From a friend of a friend's blog, the Illhindu. Siddhartha Mitter, the author, writes for the Boston Globe.
Can you dig it, C.C.?
"Anderson Cooper don't know the funk."
Those were the first words I heard when I switched on the radio today. It was the Tom Joyner Morning Show, which only just arrived in Boston, but that's a whole other story.
Under discussion, I figured out, was a segment of cable wonderchild Cooper's show last night, in which he and his guests analyzed two recent instances of politicians "playing the race card" - the Hillary Clinton plantation reference, and New Orleans mayor Ray Nagin, who had this to say in his MLK day speech:
And as we think about rebuilding New Orleans, surely God is mad at America, he's sending hurricane after hurricane after hurricane and it's destroying and putting stress on this country. Surely he's not approving of us being in Iraq under false pretense. But surely he's upset at black America, also. We're not taking care of ourselves. We're not taking care of our women. And we're 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.
These remarks have set off one hell of a firestorm, including ponderous editorials along the lines of: "What if Mayor Giuliani had said New York was to be a vanilla city? Could he have gotten away with that? Huh?" ("Bigotry in the Big Easy," inveighs the Boston Herald.)
Now, Mayor Nagin is a loose cannon, and in no way universally loved within the New Orleans Black or progressive communities.
Perhaps that's because, just like Hillary Clinton and her plantation remark, he's the kind of tin-eared politician who can take a good metaphor and turn it into a disaster.
Anyone who's spent more than a minute in New Orleans knows that it is a Chocolate City... just like others. Just like Washington, DC, the original Chocolate City, celebrated by the immortal George Clinton and Parliament-Funkadelic. A vibrant, multi-cultural city that happens to be majority Black.
Any problem with that?
But you have to get the reference. Apparently, no one did, except my friend Lolis, writing in the New Orleans Times-Picayune.
But, "Anderson Cooper don't know the funk."
Neither do these other pundits and editorialists -- a sure sign of the sad state of American civic life.
But here's the rub: Mayor Nagin don't know the funk either. Let's go to the transcript. Compare Nagin:
"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."
There's a lot of chocolate cities, around
We've got Newark, we've got Gary
Somebody told me we got L.A.
And we're working on Atlanta
But you're the capital, CC (...)
They say your jivin' game, it can't be changed
But on the positive side,
You're my piece of the rock
And I love you, CC.
Can you dig it?
Hey, uh, we didn't get our forty acres and a mule
But we did get you, CC, heh, yeah
Gainin' on ya
Movin' in and around ya
God bless CC and its vanilla suburbs ...
See? There's plenty of love to go around. But lyrically, there's no comparison: Mayor Nagin deserves to be criticized, if only because his lyrics are wack.
And more importantly, because he's managed to take a crucially important subject -- the African-American identity of New Orleans -- and turn it into something he has to apologize for.
Thanks, Mayor. Next time, just wink at your audience and say, "Can you dig it, C.C.?"