For this week’s edition of What the Funk?, I had a few questions swimming around in my head while I drove to work. And then Coolio’s “Gangsta Paradise” came on my Spotify and I had a lightbulb moment.
I spent a semester abroad in Europe my last year of college and before I left, my parents gave me their version of “1000 Ways to Die While Abroad” speech that included some favorites like human trafficking, airplane crashes, kidnapping, terrorism or just accidentally falling off the face of the earth. And while I understand that their anxiety came from a place of love, I had to remind them that they were the ones that decided to raise me in one of the scariest cities in the country.
Now, that statistic isn’t something I am particularly proud of, but I just wanted to say to my parents “I manage to survive this shit everyday, Europe is going to be a breeze.” And nothing did happen to me while I was there, partly because of the lessons my parents instilled in me before leaving, and partly because I have already been hardwired to trust no one and to protect myself when out in public. Thanks NOLA.
It’s a great town, no doubt, but if you try to argue that New Orleans is “safe,” you would have to find some very slanted
research. 2013 showed 42 murders per 100,000 residents, for an overall total of 155, and if that sounds low to you, you should know it is 8 times the national average. In 2012, we actually celebrated an 18 day stretch with no murders were reported. We celebrated because at the beginning of the year, we had at least one murder every day.
I say that New Orleans is a gangster’s paradise because it is prime real estate if you are planning to become one. It’s seedy, there’s debauchery, there’s corruption, there is a general sense of uneasiness when walking down a darkened street in the French Quarter. I by no means have any “street cred” and maybe you don’t either, but my life has been touched by the senseless violence of this city and with statistics so high, I can only imagine yours has been too. Maybe yours hasn’t, maybe it has been too many times, but if you are living and surviving here, you’re beating the odds. So congratulate yourself.
Corrupt politicians are a dime a dozen. So when these individuals that residents are supposed to believe will improve their conditions, turn out to be the criminals themselves, why would you choose to follow the rules either? They create a culture of legal loopholes, appeals and underhanded, back room deals.
But I don’t want to only mention the negatives of the city. Because something good can come out of this kind of environment. The culture of this city has created some rather influential music that supports this claim. This town has produced some of the most recognizable rappers that have ever graced this earth: Soulja Slim, Lil Wayne, Juvenile, Master P, C-Murder, Birdman, B.G., Mack Maine and Curren$y, the list goes on. And while these artists may not be considered the most positive people, they speak for the demographic encompasses both the victim or the perpetrator. It’s no coincidence that these rappers don’t come out of Kansas or Oklahoma.
Maybe it is because this is such a party town. People come here to blow off steam and have a good time, and they act unaware of the economic, social and political dimensions of this town that inspire serious crime. That is until they stumble into the wrong street or give the wrong person the wrong attitude.
But I highly doubt it.
Perhaps this arises from a culture of fear perpetuated by mainstream media concerning New Orleans and her past. The stories of Madame Lalaurie and Marie Laveaux show that people believe that demonic presences and ghosts enjoy New Orleans so much they stick around even in the afterlife. The stories of those that commit the worst of crimes and their tendency to linger in the city acts a continuous reminder that there is blood in the water and we do everything we can to avoid it.
But once again, I highly doubt it.
I’m not trying to stand on a soap box. I’m just one person, I can’t fix all these problems. The murder rates have even appeared to be going down significantly, for New Orleans standards. But we’re still one of the top ten.
Most likely, and statistics can prove much of this, this catastrophic murder rate has come to be because of a number of factors: poverty, lack of education, a corrupt and undermanned police force, and most of all, an entire demographic that has been belittled and treated unfairly time and time again. Hence the reason why the murder rate will not drastically fall anytime soon; This is a long-term process, not something that can happen overnight. If you are a part of this city, you need to realize that this needs to be a community effort.
My pride for New Orleans is usually reserved for the more complimentary aspects but at least when I go to places like Miami or L.A. and people say “Be careful!” I can still scoff at their fear.
Because if I can make it here, then I must be doing something right.