BATISTE: NOLA.com Alienates Itself From New Orleans, Again

As The Times Picayune doubled down on its opposition to Zulu’s blackface costumes, the once emblematic news outlet has further alienated itself from native New Orleanians. Regular columnist Jarvis DeBerry and Guest Columnist Chuck Perkins typed pieces calling for the Krewe of Zulu to stop masking its riders in blackface as it has for more than a century.

DeBerry’s Feb. 28th column rushed to the aid of Take Em Down as the public outcry pounced on the group. Jarvis’ column included: “Some black people on social media are calling Take ‘Em Down NOLA’s members ‘transplants,’ which sounds a lot like ‘outside agitators,’ the preferred phrase of a generation of white people opposed to change.”

DeBerry put his hypocrisy in public for all to see. Jarvis–himself a transplant from Mississippi–defended transplants (Take Em Down NOLA) and tried to tie negative, racial connotations to the word transplant. The transplant columnist doesn’t like the use of the label transplant, and called out the criticism against the transplants calling for the change. Typical transplant move.

Further into his piece DeBerry went on to call others trolls! The guy who race baits for a living. The columnists who writes the most outlandish, ridiculously divisive, race-centric pieces to get extreme reactions actually called other groups of people trolls. This is textbook New Orleans Fake News, And part of the reason why no one respects Nola.com.

The pattern is pretty simple, the transplants want a cultural change in New Orleans and native New Orleanians do not want change. The transplant, out-of-state newspaper supports the change.

The unfortunate reality is that once again native New Orleanians feel passionately about their heritage, tradition, and culture and the transplant newspaper opposes the locals. It isn’t about black or white, it’s about local and transplant. Outside interests want to change New Orleans, whether it’s removing historic landmarks or demanding alterations to a cultural event.

As time goes on, vernacular evolves–definitions change, words mean different things. And while the abbreviation of New Orleans, Louisiana as “Nola” was commonly used as a reference to New Orleans, the use of Nola now is an identifier of non-locals similar to the mispronunciation of “Or-leens.” The use of Nola in conversation differentiates the transplants from the natives. Rarely will you find a native New Orleanian use Nola when talking about the city. With that in consideration, it’s perfectly fitting that the transplant newspaper Times Picayune goes by the name of Nola.

The Zulu blackface controversy has mostly died off although Mardi Gras day will likely flare it back up. This conversation, renewed by Take Em Down NOLA, leads to uncomfortable areas. National news media and the social media mob have ripped any white person who has been found with pictures from their past dressed in blackface. Now the conversation centers around this 110 year old black organization that self blackfaces its rider–both black and white–and the organization is adamant about this tradition standing and being acceptable.

The news story makes a challenge for the national news casters and their guest specialists to comment on it. The situation has black people supporting white people blackfacing, as well as black people enjoying dressing in minstrel attire and what liberals would quickly label as racially-demeaning costumes.

Guest Columnist for NOLA.com Chuck Perkins is a native New Orleanian. His piece wants to wipe away the uniqueness of the Krewe of Zulu. His motto should be Make New Orleans Like Everywhere Else! Perkins recalled his ride in Zulu in his piece, and his legitimate inner struggle dressing in Jim Crow fashion.

In an article on The Lens, writer Lydia Y. Nichols shined a light on the fact that Take Em Down did not try to converse with the Zulu organization, instead they went for the flashy headlines. In other words The Lens implied that Take Em Down is an opportunistic group, and even if they have good intentions, they certainly do not now how to bring about change in a diplomatic or effective manner.

Jarvis DeBerry’s Feb. 28th column challenged the critics of Take Em Down as to whether the critics are doing more than the group they chastise. In a previous article by Deberry, he whined about the state of Louisiana not funding an African American museum. A comment on his article asked Jarvis why he didn’t lead the charge of creating the museum instead of expecting others to do so. As to Jarvis Deberry’s effort to deflect that Take Em Down is doing more than most people think, he instigates division, directs blame on whitey, and rarely leads by example.

“Anybody who knows the history of blackface knows that it is one of the most important symbols of white supremacy, and this was done to ridicule black people,” Malcolm Suber of Take Em Down said.

Take Em Down and Jarvis should examine another symbol of so-called white supremacy to ridicule black people, i.e., Ni–er or the “N” word.  That word was used to belittle, ridicule, and humiliate blacks.  Yet, neither Malcolm Suber nor Jarvis DeBerry speak or write about its prevalence in black schools, black neighborhoods, black playgrounds, use by black comedians, by black rappers, black athletes, or even in daily discourse.

What causes more harm, Zulu riders in blackface, or thousands of cars driven by black drivers on New Orleans streets blaring rap with constant mention of  N word this and N word that? They are hypocrites for ignoring the greater “ridicule.”

Not to be disregarded, the Zulu blackface controversy certainly makes for intellectual conversation. For instance, Mitch Landrieu often spoke about a fantasy situation in which he had to explain to a young black child why Robert E. Lee was atop a column at Lee Circle. How would Mitch explain to a young black child why he rode in a Mardi Gras krewe that blackfaces when so many politicians have been lambasted for blackface? It’s fully hypocritical for Landrieu to dismiss the same situation because today more than ever the message is blackface is racist. Mitch Landrieu has not commented on this, he has not tweeted on it, and it’s doubtful any news agency will question him about it. But his answer should be interesting.

The bottom line is the Times Picayune or NOLA.com does not support Zulu. Whether the preferred term is transplant or outside agitator, both perfectly fit Jarvis DeBerry and the Times Picayune. NOLA.com has ostracized itself from another group of old New Orleans in its effort to culturally cleanse the Zulu parade.

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