MOSAIC NOLA:The Gentilly Project

Sunday, December 18, 2005

The Bridge to Gretna: Tonight on 60 Minutes

Tonight Ed Bradley at 60 Minutes tackles September's incident on the bridge connecting New Orleans to Gretna, Louisiana. Sunday, Dec. 18, CBS at 7PM Eastern/Pacific (6pm Central).

Thousands of evacuees, mostly black, were taking one of the few routes out of the city. They were lacking food, water, and shelter. The Gretna police officers, mostly or all white, used force to stop the evacuees from crossing the bridge. Was this a case of racism or the story of a town government trying to protect its citizenry?

On the one hand, simple racial explanations and stereotypes can stand in the way of understanding what's really going on. On the other, racism can be too quickly dismissed as an explanation.

Ed Bradley has a good chance of getting the balance right. As black professionals in predominantly white occupations, we must constantly reconcile racism with colorblindness. We're never recognized for it. It can make white people uncomfortable when we admit having it. It's a professional skill that's translatable to other social situations, but it isn't much appreciated. We can't realistically put it on a resume and be compensated for it.

Yet, getting right the dynamics of racism and colorblindness is needed. Race remains a potentially significant factor in our interactions. It doesn't always have to be a factor. It isn't the only factor to consider. It can be one in a collection of factors working together. Given its practice and mutating forms in the history of the United States, it shouldn't be easily dismissed or ignored.

I'm glad that Ed Bradley is addressing this tonight. On the road to New Orleans recovery, this is a bridge that must be crossed.


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