"Hidden Figures" is a movie that brings new emphasis to the word "race" in America's space race in the late-50s and early-60s. It is also a movie that deserves credit for being the first movie since "Good Will Hunting" to make mathematical calculations riveting and suspenseful on the big screen.
"Hidden Figures" is based on the true story of three African-American women whose intellect combined with their strong perseverance demonstrated the immoral flaws of segregation. The movie tells the story of Katherine Goble (played by Taraji P. Henson), Dorothy Vaughn (played by Octavia Spencer) and Mary Jackson (Played by Janelle Monae).
In 1962, two years before the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and ten years before the Women's Lib Movement, Goble, Vaughn and Jackson were, indeed, hidden figures as they worked in the segregated background of the Space Task Force on NASA's Friendship 7 program.
During the height of the Cold War, Russia beat the U.S. into space with the successful launching into orbit of the Sputnik 1 satellite. In addition to the concerns of spying on America, there was also the real fear that the Russians had the capability of putting an atomic bomb in space that could be dropped on the United States.
As a young child, I was well aware of the fear of a nuclear war with Russia through the news that was on every night in our house and the conversations my parents had with neighbors. One night, I recall standing in an open field with my Dad as we watched Sputnik 1 travel over America. The satellite appeared only as a star moving across the sky, but my young mind was smart enough to sense what this meant to our safety. The fact that you could best see Sputnik 1 at night made it all the more eerie.
At a time when African-Americans were still not treated as equals, the important role three African-American women played in the U.S. catching up with Russia in the strategic space race underscores the reality of the moral and legal mistreatment of fellow American citizens.
"Hidden Figures" also reminds us that today's Baby Boomer establishment has first hand experience with the unjust treatment of African-Americans. While much has changed, the racial scars of our past are worn by many adults today.
The storyline of the movie, which was the storyline of real lives, accents the strength and determination of black Americans in the face of discrimination, but it is also important to notice that the battle was never purely black vs. white because the white supervisors of the three women ultimately recognized how their talents and abilities were juxtaposed to their unequal status. As is the case today, there are many white Americans who continually fight the injustices against black Americans.
Head of the NASA engineering department in charge of calculating the mathematics that would be used to launch a man into space and to orbit the Earth, Al Harrison (played by Kevin Costner) understood that Katherine Goble was more intelligent in the discipline of math than NASA's white head engineer, Paul Stafford, (played by Jim Parsons of "The Big Bang Theory"). Upon learning that Katherine Goble was taking 40 minute breaks because she was forced to walk, and sometimes run, a great distance to another building just to use the restroom, Harrison took a sledge hammer and literally knocked down the sign that designated the restroom for "colored women" and said that the policy ends there and anyone can use any restroom at any time. There were many not-so-subtle signs of segregation in the movie while the movie painted a bigger picture of how wrong separate-but-equal was in American society.
"Hidden Figures" tells a compelling story of victory over racial injustice, but it also captures the tense excitement of the race into space. The movie does an excellent job of documenting the politics and the panic behind the Russians beating the U.S. into space and the scenes with astronauts and their capsules hurling through space achieve cinematic realism. The capsule and space scenes rival similar scenes in the movie "Apollo 13."
Katherine Goble's story also includes the heartwarming chapter in her life and the life of her children when an extraordinary man came into their lives and she became Katherine Goble Johnson.
While orbiting the Earth, a problem with Astronaut John Glenn's (played by Glenn Powell) capsule necessitated that his scheduled number of orbits be cut to three and new calculations were desperately needed to get him back safely. Katherine Goble Johnson had been advised that she was no longer needed after the launch because of upcoming cutbacks to the space program, but at the request of John Glenn, Al Harrison brought her back and she was the one who recalculated the figures that led to Glenn's safe return to Earth.
Since Hollywood often takes creative license with true stories, I cannot be sure what John Glenn's exact words were, but in the movie when he realized new calculations were needed to bring him back he ordered Harrison to get "the smart one" to figure it out. The recognition of Katherine Goble Johnson as "the smart one" rather than the black woman, seemed to summarize the movie's theme of not judging people by the color of their skin.
"Hidden Figures" has a message for everyone. In particular, to white America, the message is that it has always been unfair to judge a person by the color of their skin. For black America, the message is to stand up for and be proud of equality, but also recognize that many white Americans that were always on your side of this debate.
"Hidden Figures" brings to light an endearing chapter in race relations in America.
On the day that President Barack Obama gives his farewell address to the nation, Americans on all sides of the political spectrum will judge the past eight years of the Obama Administration. Books will be written about the place in history President Barack Obama occupies, but as his administration comes to a close, we can consider an objective overview of the past eight years.
Actually, only some Americans will be able to consider an objective overview of the eight years President Obama was in office - the rest have already made up their minds based on bias, and not facts.
As a radio talk show host, I am beholden to no political party or rigid political ideology. Like a majority of Americans, I cannot be conveniently defined as "right" or "left." The true conservatives and the true liberals may receive a disproportionate amount of attention in the mainstream media, but neither group can boast of controlling the outcome of general elections. And Donald Trump's victory is no exception to that political reality.
President Obama leaves office with an approval rating over 50%. Many of President Obama's supporters are overly enthusiastic and many of those who have disliked the President from the first day of his presidency are overly critical and blame him for everything wrong with America and in many cases, even for the things that have gone wrong in their personal and professional lives.
During the eight years of the Obama Administration, America has faced numerous tragedies and challenges, but there has also been many positive developments to recognize. The problem is that those who from the beginning have had a positive opinion of President Obama refuse to recognize the negative aspects of what happened during his reign as president and those who have had a negative opinion of President Obama will not admit to any of the positive and encouraging developments over the past eight years.
Republicans campaigning for Mitt Romney during the 2012 presidential campaign were adamant about President Obama destroying the U.S. economy if he was re-elected. The President was re-elected and I see no signs that our economy has been destroyed. In fact, many conservative Republicans have made financial gains through the incredible performance of the stock market.
Excuses are given by those who wish to discredit the President to deflect any positive influence of the his Administration, but it's certain that if the stock market tanked there would be wholesale blaming of the President.
The U.S. economy is cyclical. Bill Clinton got credit for a booming economy, but the economy had been improving in the latter part of the George H.W. Bush Administration. Clinton reaped the benefits of that in the same way the Donald Trump will reap the benefits of an economy that, in the past year, has shown signs it is strengthening.
Generally, the economy doesn't suddenly rise or fall with the election of a new president. There are factors that led to stimulation of grown or decline in growth following an election, but our massive economy tends to make long, slow turns and the Trump Presidency begins with positive signs in the economy.
The current unemployment rate has plummeted from where it was eight years ago. Those who instinctively condemn President Obama will give excuses for why that number is down, including saying that the job market is so bad that people have given up and they no longer register in the system.
There is some truth to that, however, the same system that produced the high unemployment numbers that was used to condemn the President was praised when the numbers were high and now discounted when the numbers are low. Poll numbers and stats are either praised or condemned depending on what agenda or message is being promoted.
The U.S. economy can be growing in the right direction, but if an individual loses his or her job, their economic situation collapses. That's understandable, but it's not always fair to blame the President.
Sometimes poor performance or bad business decisions or the failure to adapt to a changing marketplace can led to the lose of a job or the closing of a business, but there will be those who refuse to accept personal accountability and pass the blame onto the President. And that happens whether the president if a Republican or a Democrat.
Race relations in America became more contentious under the administration of the first black president. That will be the topic of books and discussions for years to come. While there were times President Obama appeared to speak more from the standpoint of a black president than a president, racial tension fueled by the media increased dramatically under the Obama Administration. I doubt that it's fair to blame President Obama to the degree many do.
President Obama did not cause racial tension as much as he was the president during a time when America was very racially divided. Donald Trump will not improve race relations because the perpetrators on both sides of the race debate have little interest in coming together. If the perception of race relations in America were as good as it appears to be in our personal and professional day-to-day lives, the perpetrators would lose significance and power. By blaming a president for what's wrong with race relations in America, those who seek attention and power define an enemy with which they use to rally their follows. Every leader needs to have an enemy in order to gather and maintain a following.
Presidents get the credit or the blame for the good and bad in America, but a president has less direct influence over the actions of individuals that collectively define our society than we are led to believe.
It's wrong to blame President Obama for many of the things that are not right in America and it will be wrong to blame President Trump for every negative event that occurs while he is in the White House. That, however, will not stop the blaming.
On our talk show weekday afternoons, we will interpret and analyze the top news stories daily from the perspective of setting the record straight on what is and is not the accomplishments or the faults of the next President of the United States with no concern for political parties. I look forward to having you join us for our unique attitude on the air!
One of the promises that defined the Trump campaign was the promise to build a "beautiful" wall on the border between Mexico and the U.S., but one thing that made that promise so bold was Trump insisting that Mexico would pay for the wall to be built.
Many people in political circles questioned how Donald Trump, as president, could force Mexico to pay for the wall, but in the face of much skepticism, Trump continued to insist that Mexico would pay for it and the crowds at rallies cheered as if they were certain Trump would force Mexico to pay for a new wall that separates our two countries.
We are now learning that Trump wants to start building a wall using U.S. taxpayers' dollars, but Mexico will pay for the wall later. While that is possible, there is no doubt that many Trump supporters who were cheering at the idea that Mexico would pay for the wall did not think that our tax dollars would be used at the outset.
Would the promise to build a wall and make Mexico pay for it have been as effective during the campaign if it had been known that the U.S. would pay for starting to build the wall and Mexico would pay for it later?
Trump supporters could argue that as long as Trump gets Mexico to pay for the wall then it doesn't matter if Mexico pays up front or if the U.S. is reimbursed by Mexico.
If Hillary Clinton had won the election and revealed that her promise to build a wall and make Mexico pay for it actually meant that U.S. taxpayers would foot the bill for the wall and Mexico would pay later, critics would blast her for deceiving voters. We are reminded daily of the political hypocrisy that plagues our great nation.
It is true that if Mexico ultimately reimburses the U.S. for building a wall on the border then Trump was right when he said he would make Mexico pay for the wall, but I wonder if the promise to build a wall and make Mexico pay would have been as effective during the campaign if it had been known that taxpayers would actually pay for the wall now and Mexico would reimburse the U.S.?
Technically, Trump is not breaking a campaign promise with this plan, but I'm sure he didn't want to reveal that part of his plan during the campaign. And so we are, again, reminded that politicians – on both sides – will say whatever it takes to get elected knowing they realistically cannot do what they promise to do.
Four young African-Americans tortured a mentally challenged white male while shouting anti-Trump and racial slurs. The episode lasted 24 to possibly 48 hours, according to authorities and a portion was seen live on Facebook.
Four young African-Americans, two male and two female, are in custody and are said to all be over 18, but the names of the suspects have not been released.
The young mentally challenged white male was apparently a classmate of one of the suspects and was picked up in one part of Chicago and driven in a stolen vehicle to another part of the city, where he was bound with rope and duct tape placed over his mouth during the physical and mental attack. At one point the white male was cut with a knife and the suspects laughed and made fun of the fact that he was bleeding.
During the assault of the white male, the suspects are heard shouting, "F-white people" and "F-Donald Trump!" Police are investigating the crime as a possible hate crime. It would appear obvious to many that this crime is the definition of a hate crime.
Here it is, unedited.
An attempt to blame the Black Lives Matter movement surfaced with the hot trending #BlackLivesMatter on social media. Is Black Lives Matter responsible for four blacks torturing a mentally challenged white male?
The most disturbing aspect of the kidnapping and torture of a young male is that it reflects the impression of a deepening racial divide in America through the media. Judgment of whom or what is responsible for this crime is not confined to racial boundaries. Many white Americans and many black Americans are united on the fact that pure hate and anger are to blame, but the media will tend to find a white pundit to represent the young white male and a black pundit to explain the behavior of the four young African-Americans. In reality, judgment of the kidnapping and torture is not so easily defined as white or black.
Another disturbing trend in America today is the instinct to use a horrible crime to promote or discredit an individual, a movement or an ideology. Blaming Black Lives Matter for the assault of a white male is an attempt to condemn a movement, but totally dismissing the contribution of the mentality of many within the BLM movement ignores reality.
There has been a general discussion that Barack Obama, as the first black president, greatly enhanced racial tension in America. Following the election of Donald Trump, there seems to be a new discussion about how Trump's victory may be encouraging talk about how white and black Americans will manifest their celebration or frustration with violent actions.
The quickness with which Americans blame Obama, Trump, Black Lives Matter or any other individual or group with a specific message may have more to do with America's judgmental tendencies and less to do with the message of an individual or a group.
President Obama, Donald Trump and Black Lives Matter did not create racial tension in America as much they reflect the racial tension that lives in America.
‘Twas the night before Christmas, when after the election,
Many were stirring, over Hillary’s rejection,
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
And many were excited Trump soon would be there;
His children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of power danced in their heads;
And Melania in her teddy and Trump in his cap,
Had just settled down for a long winter’s nap,
When out in the land there arose such a clatter,
Trump sprang from his bed to see what was the matter.
Away to the window he flew in a flash,
Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.
The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow
Gave the lustre of mid-day to protesters below,
When, what to Trump’s wondering eyes should appear,
But Bill and Hillary, in their eyes was a tear,
With the media and questions, so lively and quick,
Trump knew they were liberal suddenly felt sick,
More rapid than eagles the questions they came,
And Trump answered, and shouted, and said networks by name,
Now, CBS! Now, ABC! Now, MSNBC and even Fox News,
I use Twitter to reach people - to hell with you and your crews,
At the top of government is where I stand tall,
Now dash away! Dash away! To hell with you all!
He was dressed in a suit, from his head to his feet,
And the clothes were impeccable of that he would tweet,
A bundle of plans he had to bring America back,
Trump was going to Washington and was ready to pack,
His eyes – how they twinkled! His hands they were small!
His cheeks were all orange, his face shaped like a ball,
His droll little mouth attacked each foe,
And the hair on his head was as white as the snow;
He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
But he didn’t laugh or ever make fun of himself;
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head,
Soon gave us to know we had plenty to dread;
He spoke many words, and went straight to his work,
And thought about that big new plane – oh, what a perk,
And pointing his finger at those who oppose,
Trump hoped the future had polls where he rose,
He sprang to his motorcade, to his transition team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.
But I heard him exclaim, as he drove out of sight,
To Make America Great Again, I’ll need more than just the “right!”
Any hope that conservatives and liberals would unite after the presidential election quickly disappeared as the debate over ideology grew even more territorial. Many Americans call themselves “liberal” or “conservative,” but in reality they are not strictly one or the other.
Owning a political label seems to be a necessity for some Americans. Many of those who define themselves as “liberal” or “conservative” may not actually know what it really means to be either.
To help us define what it is to be “liberal” or “conservative,” let’s try to figure out if Santa is a “liberal” or a “conservative!”
What do we know about Santa Claus? He is male and since he’s married to Mrs. Claus – we assume Santa is straight. Santa has a strong work ethic and while this may be his busiest time of year – he does appear to work throughout the year.
The story of “Twas the Night Before Christmas” gives us a clue that Santa Claus is a drinker: “His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!” And since he had “a little round belly that shook when he laughed like a bowl full of jelly,” it does appear that Santa was not in the best physical shape and, therefore, may have a high cholesterol level as is at risk of having diabetes or heart problems. We don’t know if Santa is lazy and doesn’t exercise or if his metabolism is a bit slow.
Santa creates jobs! Santa is a big employer of numerous elves and arguably represents big business. He owns reindeer and appears to be an animal lover since there are no known complaints against Santa from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. But in “Twas the Night Before Christmas” we are told that he was “dressed in fur” and that would not win him favor with PETA!
We know Santa is a very generous person, but he doesn’t give to everyone. His generous nature might lead you to think that Santa is a Democrat, but he only gives to those who have earned gifts by being good throughout the year.
By giving gifts to boys and girls all over the world – Santa thinks globally and demonstrates a non-judgmental attitude that is accepting of many different cultures. However, he does focus on Christian cultures.
It could be said that Santa Claus has little respect for the right to privacy, since he boldly enters the homes of individuals while they are sleeping. But is his blatant disregard for privacy balanced by the idea that he leaves presents under the tree?
Does Santa encourage an “entitlement mentality?” Many children grow up believing they are entitled to wake up Christmas morning to presents under the tree, but they also understand that they must live by a strict moral code of behavior in order to earn the right to receive gifts.
There have been controversies over Santa and the 2nd Amendment. In one city, there was a billboard with Santa holding an assault rifle and numerous gun ranges and gun shops promoting kids taking a picture with Santa and their guns, which has led to widespread speculation that Santa Claus is a strong supporter of the 2nd Amendment. And it’s important to acknowledge that Santa is a very responsible gun owner, since there are no known incidents of the misuse of a firearm on Santa’s record.
Santa wears a red suit – the color designating conservative states.
There are many reasons to believe that Santa is a Republican, but there are also many reasons to support the idea that Santa is a Democrat.
I guess it is fair to say that Santa Claus – like most Americans – is not all conservative or all liberal! And maybe that’s another good lesson we can learn from Santa this time of year?
The trend of blaming the media for the content of the news continues to grow across America, but as always, the media reflects its audience. The media, in general, is beholden to what stories and content will capture the attention of viewers and readers.
When I make this argument that the media reflects the audience and it is the audience that ultimately determines which stories that get the most attention, particularly on the cable news channels, I am criticized for that point-of-view. Blaming the media for the stories emphasized instead allows the audience to feel better about it.
The audience can say, “Hey, those controversial stories and all the hate on the news channels is because that’s what they want us to see,” but the media chooses the stories that feed the appetite of the audience. If there is still a doubt in your mind as to whether the audience determines what is news, the reaction, yesterday, to the guilty verdict in the Dylann Roof murder trial proves the point.
The guilty verdict on all counts of Dylann Roof, the young, white male that admitted killing nine African-American worshippers in a church in downtown Charleston, SC broke while I was on the air yesterday. Immediately, I switched topics to reacting to the guilty verdict. When stories like that one break while I’m on the air, the response is always instant and passionate. However, yesterday, the phone lines were very light with callers. I was stunned.
A few people called and their points about Dylann Roof and the consensus was that Roof is evil and should be executed or spend the rest of his life in prison. White and black callers all agreed and there was no racial controversy. Interestingly, the guilty verdict is not top of the news today and on many of the news websites the story is not a top priority story. Why?
Since there was widespread agreement on the guilty verdict of Roof among white and black listeners that called or sent text messages, there was no racial controversy – there was racial unity. Without dissention between white and black America, the guilty verdict was more a footnote story in the news rather than a story that generates great passion.
I brought up the topic, but response from the audience was extremely light. The news media also covered the story, but without the controversy, the story did not generate a high level of passionate debate and reaction that most cases involving a white guy shooting black people in a church would have generated.
This is not the only example that illustrates the point that the audience determines what the media covers. Of course, there are exceptions, but overall, the media responds to the desires of the audience. When we don’t like how the media covers a story we want to blame the media, but we are the ones that determine what stories get the most attention.
I have often used this metaphor: “If you look into a mirror and you don’t like the image you see – do you blame the mirror or do you blame the source of the image reflected?”
When Joe McKnight, Jr., an African-American and former NFL player, was shot and killed following a road rage incident and the shooter, Ronald Gasser, a white male, was not immediately arrested, there were demands for Gasser’s immediate arrest.
Some protested and the demand for the arrest of Ronald Gasser was part of a call for “justice.”
Jefferson Parish Sheriff Newell Normand held a passionate press conferenced yesterday and explained why he waited a few days to arrest Gasser. The reasons were valid and were part of the legal strategy to build a strong case against Gasser. But many assumed that justice was not served because Gasser was not immediately arrested.
Maybe we have forgotten, or never really knew, the definition of “justice.”
Here is the definition of justice from the Merriam-Webster Dictionary: The quality of being just, impartial or fair. Theprinciple or ideal of right action. Conformity to truth, fact or reason.
Justice doesn’t mean what you think is just – justice refers to what is right.
It is well-documented that over the decades, African-Americans have not always received justice in America, but justice needs to be applied to each current situation without regard for the past.
Our system of justice, flawed as it may be, should be based on fairness and any attempt to redefine justice to compensate for past injustices is not, by definition, justice – it’s revenge and our system is not based on revenge. The motivation of revenge is unjust to those involved in current situations.
What is projected through the media is that “all blacks” believe one thing and “all whites” believe the direct opposite. Consistently, the cable news networks find a black person to represent a pro-black position on a hotly-debated topic and a white person to represent the pro-white view. The reflection we see of our society is a definite divide along racial lines. But is that who we really are?
Many whites have said that Ronald Gasser was wrong and the aggressor when he decided to take it upon himself to pursue Joe McKnight, Jr. There are individuals in the white population that automatically support their perception of a white guy with the gun defending himself against the aggression of a young black male, but not every white or every black American view the circumstances in the same way.
In another current controversial case, many white Americans, including myself, are absolutely shocked that the trial of South Carolina police officer Michael Slager ended in a mistrial.
Officer Slager was arrested and tried on charges that he shot and killed Walter Scott, a suspect who was running away from him. And Slager shot Scott multiple times in the back, yet claimed he felt his life was threatened. Obviously, the defense did an excellent job of presenting Slager’s case and the trial ended in a mistrial with the prosecution planning to retry the case. Many white Americans think Slager murdered Scott.
We are a divided nation, but we are not as divided as we have been led to believe through the consistent presentation of opposing white and black views in the media.
When a white person defends another white person – it may not be because they are white and it does not make them a racist. And when a black person criticizes a white person – that does not automatically make them a racist. The media does not focus on the unity of opinions based on behavior and not race. The media feeds and excites the audience with the racial divide that is a painful reality that is entrenched in American society.
Let’s do a better job of hearing the non-judgmental voices, rather than allow ourselves to be defined by the voices of division.
President Obama said in an interview with Rolling Stone magazine that Fox News helped sway the election in favor of Donald Trump. At a time when fear that the “liberal media” controls the outcome of elections is widespread, how could Fox News have helped Trump win? Does this mean the fears over the “liberal media” are unfounded?
We talk about the relationship between mass media and society often on our afternoon talk show, and this is a perfect time to set the record straight.
I have always argued that even if the media is, collectively, more liberal than conservative, and if those biases are apparent in the presentation of news and talk show topics, that does not mean the media has the power to determine the outcome of elections.
The media is more a reflection of the audience than something that dictates ideology. It is known that most members of the audience tend to seek the media outlet that best reflects their opinions as a way of confirming their beliefs. It’s called “confirmation bias.” Put simply, the overwhelming percentage of the audience that tunes into the Fox News, CNN or MSBNC chooses those news sources because their opinions are represented as opposed to seeking a news source that challenges their beliefs.
If the goal of the average listener is to tune into the media source that represents their views, then it is fair to say that the media more reflects the audience than dictates opinions. If the media reflects the audience, which I believe it does, then the fact that Fox News is on in bars and restaurants, as President Obama observed, means that the audience in the bars and restaurants want to watch Fox News.
Fox News did not determine the outcome of the election. A large swath of America between the coasts stood up and demanded change, while too many Democrats expressed complacency by choosing not to vote.
President Obama also blamed Clinton’s loss to Democrats lacking a grass-roots effort, which was not the problem. Throughout the campaign, the Democrats' ground game and the Party’s political machinery was praised as being superior to the Republican Party’s efforts to reach individual voters.
President Obama is doing what many do, and that is finding something to blame other than the rejection of ideology. The Republicans did it, and now the Democrats are doing it.
Republicans have argued that their candidates didn’t win because of the influence of the “liberal media.” Now, President Obama suggests that Hillary lost because of the influence of Fox News. If the President is wrong to blame the media, then conservatives are also wrong to blame the media!
America changes, and when America changes there is always one group that refuses to accept or even acknowledge the change.
The shots fired on Bourbon Street early Sunday morning of Thanksgiving weekend were the first shots I’ve heard fired during an act of violence, but they were shots heard around the country.
The shooting on Bourbon Street late Saturday night/early Sunday morning quickly became a national news story.
Bourbon Street is one of the most popular streets in America and if you haven’t been on it – you’ve heard about it. Bourbon Street is also known one of the country’s most popular party spots and the contrast of a shooting in an area known for fun and frivolity leads to creates a compelling headline.
Ten people were shot – one died. The victims were described at eight men and two women between the ages of 20 – 37.
Sitting on my sofa in my downtown apartment about 1:30 am Sunday morning, I heard the barrage of gunfire that at first sounded like a pack of firecrackers going off, but I knew that it was gunfire. I jumped up and went to my window and saw groups of people running down Carondelet away from Bourbon Street.
I knew I was safe in my apartment, but there was still something surreal about hearing the actual gunfire and then witnessing the aftermath. People were running away from the French Quarter in apparent desperation, the sirens of police, fire and EMS vehicles drowned out my television and the number of flashing lights confirmed that something very serious had just occurred a few blocks from my apartment.
I was reminded that so many people in New Orleans, and around the country, live in neighborhoods where the sounds of gunfire are all too common., but to experience this for the first time is startling.
After I heard the shots, I went on the WWL Radio Facebook page and did a live broadcast of what I was seeing and hearing and also posted the video on my page, Scoot on the Air.
Around midnight that evening, I was walking back to my apartment from parking my car and I sensed something unsettling about the crowd on the street that night. I have always welcomed the Bayou Classic crowd to my neighborhood. It’s crowded, but it’s fun. I can’t really explain it, but I was unusually uncomfortable walking home that night and got a feeling that everyone was not in town to enjoy the game and the celebration. Sadly, my fear was confirmed.
NOPD is reporting that two men got into an argument and then began shooting at each other, hitting innocent bystanders in the crowd. This happened in the 100 block of Bourbon – the first block of Bourbon off Canal.
This is a block known for the gathering of groups. There is less concentration of businesses and activity, but always a large number of people, many choosing to hang out in that block rather than venture down to where the action is on Bourbon Street. I always found that curious.
The first block of Bourbon is not extremely well lit and there were high-powered spotlights further down Bourbon Street, but not in the first block. There’s no way of knowing for sure if spotlights would have prevented the shooting, but it’s never a mistake to light up an area known as a spot away from the party area to congregate.
The shooting proves that more police officers on the street are not necessarily the answer to preventing crime. Near the spot where the shooting occurred, NOPD had about 40 officers present. This was the night of the big Bayou Classic between Southern University and Grambling State. A large crowd was expected. It seems obvious that the types of individuals who are prone to this kind of criminal activity don’t care if the police are nearby. A police officer in another city was shot in front of the police station. More cops are good, but more cops will not solve or prevent the problems we now have to deal with.
Following a high-profile shooting like the one Sunday morning on a packed Bourbon Street, people will tell you who or what is to blame and the excuses range from “there are too many guns on the streets” to “there are not enough jobs” to “there are not enough fathers raising the children that result from sex.” All of these excuses – and they are excuses – fail to address the real problem.
According to NOPD, the shooting erupted when two men got into an argument. Today, we hear countless stories of gun deaths or injuries resulting an argument where the only way to settle the argument was to pull out a gun – usually illegally obtained – and shoot someone. That is the part of the problem that too few are willing to address. Shootings often result from two people who have been conditioned to believe that they only way to settle an argument is with a gun. That’s not a problem with the police or politicians – that’s a problem with society.
New Orleans businessman Sidney Torres suggested that it’s time to establish metal detector checkpoints at all entrances to a certain stretch of Bourbon Street. That does not address the problem with individuals in our society, but it would make Bourbon Street safer for tourists and those of us who consider that part of their neighborhood.
There are constitutional issues to consider and there will be a strong protest from many gun activists. There have also been stabbings on Bourbon Street so removing guns will not make the crown jewel of New Orleans completely safe, but the ease with which some people will use a gun to settle an argument should cut down on the crime and the criminal element that goes to the French Quarter because they have a gun to use to protect their rep or their illegal trade.
But whether there are checkpoints to enter Bourbon Street or not, the real problem is that our society has failed to set standards that do not allow individuals to instinctively think that a gun is the only answer to life.