love it. I don’t live there, but I travel there often and have a few friends there who are natives of the city. While I’m sure this will draw criticism, I can say that I’ve noticed a difference racially between who will and will not greet me as I pass them on the street. If I pass a black person on the street or coming in/out of a store, 100% of the time they will speak to me (I’m a middle-aged, white female, btw). However, if I pass a white person, it’s maybe 50/50. Usually those who are younger with the typical hipster appearance won’t even look in my direction, much less speak.

    I’m not sure it’s tied to Latin cultural norms though. I was raised in San Antonio, a predominantly Hispanic community and I lived in Spain a few years, and can say that acknowledgement of or saying hello to someone you pass is not common practice. However, I’ve always had many black friends and always noticed that they too would greet another black person (as in strangers) as they passed them on the street, but not white people, and most black people would not usually speak to me unless I spoke to them first. But in New Orleans, black people just seemed to greet everyone. So I think this tradition is something rooted in black culture that throughout the generations, given the majority of the population of New Orleans has been black, was picked up by whites too and became a cultural norm distinctive of the city.

    Of course, I could be completely wrong, but from wherever that lovely tradition stems, it’s wonderful.

  • GooeyGomer

    Wow…really? That is what you think of when you think of black culture? THAT?

    What you reference is not indicative of black culture, but is indicative of a culture of poverty and oppression. I was raised in and was a police officer in San Antonio which has about the same percentage of Hispanics as New Orleans has blacks. While New Orleans might have a higher rate of murder per capita, San Antonio has a higher rate of forcible rape, armed robbery, theft and burglary and in fact, not only beat New Orleans, but dominated on a national level. This is all tied to poverty which historically is tied to the oppression of minorities, so let’s not get it twisted and confuse ethnic or racial culture with tragedies brought on by capitalist greed and priviledge.

  • GooeyGomer

    Ha! That’s perfect! I live in Austin and the influx of hipsters and their ‘foodie’ culture is annoying. Their attempts at chicken fajita tacos with pineapple on whole wheat tortillas, and mango-infused tequila, not to mention the 16 bucks they’ll charge for a shot of mezcal, is infuriating to say the least. When will people learn that sometimes, some things, are perfect just the way they are and don’t need to be “improved”?

  • GooeyGomer

    Because that’s what hipsters do – food. As someone who lives in Austin, trust me, once Whole Foods, ‘fusion’ restaurants and food trucks/ trailers start rolling in, it’s over. Next thing you know, there’s going to be a pilates/yoga studio on every block, you’ll have WIFI literally everywhere and you’ll have to start taking your own bags to the grocery store because plastic bags have been banned.

  • http://twitter.com/AhContraire AhContraire

    First off, San Antonio Metro as a population of 2.2M whereas New Orleans Metro has a population of 1.1M…

    Second of all, Orleans Parish numbers are very suspect and the NOPD is under a consent decree….The only reason Murder is much higher is because it’s a lot harder to hide a dead body.

    San Antonio has a higher REPORTED, forcible rape, armed robbery, theft and burglary than New Orleans.

    Notice the word, “REPORTED”.

    The NOPD is under a consent decree and the Orleans Parish Jail is also under a consent decree as it’s really a HOTEL for criminals and they can even bring their own gun with them.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E_rRZ9ejTqU

    and

    http://econ.st/YOsGMV

    There is no way San Antonio is worse than New Orleans in terms of crime.

  • http://www.facebook.com/Alycat4art Aly Cat

    Yeah that’s what I’ve noticed too… it’s like an air of ownership that isn’t earned or something. A lot of them don’t say hello and then walk around my neighborhood and go to our haunts and give off the vibe like I’m the one that doesn’t know what’s up. HAHAHA! Anyway, whatever… not the end of the world. I moved here 11 years ago to get away from these people.

  • http://twitter.com/AhContraire AhContraire

    FYI
    Population:

    New Orleans Metro 1.1M
    Baton Rouge Metro 0.8M
    Total Louisiana Metros: 1.9M

    San Antonio Metro 2.2M

    San Antonio is 14% larger then BOTH New Orleans and Baton Rouge COMBINED.

  • http://twitter.com/AhContraire AhContraire

    Head of New Orleans Criminal District Court’s community service office arrested in bribery scheme
    http://bit.ly/16zBWpV

    “Griffin allegedly told the man his girlfriend worked in the court’s community service office, and she “could make all his problems go away.”

    Note, this is the HEAD of Community Service Office.

    Now, just imagine what the those in charge of Crime Reports and even the NOPD rank and file can do with regards to crime statistics.

  • phil hubb

    “Which brings us back to the central question of whether New Orleans can
    continue to be exceptional if the buildings are preserved but the people
    are largely replaced.”

    Come to the Sixth Ward. The buildings are falling down. The vegetation is literally pulling the houses down. No one intercedes. If anyone tries to save the house, they’re accused of trespassing.

  • Coldbeulah

    We had a thriving, educated black middle class, many of whom lived in the suburban estates of New Orleans East. When they were completely flooded out (and left in limbo), they had to keep their heads above water (not an intentional pun, but an apt one) by getting jobs out of state and renting homes in areas where their children could attend school — while still paying mortgages on submerged homes and trying to commute back to meet with insurance adjusters, Road Home reps, contractors and minor bureaucrats. These are the unsung missing heroes of the Katrina debacle. All the photogs and scribes went to the Lower 9, a tragedy of its own, but where are the stories of the black middle class? Many have not returned, and there is a hole in our fabric because of it.

  • Coldbeulah

    Perhaps because Portland and Brooklyn are no longer affordable?

  • Coldbeulah

    That’s something I’ve observed as well, and we’re not the only city complaining of it. The influx of reasonably recent graduates (and this can extend into one’s 30s) has hit everywhere – conspicuously of one demographic and large in number. Last century people were complaining about the influx of “longhairs” and “dirty hippies.” We think it’s only happening here, but any city worth living in is getting its share.

  • Robyn Ryan

    Amen. Much of the author’s criticisms, which are valid, have also been voiced for decades. Jane Jacobs, anyone? Europe, Asia, South America don’t seem to have the lust for new house smell we do, and are content to adapt, rather than destroy. Perhaps ‘Americanism’ is a corporate lust to erase the past.

    Anyone else interested in receiving a few dollars return on our taxes rather than hand them to developers for ‘iconic sculptures?’ Make the City Council work for us, not ‘investors.’

  • Robyn Ryan

    Vulture capitalism has found rich meat in New Orleans.

  • Robbie Vitrano

    I appreciate the strong and provocative points (not always the same thing). But I wonder if there will ever be some acceptance for a full contemporary expression of New Orleans. Definitions of New Orleans culture generally tip to the past. And shouldn’t any conversation about the “good old days” include the question “for whom?” Of course the hard part would be figuring out who’s qualified to answer the question.

  • Nola BEE

    I am born and raised in Nola. My 5th great grandpa was King Louis Philippe aka Citizen Smith,
    he had kids for my 5th great grandma of haitian descent. My family has
    been in New Orleans since the beginning. I am Creole, mom is from 7th
    ward, dad is from Uptown. The city is changing. People are coming from
    all over and are forcing us to adapt to their way of life, and pushing
    our cultures and traditions aside. It was a treat to wait all year for
    second line season, we had a season for everything, something to look
    forward to. Now it has no more meaning. No substance, it’s now wedding
    second-lines, not known for funerals for funerals. Super Sunday is now
    every Sunday. People don’t say hello on street. People come to the city
    and buy property, and charge NYC prices when we are the lowest paid in
    the country. If you have a trade and work for a company ran by people
    from another state, they think we are dumb, slow and ignorant, like we
    don’t know our rights, so they cut our pay and hours to save themselves
    money or prevent us from making what we are worth, no matter how good of
    a worker you are. People that move here come here for the love of the
    city and now are turning it into their city, then what? They start to
    hate it and are gonna leave us with an uncultured environment? For
    instance I grew up, went to school with or have known just about every
    famous musician from here. That’s how it was pre-katrina, everybody knew
    somebody, these musicians performed everyday since 1 or 2 years old. No
    matter what the instrument, they played from the heart. Now there is
    some clown name Chazz with a washboard playn on frenchmen, who thinks he
    invented the washboard, and dont even know the history of why he’s
    playn a washboard, who is probably a run away from Minnesota, who throws
    Chazz Fest in his yard, because he is pouting that Jazz Fest never
    called him to perform. If they ever do call him to perform I will picket
    in front of Racetrack! New Orleans musicians earned that right to
    perform wherever they pleased, some at 5 had to perform in French
    Quarter so they can get a meal for their family. This culture is turning
    into spoiled brat hipsters who wanna push their way in ahead of the
    line of the folks most deserving. I fear in 50 years, no one will know
    Professor Longhair, Dr. John, or The Neville’s, it will be New Orleans
    original Chazz on his washboard! Who names their child Chazz anyway??
    The only changes that need to be made here are school systems, potholes,
    crooked politics, and police! I hope they leave our city need be!

  • A Rational Thinker

    Yeah, and why don’t those damn kids stay off my lawn?!

  • Natalie

    … But everywhere this is happening considers itself “exceptional” (Brooklyn has never seen itself as part of larger, blander American culture and niether has San Francisco).

    I take issue with claiming that the real problem isn’t **policy** that enables individuals to buy up historic properties and displace the current populations of these neighborhoods, but the fact that these new owners aren’t having kids. Almost all the new white people on my block have kids. And in fact their children are the excuse they use to own extra cars that block sidewalks the older residents use to get to their bus stops, push for privatized charter systems to take over neighborhood schools, demand low decibel levels from local businesses and all the other annoying stuff the gentrifiers are ultimately responsible for.

    As for: “We kids were everywhere”? Really?! When was this?! I was the only white girl I ever saw in my neighborhood as a kid. I think the problem is the opposite: The current crop of “creative class” & bonafide professional interlopers who are moving to inner city New Orleans are demanding all the amenities, security, and convenience (which results, unsurprisingly, in good ol’ fashioned “American” homogeneity) of the suburbs and using their children as an excuse for it (“THINK OF THE CHILDREN!!!!”). The “super natives” are few and far between to me – it’s not the “super natives” who are pushing for go-cup crackdowns, noise permit crackdowns, abc board raids and everything else.

    I’m unconvinced.

  • Roger Steinbrink

    I moved here by accident 28 yrs. ago. I ended up staying because it felt like “home.”
    I, too take great pleasure in the fact that locals who don’t know one another look each other in the eye, and say things like “Good morning.” “Good evening.” “Where y’at?” “Alright”
    Once i learned how to mispronounce the street names correctly, I considered myself a local. I too, greet strangers as I pass, and it makes me feel good.
    I’ve gone back to America several times, greeted strangers, and was given the cold eye.
    It made me feel that much better when I came “home.”

  • nickelndime

    81 comments and running on this one and over a year old?! Trying to figure out why anyone would MOVE (indicates free will) to New Orleans. Chased, fled, hunted down, in a drunken stupor, drugged, shackled, committed, shanghaied, or led astray (surely this is how we souls, or our ancestors, got here) yes, but MOVE here!?!?