Following Kanye Wests outburst on television during a Red Cross telethon to raise money for the Hurricane Katrina victims, it was plain to see from the reaction of his fellow volunteers that he had stepped, perhaps, too far over the line. Kanye is to be forgiven for his lack of polish and sophistication in politics, but, big but, should we hold Kanye culpable for not caring more about the fallout of his statements, and how it would affect African Americans in general. I watched as he stared frozen, cold and perhaps a bit afraid. Staring into the camera like a deer caught in headlights. I thought, "This is not the Kanye I am comfortable with, but I hope he can represent." And then boom, he throws the bomb. Now I can't fault him for his anger, or his interpretation of the events that unfolded following Katrina. It did appear that the entire country had turned it's back on New Orleans. New Orleans before the hurricane was sixty five percent black. It was easy enough to believe or to be made to believe that the black people of New Orleans had been abandoned and not just New Orleans the city...
Enter Ray Nagin, another unseasoned politician, having been elected Mayor of New Orleans after a short stint as working for a cable company. I enjoyed his brash out of pocket statements during the disaster. I felt we needed someone who was fearless to say the things that would jolt our president and this nation into the reality of the disaster. But once again, the soap box was turned over to a shoe shine box. Ray Nagin uttered words that were embarrassing, and showed his lack of sophistication politically, and when asked to apologize he did, blaming the fact that he was moved by the mostly black audience at the press conference and their sentiments, and that his statements about the Hurricane being God's retribution against America came after a talk with clergy.
Nagin may have good points to ponder here, but he hasn't learned that one important lesson all politicians must, and that is, you have to keep your real thoughts to yourself and say only those things that are efficacious to your contingents and say nothing that will detract from your overall attempt to get sympathy and perhaps some bucks for your cause. His statement about New Orleans becoming a "Chocolate City" was unnecessary and frankly inflammatory. At a time when he should be attempting bring the city together, everyone of every race should be included. Even if he was reacting to the threats that New Orleans in its rebuilding phase was going to become a "white city" he should have researched, gotten his stats, and quotes and then proceed to proove his points.
Politics can be very forgiving at times. After all Al Sharpton overcame the Tawana Brawley incident to become a presidential candidate, though not a serious one. Mr. Nagin has the opportunity to take the stage at this point and truly represent for the people of New Orleans and to garner the help, and the
sympathy needed to rebuild that city for all. He should be careful that he is not swayed, or influenced too heavily by constituents who have their own agendas and who don't stand to suffer at the polls as he does if he says things that are blatantly racist and divisive. And to finish it up, Mr Nagin in October of 2005 boldly asserted at another press conference that he did not want New Orleans over run with Mexicans. Okay, I think he can have a few more chances at the microphone but the third time is a charm. Mr. Nagin has to find a better way of expressing his frustration, without falling into the racist traps like his white counterparts, in fact if a white politician had said the things Nagin said, I think he/she would be without a job today. So there is some leeway for a fledgling politician, but not much.
Mr. Nagin needs some very astute advisers and speechwriters that can prevent him from falling into the abyss with foot inserted into his mouth. He will not want to be remembered at the man who had a golden stage that turned it into a slippery slope into anonymity because he couldn't think and chew gum at the same time.