New Orleans Ranked as “Most Violent” City by CQ Press

A national study conducted by Congressional Quarterly (CQ Press) has ranked New Orleans as the most violent city in America. This newest tarnishing of the city's reputation comes just two months after the journal Foreign Policy ranked New Orleans 3rd among their top five “murder capitals” of the world, trailing behind Caracas, Venezuela and Cape Town, South Africa.

Foreign Policy explains the Crescent City's malaise as owing to “its grinding poverty, an inadequate school system, a prevalence of public housing, and a high incarceration rate,” and adds that, “Katrina didn’t help. Since the hurricane struck in 2005, drug dealers have been fighting over a smaller group of users, leading to many killings.” The CQ Press study makes fewer attempts to explain why violent crime is raging in New Orleans, but presents a set of statistics that puts the city far above and beyond any other American metropolitan area in almost all measures, but especially murder.

If you ask the local police, CQ Press's study is flawed. If you ask any other local, you're likely to get a “no duh,” kind of answer. It's common knowledge among the city's residents that violent crime is serious problem. Nevertheless, NOPD Chief Warren Riley claimed at a press conference that “it's inaccurate information. There's nothing factual about it. There's nothing scientific about it." Fair enough, the ranking methodology is flawed, but it has captured a stinging truth about the state of post-Katrina New Orleans. CQ Press has even included a “Note on New Orleans” as a preface to their rankings stating for the record that, “New Orleans would have the highest city crime comparison score even if the 2007 Census Bureau population estimates were the basis for the scoring.” No matter the city's true total population figure, it is the most violent locale in the United States hands down. However, the presentation of this fact by the corporate news media remains inadequate and absent of any contexts that might help explain the desperation and crushing inequality that lead to explosive rates of violent crime. Instead the news media have presented images and reports of a pathological culture of poverty preying upon itself and those who veer to close.

Details beyond CQ Press study's most basic crime statistics and city rankings are not being reported by the media and are hard to come by. The report itself is available online, but a print version costs $55. It's $225 for the CD and database version. Compounding this lack of in-depth information, media reports have not attempted put the violence of New Orleans into any sort of context beyond the same sort of over-simplified version provided by Foreign Policy: blaming the poor and their communities such as public housing developments, or else drug wars waged by merciless criminals. Furthermore, the demographics of victims have not been widely disseminated by the press (if the CQ Press study even compiled them) thus leaving perceptions of who this violence affects most wide open to the national audience. The truth in New Orleans is that violent crimes take the heaviest toll on Black communities and Black as well as white working class neighborhoods. The white majority Uptown neighborhoods and the other affluent suburban areas around the city are relatively unaffected.

The most widely circulated media report through the Associate Press leads with with shocking figures such as the 19,000 reported crimes and 208 murders in 2007 that have vaulted New Orleans into a class of its own. AP's report quickly notes that “New Orleans was well ahead of second-place Camden, New Jersey, and third-place Detroit,” and that “St. Louis, Missouri and Oakland, California, rounded out the top five.” Although all of these cities have Black majorities, and although each would rank equally high among the most impoverished and over-policed communities in the US with the accompanying disinvestment and de-industrialization of the past several decades, no discussion of race and racism, nor economic inequality follows. Readers are simply left to conjure up their own images and ideas about these five cities, each long maligned in the national media.

The five “safest” cities mentioned in most media reports are all majority white suburbs built up during the 1960s through the present during an era that historians characterize as “white flight.” Ramapo, NY, Mission Viejo, California, O'Fallon, Missouri, Newton, Massachusetts, Brick Township, New Jersey round out the top five safest towns. Mission Viejo, like the other four, was consciouslly built up as an exclusive suburb, absorbing many white affluent families who fled the slowly integrating public schools, hospitals, businesses, and neighborhoods of the major cities they orbit, Los Angeles in Mission Viejo's case. Today Mission Viejo is 77% white. Blacks make up 2% of its population. The median household income is practically twice the national average. Los Angeles for its part was ranked somewhere in the middle of the report's 385 city pack.

The release of CQ Press's crime report also follows the recent broadcasting of an episode of the television show Gangland on The History Channel featuring the Gotti Boys, a criminal organization from years past. Purporting to tell real histories of gangs in America, Gangland is a smoothly produced program featuring both former gangsters and expert commentators, usually criminologists from major universities. The show often focuses in on a particularly nefarious gang or urban setting and liberally sprinkles scenes with heavy music and sensationalistic imagery of tattooed bodies, weaponry, urban decay and drugs. New Orleans' episode was a virtual collage of images depicting public housing, young black hooded men, and darkened streets of crowded shotgun homes.

Literally within days of the History Channel's depiction of New Orleans' past, CNN ran a special segment hosted by Soledad O'Brien entitled “One Crime at a Time." The show opens with a street sign and skyline introducing New Orleans as a gritty southern city. O'Brien's camera crews follow a murder investigation through the streets of Central City. Two detectives looking for suspects point at houses exclaiming without a doubt, “that could be a crack house, and that could be a crack house.” Stumped for leads they call it quits for the night. The next day they explain to O'Brien that a “wall of silence” prevails in working class neighborhoods throughout the city. No one will talk to the police. Later in the show O'Brien narrates figures provided by the City DA explaining that only 40% of those arrested for homicide will ever face trial. Accompanying images show white police officers ducking cuffed Black men into squad cars, again in darkened ghetto city streets.

The show then features the case of Garell Smith, a young Black man suspected of four murders but never convicted, again in no small part because of a lack of witnesses willing to testify. CNN's attempt to explain the “brick wall” effect comes up short of the total evidence though. O'Brien asks one city prosecutor “do you think he [Garell Smith] has threatened the witnesses?” The prosecutor answers affirmatively. In this particular case it may be true, but CNN presents witness intimidation by perpetrators of violent crime as the sole reason why there is a mass refusal to cooperate with police investigations. To this must be added the fact that the NOPD themselves have a long brutal history and ongoing reputation among Black working class communities in New Orleans as being among the most violent and intimidating forces within the city. Not only do witnesses fear retaliation by criminals, they do not trust the police either. Add to this a widespread skepticism of the legal system which most New Orleanians recognize as existing for the benefit of the few wealthy neighborhoods in the city, and the reasons underlying the “brick wall” effect become clearer.

Even with all the attention being paid to violence in New Orleans by the media in the last week, there remain virtually no detailed investigations into the underlying causes of crime. No sociological evidence has been mustered by the media to discuss the overwhelming structural violence so characteristic of post-Katrina New Orleans, a city devoid of health care, housing, affordable schools, good jobs, and public transport entirely because of conscious decisions made to eliminate these very things.

No presentations in the mass media as of yet have delved seriously into the social and economic conditions of post-Katrina New Orleans as they might be related to violent crime. Viewers of programs like CNN's “One Crime at a Time,” or those who read news briefs about New Orleans' ranking as the most violent city are left to reason for themselves as to why the city has risen again as a murder capital. Studies such as CQ Press's provide no insights beyond raw statistics whereas news and edutainment programs depict problematic imagery of white police and Black criminals, a national norm and a pathological city.


The Political Strategy of “H8”

In the aftermath of Proposition 8's victory some within the queer community have been overheard by their brothers and sisters in struggle complaining about how a particular “they” voted anti-gay, and how “they” are ignorant and backward. “We voted for their president! How dare they stab us in the back like this.” The “they” in question was Black and Latino voters and the outraged activists were mostly white gay rights activists. Since November 4, pollsters have been keen to point out that although the average white voter rejected the initiative, the average Black and Latino voter marked a yes on their ballot. This realization, isolated from its context and a wider political analysis of the Proposition 8 campaign has led to some faulty assumptions about why the initiative passed and why many Blacks and Latinos supported it. One message now making its rounds in the media and by word of mouth is that while most of California's white voters are progressives committed to equal rights, Blacks and Latinos cling to the ignorance of their fundamentalist religious beliefs, so much so that they are responsible for passing what is in all meanings and effects a piece of anti-civil rights legislation. The reality, however, is far more complex (for example).

While the poll figures are correct, it appears that they're correct for somewhat different reasons than are widely assumed. Black and Latino voters did cast their ballots mostly in favor of Proposition 8, but when reporters started interviewing people based on these poll figures, they found the reasoning most Prop 8 supporters gave to be somewhat different from what is widely assumed. Instead of finding a vehement religious attitude that homosexuality is a sin or disease and that gay rights must be opposed at all costs, many voters began talking about children. What do children have to do with Prop 8, a mere 14 word addition to the state Constitution reading: “Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California”?

As it turns out, among the demographic groups that voted mostly in favor of the marriage ban were parents with children under 18-years of age in their household. The yes on 8 campaign made a brilliant tactical decision when they decided to imply that a no vote for Prop 8 would lead not only to marriage rights for same sex couples, but that it would also fuel an aggressive anti-heterosexual educational campaign in schools. In this imaginary world being conjured up by pro-8 organizers, California school children would be taught that marriage is between and man and a woman, or a man and a man, or a woman and woman, and so forth. Not that children shouldn't be exposed to reality – homosexuality is an identity just as heterosexuality is – but the recent movement to legalize same-sex unions in California has made virtually no efforts to try to introduce gay and lesbian issues into public school curriculum. Not that they shouldn't, but the claim that by not passing Proposition 8 schools will be forced to teach a non-heteronormative definition of marriage has been entirely fictitious and besides the point. That's the brilliance of it.

The reason the yes on 8 campaign made this claim was that it was a coded means of rallying deep seeded anti-gay prejudices in people, but accomplished in a way that didn't overtly call on people to hate others. In this way the Proposition 8 campaign succeeded in playing off widespread homophobia and hatred without actually having to make an unambiguously hateful claim such as “gays prey on children,” which is what they really meant for people to think.

One yes on 8 commercial featuring “Julie,” a self-described “California mom,” explains that “unless Prop 8 passes school children will be taught that marriage is a relationship between two people regardless of gender,” and that “in Massachusetts, a same-sex marriage state, schools use a book entitled, 'Who's in a Family?'” Viewers learn that Massachusetts schools teach same-sex marriage to children “as early as the first grade.” The commercial's Golden State mom concludes by stating what sounds like a simple issue of her rights and power over her own child's education: “I want to be sure that my children are taught that marriage is between a man and a woman.”

Those of us who are outraged by the passage of Prop 8 can critique the flawed logic and total disconnect from reality demonstrated in this kind of argument all we want, but then we miss the point entirely as to why this argument succeeds. It's not designed to make logical sense or hold up under the reality of what California families are actually like. After all, the reality is that most families include gay and lesbian siblings, parents, aunts, uncles, etc., and only a great deal of homophobic repression creates families in which there are no queer members. Rather, this argument is designed to invoke hatred and homophobia without doing so in a straightforward manner. It's a psychologically profound tactic and astute political tool that has been used for years by Republicans and Democrats to stoke white racial fears without explicitly referring to racist beliefs. Indeed, we saw much racial coding in this year's presidential campaign directed at Barack Obama.

“California mom's” concern about what her children are taught turned out to be more crucial for Prop 8's victory than the supposed ideological backwardness of Blacks and Latinos, and “California mom,” at least in the campaign's commercial, was white. Other yes on 8 commercials give a flavor of how sophisticated this anti-civil rights effort was in soliciting the votes of men and women, Blacks, Latinos, whites, and Asians. One commercial opens with a young Asian woman sitting in a park in San Francisco of all places. She explains to us that “if Proposition 8 fails there's a whole bunch of consequences.” We are told that churches could be forced by the state to rent their holy grounds for use by same sex couples for their wedding ceremonies. Another clip features a young white man who tells us that as same-sex marriage becomes recognized by the state, “legal defenses based on religious freedoms are less likely to succeed.” Seconds later, “Suubi,” a young black woman, tells us that religious adoption agencies will be forced to hand over babies to same sex couples or discontinue their adoption services altogether. Again the trope of innocent children being abducted and perverted by sinners, but this much is only implied for it cannot be said. “Geoff” from Brentwood tells us that “based on past experiences, those who oppose same sex marriage on religious grounds will be increasingly labeled as intolerant and subjected to legal penalties or social ridicule.” Geoff even tells us that it's already happening in the debate over Prop 8 with its supporters “having their careers threatened”

It was through careful messaging like this that the yes on 8 campaign was able to succeed in a truly amazing feat: they convinced a majority coalition of the California electorate that the issue wasn't civil rights for untold numbers of Californians who have been discriminated against based on their sexuality and gender, but that it was instead about protecting the religious freedoms, beliefs, and even the safety of their (intolerant) Catholic-Mormon-evangelical Christian communities, “freedoms” and “beliefs” that only exist because of the internal repression of their own loved ones who may not fit their norms. For millions of Californians they made it appear that it was in fact religious communities and even simple traditional parents who were under attack by an aggressive lobby of gay and lesbian advocates who not only want their rights, but want to push what Prop 8 proponents call “their lifestyle” on everyone else in the state, from first graders to the Priest of the local church. This make-believe attack on the church quite possibly resonated with Latino and Black voters, for many of whom the church is a key mobilizing organization in any election, thus explaining their proportionately higher support.

It was all the more amazing that the yes on 8 campaign asked and succeeded in getting voters to forget the massive violence and hate directed at queer communities on a daily basis, and instead entertain a make believe world where straight Christian and Mormon men and women are being persecuted because their identities. The reality is so bad that it's necessary to summarize.

The California Attorney General cites 1,426 hate crimes reported in 2007. Of course reported crimes constitute only the tip of the iceberg with usually much higher proportionate numbers going un-reported for a multitude of reasons (one reason being that many victims of hate crimes do not feel they can trust the police to help them because of institutionalized forms of discrimination and homophobia built into the justice system).

Here's the facts; The vast majority of hate crimes in 2007 were racially motivated with the second and third largest categories being motivated by hatred of religion and sexual orientation respectively. Most racially motivated hate crimes targeted Blacks and Latinos – about 70%. In the two categories that were made issues by the yes on 8 campaign (intolerance directed against heterosexuals, and hate crimes against Catholics, Mormons, and fundamentalist Protestants) we see a startling disconnect with the campaign's rhetoric and the reality. Thus while yes on 8 proponents invoked fear of religious persecution from a Catholic, Mormon or evangelical Christian perspective, we find that the overwhelming majority of attacks against persons based on their religion were directed instead at Jews – 66%, with Muslims experiencing the second highest incidences of hate crimes – 6.4% of the total. Anti-Protestant and Catholic crimes together account for only 10.3%. What about hate crimes and intolerance directed at people because of their sexuality? In all of last year there were only 2 such reports of attacks against straight men and women because of their sexual orientation (this in a state of 36 million mind you). Even if we multiply this by a large factor as we should to account for under-reporting, we remain with a small figure. Hate crimes against gay and lesbian men and women virtually monopolize the statistics of hate crimes based on sexuality – hundreds reported in all – with gay men experiencing about half of all attacks and lesbians about 10%. In other words, violence and discriminatory acts directed at queer communities is epidemic, even in the supposedly liberal California, with the new ban against marrying being just the latest institutionalized form of inequality.

That the yes on 8 campaign so effectively turned the tables and portrayed their coalition's own religiously motivated bigotry as victimhood is all the more astounding given the California Supreme Court's decision back in May of 2008 dealt solely with the civil rights issue of marriage, not the issue of whether church's could be forced to recognize and perform same sex marriages or what children in public and private schools would be taught about “who's in the family.” It was through these speculative non-issues that the yes on 8 campaign was able to mobilize an anti-civil rights majority vote by invoking unspoken tropes of gays and lesbians as mortal threats to society.

However, in the Court's decision the justices did inadvertently provide the seed for this psychological strategy when they wrote correctly that same sex marriage was an issue of “respect and dignity”:

“Our state now recognizes that an individual's capacity to establish a loving and long-term committed relationship with another person and responsibly to care for and raise children does not depend upon the individual's sexual orientation.... An individual's sexual orientation -- like a person's race or gender -- does not constitute a legitimate basis upon which to deny or withhold legal rights.”

No doubt the ability to raise one's children is just as fundamental a right as marriage, just as is any other right extended by our society, but herein lay the poison of the yes on 8 campaign strategy. Anti-gay and lesbian organizers know that in this post-civil rights political era a winning campaign can never be based on rhetoric that openly embraces the discriminatory goals they seek. This is true across the spectrum of civil rights, from race and religion (real religious rights issues that is) to civil liberties, and struggles over sexuality and gender. Knowing that they would have to couch their campaign's rhetoric in the language of the very movements they have traditionally opposed, the conservative churches and fundamentalist non-profits behind Prop 8 built their message around fears that all parents have about the content of their children's education, the upbringing of children who are adopted, the rights of churches to continue their own traditional interpretations and practices, and so forth. By casting the issue as one of tradition and civil rights for God-fearing Californians, and as a protective action against a recklessly aggressive cultural movement led by homosexuals that is supposedly undermining the moral fabric of all communities in California through state fiat, the yes on 8 campaign was triumphant.

Herein lay the political theory behind the yes on 8 campaign that was never successfully deconstructed by the rest of us. It was not enough to call their bigotry out for what it really was because their campaign's rhetoric and talking points were suited to avoid precisely this sort of confrontation and allow supporters to state their supposed tolerance for diversity. Nor was it enough to demonstrate the flawed logic and hypocrisy embedded in their positions because they were never designed to hold that much water from the very beginning: they were instead vessels for a more temporary destination – November 4, not the indefinite future. For the long-term more overtly patriarchal and anti-gay values could be supported, but for episodic electoral struggles a much more broadly appealing and coalition building strategy was required.

Mobilizing Black and Latino voters to support prop 8 in higher proportions than most whites is really just an ancillary fact of the ballot proposition's passage. The yes vote delivered by majorities of Black and Latino neighborhoods had not so much to do with the possibility that these communities are inherently more homophobic than whites, and had everything to do with the ways that the yes on 8 campaign both played to their religious and traditional values, but also to the rhetoric of civil and religious rights so effectively invoked by the yes on 8 propaganda. When someone says your religious freedoms, your church community, and family cohesion are threatened by something, Blacks and Latinos respond to this somewhat differently than whites, and their perception has a lot to do with historical and contemporary assaults against their families and churches by a white supremacist society.

Viewed from this angle we can see how both civil rights movements (concerning race and sexuality) have been co-opted through a verbal commitment to their ideals and simultaneously undermined with aggressive counter movements against the real legal and institutional gains they have made or attempted to make through reforms of the state. For example, affirmative action is banned in California based on a flimsy but appealing logic of colorblindness that selectively summons up the highest ideals of judging not a single person based on the color of their skin. Sounds great, right? The effect is incredibly racist in that it perpetuates the now structurally enforced exclusion of non-whites from higher education and all other institutional channels of economic and civic advancement, and no one has to state that this is what we're doing. It's a racism that need not see, speak nor hear the word race ever uttered. Proposition 8 seems to have thoroughly ushered us into an era of post-civil rights homophobia whereby hatred and fear are projected by a similar means, and power relations are maintained.

One final politically significant point about the passage of Proposition 8 that has been obscured in a lot the reflections on the campaign, especially the more misguided attention being paid to Black and Latino voters, has been a lack of attention and research on the key people and organizations that crafted the yes on 8 campaign strategy. The biggest single reason that Prop 8 passed is because of white fundamentalist Protestant churches, the Church of Latter Day Saints, the Catholic Church and a network of right wing, socially conservative political organizations in and around California, the overwhelming majority of which are run by white men. Again, the similarity to the opposition against racial civil rights movements are many. Just as some of the most public political faces and organizer, even the voters themselves, who are responsible for passing racist legislation and rolling back civil rights can often be Black and Latino (e.g. Ward Connerly), or else whites who present themselves as non-racists, the public face of the yes on 8 campaign has been very diverse, and the coalition of voters they mobilized was genuinely diverse, at least in terms of race. However, the real motivating forces who do the political strategizing, raise or contribute the war chests for expensive ballot propositions or electoral campaigns, or else provide the core grassroots foot soldiers for voter mobilization/suppression are typically very straightforward with their values, politics, and prejudices. They purposefully work behind the scenes of ten for this very reason. So while white racists have often been the propelling forces behind the misleadingly diverse facades of anti-Black and Latino political efforts of the past forty years, so now the less conspicuous foundations of the anti-queer political movement are openly hostile and hating institutions and individuals, hiding behind a fake tolerance. Understanding who these individuals and institutions are should be a much more pressing concern for social justice organizers than speculating as to why so many Blacks and Latinos were capably mobilized to vote in favor of Prop 8. Along these lines, however, it may prove more useful for social justice organizers to unpack the complex ideological workings of the Right's devastatingly effective rhetorical strategy utilizing the language of civil rights to take rights away, than it is to bemoan the homophobia that exist in Black and Latino (and white) communities and that was so effectively mobilized against queer folk this past November.


Three Years and Sixty Nine Days

Three years and sixty-nine days ago the Republican Party was strong if erratic. President Bush was well ensconced in his second term of rule. The nation was bogged down in the disastrous war in Iraq, with troops also dying in Afghanistan and US soldiers making forays into several other nations under the banner of the “war on terrorism.” At the time the US housing market was still booming, as was the demand for other toxic financial instruments being peddled about by Wall Street's titans. Then a catastrophe struck, the first of many.

It was the flooding of New Orleans and the devastation of the Gulf Coast by hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005 that began the downfall of the Bush regime. At the time the administration responded to the crisis as they would with most any other challenge confronting them. They framed the disaster as an opportunity and handed out big contracts to well connected corporations to fix the problem. What happened as a result has be detailed elsewhere. To sum it up though, the city of New Orleans was effectively privatized with public schools turned into charters, the public hospital shuttered, public housing demolished, public transportation gutted, etc. The most savage political and profit driven plans of developers, politicians and a suburban white electorate were achieved. After a year of the neoliberal hell that New Orleans and the Gulf Coast had become it seemed things could not get worse, but still the situation descended.

Life has been a constant struggle ever since for the working class people of Louisiana and other parts of the Gulf south. Black communities were hit especially hard. Somehow though it has come to be that this nadir for Black America has proved to be the historic turning point for the Bush regime's fortunes.

Three years and sixty eight days was a lifetime ago in political terms. There are still many Americans living today who grew up in an apartheid America where the concept of even allowing blacks to vote in many states and counties was considered impossible. Today a black man has been elected president of the United States of America. He began his campaign on a cold January day about one year and ten moths ago. It was more than a long shot. He announced his candidacy and then proceeded to outline an agenda of a progressive nature involving accessible health care, affordable education, criticism of the Iraq war, and more. After a grueling primary battle he succeeded against formidable odds, and he trounced his Republican opponent, Senator John McCain the general election.

Tonight New Orleans is ringing with the sounds of celebration. Having endured the brunt and brutality of the Bush administration's neoliberal economic agenda and neoconservative political agenda more heavily than any other community in the United States, the city has begun a party like only this town knows how to throw. The sounds of ship horns along the Mississippi River blasting in jubilation mix with cars honking along the main avenues. Cheers of hooray resonate across the town from victory parties at bars and crowded households. Perhaps there will even be a funeral march for the Bush administration in the coming days? One woman walking to the polls today wore a shirt proclaiming, “New Orleans, we know how to put the fun in funeral,” referring to the city's tradition of second lines full of dancers that follow the more somber funeral processions.

It's hard to tell what the commotion is about in particular swaths of the city though. Among the white sections of New Orleans the celebration seems to be set in a firm repudiation of the Bush administration's political legacy and a desire for a more progressive politics. It's about change, whatever that means. In the black sections of the city it's no less about rejecting the Bush administration, the most anti-black working class political regime in recent history, but it also seems to be about the the singular fact of history that has been made tonight. A black president. Even though Obama went out of his way to eschew the issue of race during his campaign rightly fearing that too many direct confrontations with it would cost him white votes. The chocolate city, however, has turned out a record vote in order to make history by putting a black man in office. For Black New Orleans race always was a key reason to mobilize.

Early on election day I walked through the 3rd Ward of New Orleans, a neighborhood called Central City. Below sea level, cut off from the downtown by hulking freeways, polluted and over-policed with a severe lack of jobs and affordable housing, Central City is one of this city and the nation's poorest communities. It was devastated by Katrina and more so by the political decision made in the aftermath. Many houses remain empty and in disrepair to this day. But the attitude among residents was upbeat no matter where I walked.

In front of the Friendly Supermarket on just off Washington Avenue several men talked about the importance of this election. “Historic,” explained a 43 year-old man named BH. “Obama and the new government are going to stop this shit about the rich getting' richer and the poor getting' poorer.” For BH the election's various issues were never separate. Whereas the major media networks seemed to parse the Iraq war, the economy and energy issues into distinct topics that overtook the campaigns at differet times, BH and his friends in this neighborhood explain the systematic connections they see and which they believe most other Americans see. “The war was for oil. Now look at the price of oil. And notice, every time there's a war, afterward there's going to be a recession, at least for us working people.” BH's understanding is firmly rooted in his experiences with past presidential administrations, particularly Reagan, George H.W. Bush, and George W. Bush. “See, every time there's a Republican President, there's a war,” says BH. Arthur Red, another Central City local agrees and adds, “Yeah, see it's the Republicans who are mostly about going to take over other people's stuff.”

BH, Arthur, and the several other men drinking coffee in front of this corner store on election day all worry about the Republicans trying to steal yet another election, but none of them think it possible with the momentum behind the Democratic Party. Down the street worries about stolen elections lead to a more conspiratorial idea, based less on the fact of past elections and more on the present worries of all that could and has gone wrong for the Obama-Biden campaign. On the stoop of a house off 1st and Saratoga Streets a group of young men and women sit across from a polling station watching their relatives and friends enter and exit. “Did you vote for Obama?” they yell to the occasional face they recognize. As I neared the polling place one of them called across the street to me, “you voted for McCain!”

“Why would you assume that?” I responded crossing the street to meet them. The boy, not older than 8 was blunt in his response, “because your color,” he said, pointing to my white skin. His sisters, brothers and friends gave me the benefit of the doubt though, and we began talking. They explained to me their fears that white America would do anything to keep a black man out of office. One of them speculated that “they” killed Obama's grandmother in the final days of his campaigning in order to cause him distress and ruin his campaign's wrap up efforts. Another said they expect Obama will be attacked and possible killed early in office by white supremacists, while a third offered up a report that an attempt had been made on Obama's life last month. “But he'll survive and win,” they all stated with conviction. Paris Green who had just turned eighteen and cast her first vote for the president offered the most sober opinions.

“I voted for Obama because he's going to change things. He's going to fix schools, provide better housing, shelters for the homeless, jobs for the unemployed, and he'll fix programs like WIC [Women Infants Children], and he'll bring that hurricane relief we never got from Bush down here,” she explained. “And I think he should paint that white house, make it a colored house of many different colors,” she concluded. Green and her friends said they had seen more people voting today than they had in past years and were all confident in the Obama victory that has come to pass.