Thursday, December 20, 2007

WWL 870AM Mouthmook and the NOLA Public Housing Controversy

We all know the outcome of the New Orleans City Council's vote on the motion to allow HUD to proceed with the demolition of four of the City's public housing projects. 7-0 in favor of demolition. No real surprise there.

I'm not here to talk about the what this means and to try to give some in-depth analysis of the impact this decision will have on the city. No, I'm here to present to you an example of a media Yahoo whose self-righteousness and faux indignation while commenting on the situation really ticked me off.

I was listening to WWL 870AM Talk Radio this afternoon while I was wrapping Christmas presents. The pathetic dude on the radio was filling in for Garland Robinette. This guy, whose name I can't recall (and whose name I don't think merits trying to remember in the first place), was obviously a pro-demolition and anti-protestor conservative imbecile. He kept referring to the agitated and emotional comments by poor public housing residents about the impending demolition of their homes as illogical and essentially stupid. His pompous dismissiveness and borderline mockery of the worth and intelligence of poor people venting out of frustration was rather sickening to hear.

He also kept referring to the out-of-town protestors in very demeaning ways, too. One of his mantras regarding these out-of-towners, which he repeated multiple times on the radio (as if he thought it were some brilliant observation), really revealed his own prejudices in the matter. He kept saying about the out-of-town folks who protested the demolition (and I'm paraphrasing this from memory): "Where were you before now? Why weren't you here tutoring kids in the projects? Why weren't you here giving workshops to folks in the projects on how to balance and keep a checkbook?" His implication in all of this was to say that those who came to New Orleans to protest the demolition of public housing as a gesture of solidarity out of concern for the poor and marginalized former residents of these projects was that their concern was disingenuous and their motives were selfish. In fact, he even said point blank that he thought it was nothing more than a publicity stunt and a chance for such out-of-towners to get their names in newspapers and their images broadcast on TV. They didn't really care about the poor on whose behalf they protested. And every time this imbecile kept saying this, I kept thinking to myself: How does this mouthmook know anything at all about what these folks have done for the poor? Furthermore, I kept wanting to ask him where was he when kids in the projects needed a tutor? Where was he when someone could have used some help figuring out how to balance a checkbook? I kept thinking that this fool measures someone's genuineness and their real concern for the poor by very specific actions, actions which I would venture this dude himself never undertook. In fact, he kinda differentiates himself from advocates for the poor by his not having advocated on their behalf in any way! This fool, by setting up a dichotomy that pitted him (as a demolition proponent) against them (the out-of-towner demolition protestors), revealed his own antipathy towards the poor and the marginalized in the process. And what's worse (and even more embarrassing for him) is that he smugly thought himself so clever for having "exposed" what he saw as the fraud of these out-of-town protestors.

Think about it. This guy is saying that those out-of-towners couldn't possibly care about the poor and the marginalized because they weren't here to tutor their kids and to help raise them out of poverty by other actions. They were only here to, supposedly, stand with them in protest of the demolition of their homes. And yet, he's part of a contingent that not only didn't do these things themselves, but also doesn't even value the act of standing in solidarity with the poor regarding their demands for affordable and readily available public housing. In other words, he thinks these out-of-town protestors are opportunistic pretenders who don't care about the poor and marginalized. But what he doesn't realize is that he sets himself up as someone against the poor, and whose virtue is that at least, unlike the out-of-towners, he doesn't pretend to care about the poor, to be in solidarity with the poor and marginalized.

I want this mouthmook to come back on the radio and to tell his listeners what, specificaly, he has done, according to his own sense of proper work on behalf of justice for the poor, to improve the lives of these former public housing residents. I want him to show concretely how he cares about the poor and the marginalized in ways that set him apart from the out-of-towners. I want him to show that his concern for the poor goes beyond a desire to "help" them by demolishing their homes.

And if he can't live up to his own standards of real, true, and proper activism on behalf of the poor, then at least we'll have a clue as to the real reason why he supports demolition of the public housing units [Hint: It's not because he thinks it's good for the poor.] No, what I think this man's attitude reveals about the poor (and what I think is an attitude shared by many who have NEVER stepped foot in the projects or who have NEVER walked with the poor at all) is that he'd like to see the poor and marginalized demolished (figuratively) along with their homes. For these mouthmooks, what drives the desire to demolish the projects is not concern for the well-being of the poor (for they've never been concerned about the well-being of the poor, and never even pretended to be so), but rather a deep-seated hate and resentment for the poor. There is something that resonates about Bill Quigley's remark that this whole thing smacks of a hate crime against the poor.

By way of concluding my rant, let me declare: The day this man himself tutors a child from the projects, or the day this man volunteers his time to help teach a young mother from the projects how to balance a checkbook, or the day this man does anything for the poor beyond putting $10 dollars in the poor box on Sunday in his wealthy suburban Church, is the day I take seriously this man's criticism of anyone who actually holds hands with the poor and takes the time to get to know them beyond an emotional meeting at City Hall.

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