Politics Mondays: Factual Analysis: Strong Words & Tough Times Ahead. Nagin, Responsibility and Truth in Post Katrina New Orleans by Ashahed M. Muhammad

A classic strategy of political leaders, religious leaders and anyone else whose functional activities include public speaking is to claim that they were misquoted, misinterpreted or their words were taken out of context when their words are exposed to the public, usually via the media.

Anyone who has ever spoken before an audience has experienced this. Psychologists say that it is caused by the nervous system production a natural emotional response that occurs when one is standing at a podium or at a rostrum receiving auditory sensory feedback from others. This can sometimes result in the speaker getting carried away in the moment, often resulting in the utterance of words that they will later come to regret.

Living in the information age ensures that your comments – especially if you are a public figure – will be transmitted via print media and broadcasted on the airwaves to thousands and perhaps millions of people beyond those in listening audience that were present.

Recent comments broadcast by embattled New Orleans Mayor Ray A. Nagin have caused many pundits and commentators to again question his competency, his ability and his circle of advisors.


This is being done for a variety of reasons by those who consider it their responsibility to interpret words and actions for a generally gullible and viewing public.

Many conservative commentators have relentlessly assailed Nagin for his handling of Hurricane Katrina. As it goes – in the case of political leadership – they (political leaders) often receive too much credit when things are going well and too much blame when things go wrong.

What must be properly understood by taking another look at the critics is that their fault finding and disapproving words directed toward Mayor Nagin’s administration are motivated by their desire to obfuscate the wholly inadequate response of President George W. Bush and the Federal Emergence Management Agency (FEMA) led by Bush political crony Michael Brown.

There is also an attempt to control Black political leaders by controlling who they can and cannot use as advisors and who and who they cannot work with to solve the problems of their constituencies. That is another discussion for another time.

Ray Nagin:"We are not taking care of ourselves. We are not taking care of our women, and we are not taking care of our children when you have a community where 70 percent of its children are being born to one parent."

"We ask black people: it's time. It's time for us to come together. It's time for us to rebuild a New Orleans , the one that should be a chocolate New Orleans . And I don't care what people are saying Uptown or wherever they are. This city will be chocolate at the end of the day.

This city will be a majority African-American city. It's the way God wants it to be. You can't have New Orleans no other way; it wouldn't be New Orleans ."

Source:New Orleans Times Picayune & Black Entertainment Television Online

By all accounts, Mayor Nagin is an upstanding citizen who is not classified as your typical “say anything to get elected” politician. He was a businessman prior to being elected mayor and carried that experience into his post.

While the pre-Katrina economic financial outlook was promising and certain industries in New Orleans were experiencing good times, a substantial and widening gap existed between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have nots’ in New Orleans. This considerable level of inequality was understated prior to Katrina then magnified by the subsequent fallout in the wake of the handling of the disaster.

Many Blacks in New Orleans have also been critical of Mayor Nagin asserting that many of his past initiatives have been initiated with the goal of enhancing and improving many of the affluent White-dominated areas of New Orleans .

His rebuilding plans therefore are being monitored closely by the same individuals who want to ensure that the redevelopment and reinvestment plans include Black residents of the affected areas, Black-owned operators, Black entrepreneurs and Black developers.

What is so controversial about what Nagin said?

He was absolutely correct in his words about America sending troops into war in Iraq under “false pretenses.” That is not very controversial and furthermore, he was not the first to say this. There are many who have been saying this over the past year. In fact, former US Secretary of State Colin Powell in an interview heard on NPR recently (January 17th 2006) as well as in other broadcast interviews over the past few months admitted that the pre-war intelligence he received and transmitted to the public was inaccurate.

Nagin’s words about God wanting New Orleans to be a “ Chocolate City ” should not be considered very controversial. This is already a reality in many major cities across America . Our people at present are not collectively unified and therefore unable to capitalize on this reality. This is changing as our people become more conscious and aware of what is happening to them.

You might ask yourself, why are some upset that he invoked the name of God? Because a strong religious message is at variance with that which is promulgated through television and movies in this society. Consider the fact that just last night, we saw the decadence and immorality of this society on display as the two big winners at the Golden Globe Awards were “Brokeback Mountain” – a love story about two gay Caucasian cowboys and “Transamerica” a story about cross-dressing man desperate to become a woman.


Perhaps his most important words were those aimed directly at the Black community when he said:

"We are not taking care of ourselves. We are not taking care of our women, and we are not taking care of our children when you have a community where 70 percent of its children are being born to one parent." Source: BET.com

That very fact is what should be emphasized within our communities. It is our hope that Mr. Nagin’s administration and his Bring New Orleans Back Commission place changing that painfully true reality at the top of their list of goals and objectives for if that reality is not changed then there will be nothing worth coming back to.

This goes to Mr. Nagin and all elected officials located in major cities and districts in which the populations (also known as their constituencies) are predominately Black:

Stand strong and back your words with action. You will receive the right type of support in all that you do for the betterment of our people.

Ashahed M. Muhammad is the founder and executive director of the Truth Establishment Institute and the author of recently released book The Synagogue of Satan. He can be reached via email at amuhammad@truthinstitute.org.

Ashahed M. Muhammad

Monday, January 23, 2006