Racism plagues the New Orleans drainage system.
Originally posted to r/NewOrleans
Drainage and Racism
As we travel once again into the realm of drainage solutions butthurtia, let’s discuss why whyte people get so indignant and angry whenever it rains.
Meet A. Baldwin Wood, inventor of the wood-screw pump. His invention facilitated the drainage of the city for decades. Those pumps were built in the 1910s and 1920s. They were expected to last for fifty-ish years. So, what happened fifty years later?
The Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Voting Rights Act of 1965 happened. Whyte people ran from Orleans Parish to the suburbs. The remaining ones pulled their kids out of public schools in the city, enrolling them in Catholic schools. Those schools were able to continue de jure segregation, protected by the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. Since they were paying tuition, they didn’t want to pay property tax. That shifted the burden of paying for city services to businesses. Those folks had the money to donate to political campaigns, making sure their property taxes didn’t go up.
“I’m not paying more taxes to give to a black mayor who will misspend it and steal it.”
They said that when Dutch took office in 1978.
They said that when Sidney took office in 1986.
They said that when Marc took office in 1994.
They said that when Ray took office in 2002.
When Mitch took office in 2010, whyte people blamed his daddy for encouraging black people to vote in his first mayoral election in 1971.
All the while, businesses did what they always do, shift the burdens to the residents. Whyte people in the suburbs sat, waiting for the city to tank. Their dream was to have the city fall apart under majority black governance, then step in with regional control. David Vitter led this movement in 2004 with the Recovery School District. By then, Orleans Parish Public Schools were in such a state that the Legislature mustered the votes to take over. The plan was to transition the black-managed schools to charters. (Hurricane Katrina accelerated this like nobody expected.)
The pumps today
Back to drainage. Those pumps from the 1920s were in need of replacement by the 1970s. Suburban whyte people missed the boat on where the city anchors the suburbs, not the other way around. As the revenue base in Orleans Parish eroded, the suburban parishes refused to help. They wanted black folks to give control back to them. Regional solutions weren’t going to happen–shit, Jefferson Parish wouldn’t even join the Regional Transit Authority, lest a robust bus system bring more black people near their homes. Republicans in the suburbs wouldn’t pony up to fix the city’s drainage. Federal solutions under Republican presidents weren’t likely, either.
Now, it’s 2023. Louis Armstrong was a twelve-year-old boy selling newspapers on Canal Street when Baldwin Wood’s pumps were installed. They’re still in operation (sort of). Saying you won’t give money to Cantrell because she’s corrupt (translation: she’s Black) is silly. She didn’t create the problem, and wouldn’t have the funds to fix it even if she didn’t travel to Europe and the Emirates.
Reddit downvotes won’t drain the water. Working in the suburbs to affect change in the attitudes of elected officials will.
(h/t to James Karst for the factoid about Pops)