A new trend in violence in The Big Easy
August 21, 2014 11:49 AM   Subscribe

It was just after dark when Michael Martin, 56, was walking back to his home in New Orleans’ Marigny neighborhood, after helping a friend move... That's when he was jumped by a group of 13-year-olds and kicked, punched, and choked unconscious. He's not alone. It turns out that New Orleans middle schoolers are beating the shit out of artists and gays.
posted by shivohum (72 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite

 
There is at least one fairly graphic photo in there, of a heavily beaten face, FWIW.
posted by sandettie light vessel automatic at 11:56 AM on August 21, 2014 [3 favorites]


I don't think groups of kids attacking people on foot in NO is anything new. I remember it back in the 90s, too. I had friends living there who were randomly attacked walking home from bars by kids--not robbed, just beaten. One incident involved a pipe. Summer brings the spasms of violence.
posted by feste at 12:02 PM on August 21, 2014


In case you're picturing little cherubic kids when you read "13-year-olds", I suggest you Google images for, say, team pictures of this year's Little League World Series, where no player can be older than 13. There were a lot of very adult-looking "kids" on some of those teams.
posted by Thorzdad at 12:02 PM on August 21, 2014 [1 favorite]


Lovely place.
posted by smidgen at 12:03 PM on August 21, 2014 [1 favorite]


I grew up in Seattle in the seventies and live in New Orleans about a mile from the Marigny now. I am quite confident in saying that New Orleans now is safer than Seattle was in the seventies and teenagers beating the shit out of anyone no matter their orientation or avocation is not "a new trend".
posted by vapidave at 12:06 PM on August 21, 2014 [4 favorites]


Bad things happen in bad neighborhoods. This article isn't particularly illuminating.
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 12:08 PM on August 21, 2014 [1 favorite]


What a weird article. They're trying to frame these crimes as some kind of intentional, insidious trend but there doesn't seem to be any evidence to support that - and in fact the article itself mentions quite a few other recent crimes committed against people who are not artists and gays, with only two mentions of victims in the supposed targeted group.
posted by something something at 12:18 PM on August 21, 2014 [4 favorites]


This article resonated with me. After the burglary and two muggings, the next incident is bye bye Baltimore. I don't think it's necessarily a well thought out position, but it appeals to me emotionally.
posted by josher71 at 12:19 PM on August 21, 2014 [1 favorite]


The artist interviewed cautions against labelling these attacks as hate crimes, and suggests they're fueled mainly by gentrification - poor families being pushed out of neighborhoods.
posted by xammerboy at 12:20 PM on August 21, 2014 [1 favorite]


The comments to the article are outrageous... Talk about racist....
posted by xammerboy at 12:21 PM on August 21, 2014 [3 favorites]


While Martin is wary of calling the assault a hate crime, he does feel the rapid gentrification happening, in both the St. Roch and Marigny neighborhoods, could have something to do with his beating.

“That neighborhood is under a ferocious amount of gentrification pressure,” Martin said. “I mean gay is a bonus... if you don’t like gentrification, you probably don’t like old white faggots either.”


A battle in the gentrification wars, all right, but where do the inevitable losers end up -- someplace like Ferguson?
posted by jamjam at 12:26 PM on August 21, 2014


The Marigny was gentrified ages ago. It's not exactly a recent phenomenon.
posted by desuetude at 12:28 PM on August 21, 2014 [5 favorites]


That's what I was thinking. I was in the Marigny a couple days ago and it seemed primarily white at this point, and The Bywater is not far behind.
posted by to sir with millipedes at 12:34 PM on August 21, 2014


The Bush collapse of 2008 virtually zeroed out the wealth of black America, which means that black people have lost ownership of many of the houses they did own, and now don't stand to profit much even individually from the gentrification of their neighborhoods.
posted by jamjam at 12:40 PM on August 21, 2014 [6 favorites]


And by ages go, I remember staying there in 2001 in a B&B, and the stereotype of gay men having gentrified the neighborhood was already well-established.
posted by desuetude at 12:44 PM on August 21, 2014


2008? Why so specific?
posted by oceanjesse at 12:44 PM on August 21, 2014


2008 is when the housing crisis collapsed the stock market and sent lots of mortgages underwater.
posted by grumpybear69 at 12:46 PM on August 21, 2014 [4 favorites]


Hey, remember "wilding," that plague of roving teenage rape gangs in Central Park that turned out to be bullshit—but not before the press whipped up racist panic and five teenagers were convicted based on coerced confessions?

You should.
posted by Sys Rq at 12:47 PM on August 21, 2014 [50 favorites]


Though it is unfair to blame that collapse on Bush since it was the product of amoral (and largely apolitical) global capitalist activities that had been going on for a long, long time.
posted by grumpybear69 at 12:48 PM on August 21, 2014


2008 is when the housing crisis collapsed the stock market and sent lots of mortgages underwater.

You know what else put a lot of New Orleans mortgages underwater?
posted by Sys Rq at 12:48 PM on August 21, 2014 [46 favorites]


Funny timing, this, in light of Ferguson. Given there's no actual evidence offered here of any particularly new trend, I'm prone to dismiss this as more grist for the racist mill.
posted by saulgoodman at 12:48 PM on August 21, 2014 [4 favorites]


Kids be bored. And then they see an old white person walking funny or something and they want to fight them,” Riles said. “If they think you look weak, they’re going to mess with you.”

“I think it’ll work. I’ve been around these neighborhoods long enough to see it work. It worked for me. It worked for my friends,” Riles said. “But then once it stops, people gonna get killed because they don’t have anything to do.”


I'm constantly reminded how paper thin this veneer of civilization really is and it fucking terrifies me.
posted by echocollate at 12:49 PM on August 21, 2014 [9 favorites]


Earlier this year there were two separate beatings of bicyclists on Esplanade Ave. in the same vein as this article: no robbery, just beatings. I heard a few other bicyclists say that they felt they were close to being involved in similar situations at the same locations, but they were faster / alert / not stopped by traffic or lights / etc. If I'm not mistaken there was another attack not long ago but I couldn't find reference to it in a cursory search so I might be imagining it.

Regardless, I wouldn't suggest Vice publish an article saying that teens are (or were) targeting bicyclists on Esplanade. That street had been recently repaved and a bike lane added, and bicycle traffic skyrocketed. More people in the area, more people to target, ripe news about the newly-finished road now having bad juju - it makes sense that people were up in arms about it and tuned into any example or close call (imagined or otherwise) but that doesn't make it a trend.

This is not to minimize or handwave away the mind-numbing violence that happens in New Orleans on a daily basis, nor to deny that the Marigny has been Gentrification Ground Zero for years now. I just don't think it's a "trend". I think the closest the article gets to the truth is, paraphrased, "kids looking to cause trouble see target that they feel will not offer strong opposition" which is not the same as "kids seek specific type of target and then decide to unleash violence." I have to admit though, that the distinction is academic when the end result is "groups of kids beat people for fun."
posted by komara at 12:50 PM on August 21, 2014 [2 favorites]


I spent the Summer of 2008 in NOLA doing legal aid work for people who'd lost their homes or were in danger of losing them (or getting screwed by fraudulent contractors. There was a lot of that. I don't know what it is about the sleaziest sociopaths that makes 90% of them go into contracting, but they seem to... Anyway.)

My job involved a lot of me walking into storm-torn edge-of-oblivion black neighborhoods as a young white guy in a suit with a briefcase, at a time when anybody looking like me and dressed like me was coming to your door to foreclose on or condemn your home. Needless to say, the kids in these neighborhoods were always keeping a stink-eye on me (because it's not like I was going to stop and explain to each kid I passed that I was on their side.)

But I was never threatened or treated with hostility. Everyone I met, once we started talking, was kind and just trying to keep their families and communities together and rebuild. And this was in the Lower Ninth while the area was still badly reeling post-Katrina.

And even at that time, I wouldn't say the Marigny was "gentrifying." I would say that it was "white." NOLA is violent, yes, but this reads like the VICE writer didn't want to leave the hip districts to get his story.
posted by Navelgazer at 12:55 PM on August 21, 2014 [6 favorites]


New Orleans now is safer than Seattle was in the seventies

I hate these kind of excuses. I'm sure both were safer than parts of NYC in the seventies -- doesn't mean its actually safe or I really want to live there. Any place where you can get regularly beaten up by angry teenagers (for whatever reason) is by definition, not a nice place. Sorry about your property values.
posted by smidgen at 12:55 PM on August 21, 2014 [2 favorites]


Hey, remember "wilding," that plague of roving teenage rape gangs in Central Park that turned out to be bullshit—but not before the press whipped up racist panic and five teenagers were convicted based on coerced confessions?

You make it sound here as though the "wilding" panic preceded and somehow caused the Central Park gang rape case. But it was that case which gave rise to the term "wilding" and to the (relatively brief) moral panic around it. Which is not to dispute that this is a weirdly dubious bit of reporting. I'd compare it more to Fox News's "knockout game" hysteria than to the Central Park Jogger case.
posted by yoink at 12:57 PM on August 21, 2014 [1 favorite]


I don't think groups of kids attacking people on foot in NO is anything new.

Yes - a friend of mine was punched unconscious by a group of kids while walking back from a bar in the early 90s in NO. He mentioned at the time that it was fairly common.
posted by ryanshepard at 12:58 PM on August 21, 2014 [1 favorite]


Jamelle Bouie just today on Twitter on the idea of "Black Crime"

It's not entirely relevant to the details of this story but it is very relevant to people's reactions to stories like this.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 12:58 PM on August 21, 2014 [3 favorites]


Just last weekend, two teenaged girls were gunned down and killed in a drive-by shooting that wounded five others, blocks from where Martin was attacked. Two toddlers, ages two and four, were among the critically wounded in that shooting. As of this writing, there have been 24 murders this year in and around the St. Roch and Marigny neighborhoods. Fourteen of them have occurred since June. Perhaps the most depressing of the bunch was the death of 59-year-old Brenda Hal, who was hit in the neck by a stray bullet while playing cards inside a friend's house.

And in a community riddled with blight, drug addiction, and shootings, residents are now more concerned than ever. After a violent and bloody summer, the children of these neighborhoods, some as young as 11 years old, seem to be taking out their frustrations on an unfortunate and unlikely group: artists and gays.

(emphasis mine)
posted by Aiwen at 1:00 PM on August 21, 2014 [2 favorites]


Well, it might be worth pointing out that official authorities in New Orleans have long been known for corruption and the worst kinds of coercive and violent abuse of power, so if the theory that the people within a community tend to reflect and internalize the values and attitudes of their leaders and authorities ("fish rots from the head" kind of thing), then you might also view some of this as people at the bottom of the pecking order expressing the values they've learned from the authorities they interact with in their daily lives and the culture at large. We casually celebrate and glorify the dog-eat-dog mentality in so many ways in our culture these days, it shouldn't be surprising that people who only have access to the crudest forms of personal power tend to exercise them in ways that are consistent with the common values of the culture at large.
posted by saulgoodman at 1:00 PM on August 21, 2014 [5 favorites]


New Orleans Youths Knockout Gaming Hipsters, Says News Outlet Co-Founded By Hip Racist
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 1:01 PM on August 21, 2014 [11 favorites]


Aiwen, finger-painting can TOO be art, and I won't hear otherwise!
posted by desuetude at 1:05 PM on August 21, 2014


New Orleans Youths Knockout Gaming Hipsters, Says News Outlet Co-Founded By Hip Racist

Oh, ffs. First, "trend" isn't in the piece and old gay white men aren't typically Vice style hipsters.
posted by josher71 at 1:07 PM on August 21, 2014


You make it sound here as though the "wilding" panic preceded and somehow caused the Central Park gang rape case.

You inferred that yourself, yoink, and I'm not really sure how. (FYI, "not before" means meanwhile or after.)
posted by Sys Rq at 1:08 PM on August 21, 2014 [1 favorite]


2008 was when a lot of post-Katrina housing assistance ran out. My old roomie, LC, who had been in charge of skills training for youth offenders in New Orleans, is the youngest of thirteen and the very last person you ever want to get in a fight with bought himself a pistol and me a rifle in case things got bad. We lived just south of the lower ninth.

"Any place where you can get regularly beaten up by angry teenagers (for whatever reason) is by definition, not a nice place."

Here is a list of cities with higher violent crime rates than New Orleans, in ascending order:

Anchorage
Boston
Oklahoma City
Cincinnati
Tulsa
Minneapolis
Houston
Newark
Philadelphia
Toledo
Miami
Washington
Indianapolis
Nashville
Kansas City
Buffalo
Milwaukee
Atlanta
Cleveland
Baltimore
Stockton
Memphis
St. Louis
Oakland
Detroit

Link.
posted by vapidave at 1:19 PM on August 21, 2014 [15 favorites]


New Orleans Youths Knockout Gaming Hipsters, Says News Outlet Co-Founded By Hip Racist, Co-Owned By Rupert Murdoch
posted by Sys Rq at 1:20 PM on August 21, 2014


It's a problem here in Baltimore too. One of the local cycling advocacy groups has one or two reports a week about people being chased and assaulted by large groups of young teens. So far, no one has been seriously injured, but there's been half a dozen or so people that have gotten suckerpunched and had their bikes stolen, but it's not clear that theft is the main motivator, since some of them had their bikes damaged instead of being stolen.

The big problem is that the police don't really take it seriously, for whatever reason. Just yesterday someone reported being attacked, and the responding officer wouldn't take a report because nothing was stolen and the cyclist wasn't seriously injured.
posted by Ham Snadwich at 1:20 PM on August 21, 2014 [1 favorite]


FYI, "not before" means meanwhile or after

Um...yes, and? Your comment doesn't say the wilding panic was "not before" the Central Park Jogger case. It says the racist panic and the conviction of the five innocent teens happened "not before" the whole thing turned out to be bullshit.
posted by yoink at 1:22 PM on August 21, 2014


Oh, ffs. First, "trend" isn't in the piece and old gay white men aren't typically Vice style hipsters.

You're right. My take was unfair.

New Orleans Youths Knockout Gaming Beating Up Hipsters Old Gay White Men In A Gentrifying Neighborhood, Says News Outlet Co-Founded By Hip Racist Who Left The Company Seven Years Ago -

and, on preview:

- But Currently Funded By Rupert Murdoch
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 1:24 PM on August 21, 2014 [1 favorite]


Oh, ffs. First, "trend" isn't in the piece and old gay white men aren't typically Vice style hipsters.

The point is (fpp title accuracy notwithstanding), if there's no evidence of this actually being some new trend, why is it "news" now? Low-level violence of this sort is and has always been a reality in lots of places in the US, and the victims of random violence have always tended to be people the culture identifies as more vulnerable or weaker in some way (women, children, people who read as gay, the infirm, etc.)... Hell, growing up among poor rural whites, in middle school, I once had a white guy I had just met threaten to cut my balls off with a buck knife he held to my crotch on the back of a public school bus (I guess he just wanted to establish his authority over the seat right from the get-go). Horrible, thuggish violence is not something NO or black people have a monopoly on in the real world, so the framing here just seems misleading and pointlessly racist to me. In my hometown, we had the same problem but it was groups of white guys who self-identified as "red neck" (despite never having spent a day working in a field in their lives).
posted by saulgoodman at 1:25 PM on August 21, 2014 [2 favorites]


Your comment doesn't say the wilding panic was "not before" the Central Park Jogger case. It says the racist panic and the conviction of the five innocent teens happened "not before" the whole thing turned out to be bullshit.

And by the transitive properties of ... transitive properties, that would put the case first, wouldn't it?
posted by Sys Rq at 1:25 PM on August 21, 2014


And by the transitive properties of ... transitive properties, that would put the case first, wouldn't it?

Nope. All it does it situate both the case and the "wilding panic" as prior to the discovery that the case was "bullshit." The question of the ordering of the "wilding panic" and the case remains open. And the reason I suggested that your comment implied (not that it absolutely averred, but that it implied) that the "wilding panic" preceded and caused the injustice of the Central Park jogging case was that seemed to be suggesting that this piece in the FPP--speaking about something rather analogous to the bogus "wilding" nonsense--was dangerous in that it might somehow lead to something like the Central Park jogging case. Otherwise it's hard to see what analogy you're drawing here.
posted by yoink at 1:29 PM on August 21, 2014


Uh yeah? The convictions came after the incident and the press frenzy, if that's what you're confused about...???
posted by Sys Rq at 1:32 PM on August 21, 2014


- But Currently Funded By Rupert Murdoch

If people appended this to every WSJ link, I'd take it more seriously. As it is, despite his horribleness, I don't think it's germane in this instance.

The point is (fpp title accuracy notwithstanding), if there's no evidence of this actually being some new trend, why is it "news" now?

Good point.
posted by josher71 at 1:33 PM on August 21, 2014


> Any place where you can get regularly beaten up by angry teenagers (for whatever reason) is by definition, not a nice place. Sorry about your property values.

San Francisco's violent crime rate is much higher than Seattle's. Don't visit. We're okay with that. (You can still be sorry about what property values are doing to our city, though.)
posted by rtha at 1:34 PM on August 21, 2014 [4 favorites]


Here is a list of cities with higher violent crime rates than New Orleans, in ascending order:

While this is true, you'll notice that if you sort by murder we (and Detroit) are playing ball at a whole different level than the rest of America. It's what I tell my out-of-town friends when they inquire about my safety in New Orleans, "Hey, I'm no more likely to have my car stolen or house broken into than you are there in Nashville. We just have a tiny murder problem is all."
posted by komara at 1:34 PM on August 21, 2014 [11 favorites]


A man got beaten to death on the greenway here in Raleigh by a group of teenagers last year. It remains one of the best places to live in America, according to reports that come out year after year by major publications of all sorts. This stuff happens everywhere. No city - or even small town - is immune to random violence.
posted by something something at 1:37 PM on August 21, 2014


A man got beaten to death on the greenway here in Raleigh by a group of teenagers last year

*People in Durham looking smug*
posted by josher71 at 1:43 PM on August 21, 2014 [1 favorite]


I'm surprised to see that Charlotte isn't on that list.
posted by oceanjesse at 1:45 PM on August 21, 2014


No city - or even small town - is immune to random violence.

or groups of middle school kids causing trouble - 2 or 3 years ago, some were beating up homeless people in downtown kalamazoo - this year, middle school kids are shooting each other
posted by pyramid termite at 1:47 PM on August 21, 2014


I am beginning to see why Murdoch bought Vice now. It can be used to push the line that white liberals, gays,artists, etc...are victims of black people -under the cover of being an "alternative" news source.

Basically, this report is just catnip for racists.
posted by yertledaturtle at 1:50 PM on August 21, 2014 [4 favorites]


Kids are going to get shot.
But that's not really news, it's already happened in the Marigny.

Part of the problem is that the 5th District* might as well not even be there for how helpful they are
(see the recent roofie and rape at the Country Club and how NOPD has handled it) and the fact that the 8th District* is supposed to patrol the Marigny but only seems to be seen in the Quarter and the CBD.

Couple that with the mysterious and surprising effective-immediately retirement of Police Superintendent Ronal Serpas and the police-involved shooting that looks like an execution gone wrong and you'll begin to wonder how deep the disfunction in New Orleans goes.

*NOPD Districts
posted by djeo at 2:08 PM on August 21, 2014 [1 favorite]




this report is just catnip for racists.

You know, I was wondering if I was being too sensitive about that, but part of the article did set off some alerts in my head. I think if we had a report from Vice back in the 1870s that detailed "the bands of displaced savage redskin children roving outside the fort, attacking settlers suffering from sexual inversion" we'd be quick to hop on the Wow That Wasn't Cool train.

I don't know what to think. Miller is very careful not to bring up race, and the only time the word 'black' appears is in a direct quote from someone we're probably supposed to assume is African-American (based on his name and language that is probably presented as AAVE). But you're right - the article is being sold as "Look at these cool hip white folks just like you who displaced blacks and now they're getting beaten for having the nerve to come in and clean up that neighborhood."

so ... hooray. Now I have a bad taste in my mouth, but I'm not sure if it's my fault for overthinking these beans, or if it's a "lightbulb turned on" situation, or what.
posted by komara at 2:15 PM on August 21, 2014 [1 favorite]


Here is a list of cities with higher violent crime rates than New Orleans, in ascending order:

Try sorting that list by Murder/Manslaughter and also looking the distribution of the values, not just the ranking.

San Francisco's violent crime rate is much higher than Seattle's. Don't visit. We're okay with that.

Not really relevant, but see above anyway. Don't worry, I'm not staying at your place. :-)

This stuff happens everywhere. No city - or even small town - is immune to random violence.

Nor meteor strikes.
posted by smidgen at 2:16 PM on August 21, 2014


...inquire about my safety in New Orleans, "Hey, I'm no more likely to have my car stolen or house broken into than you are there in Nashville. We just have a tiny murder problem is all."

Agreed. You are less likely to get your ass kicked here than you are in a lot of places, especially if you are white and stay to the typical tourist areas, but you are much more likely to get killed if you are a young black man.

I love New Orleans, it's where I choose to live so I am, like you komara not sure what to think.

I might edit the title of the article as such New Orleans Middle Schoolers Are Beating the Shit Out of Artists and Gays. Any violence is too much obviously but this isn't a phenomena confined to New Orleans.

Gah.
posted by vapidave at 2:40 PM on August 21, 2014 [1 favorite]


Disclosure: I know both the writer (Mason) and the victim (Martin).

I think the headline is terrible, because from what I can tell, there has been no connection between the violence and artists/gays. It just so happens that those demographics tend to lead the way in gentrification. Artists need cheap housing, when enough of them start to make an area hip and interesting, the developers move it.

Also, while the Marigny gets the press, crossing St. Claude Ave. into St. Roch is a huge demographic change.
Median household income in 2010:
Marigny: $43,234
New Orleans: $36,208
St Roch: $28,157

Housing prices:
Average estimated value of detached houses in 2010 (22.3% of all units):
Marigny: $293,363
Louisiana: $177,879
St Roch: $120,573

What prompted the article, I suspect, is the fact that there were three of these events in relatively close succession. If they'd happened over a period of 4-5 months, I don't think they would have gotten the same attention. There is, unfortunately, a lot of violence in NOLA.
posted by CheeseDigestsAll at 2:42 PM on August 21, 2014 [4 favorites]


As a general rule, an article about a trend is a good indicator that the trend in question isn't happening. Journalists are trained to try to make a narrative out of anything. They often use thin air as a medium.

Even Canada has had its violent teens. A group of them threw a waiter off a bridge on the Ottawa river back in 1989.
posted by Monday, stony Monday at 2:48 PM on August 21, 2014 [2 favorites]


I don't know what to think. Miller is very careful not to bring up race, and the only time the word 'black' appears is in a direct quote from someone we're probably supposed to assume is African-American (based on his name and language that is probably presented as AAVE). But you're right - the article is being sold as "Look at these cool hip white folks just like you who displaced blacks and now they're getting beaten for having the nerve to come in and clean up that neighborhood."


Your thoughts about this are understandable. It is truly upsetting that a few people have been attacked in this neighborhood by a few kids. However, a trend cannot be extrapolated from a couple of attacks. Perhaps the author and editors could have waited and gathered more data over a longer time period before publishing this?

So this leads me to the question. Why is this being published now?

Then it dawns on me that I have seen a ton of these black on white crime articles/ photos floating around racist media and social circles.
posted by yertledaturtle at 2:53 PM on August 21, 2014


smidgen: "Lovely place."

It really is.
posted by brundlefly at 2:59 PM on August 21, 2014 [10 favorites]


Any place where you can get regularly beaten up by angry teenagers (for whatever reason) is by definition, not a nice place. Sorry about your property values.
So, every city on earth then?
posted by fullerine at 2:59 PM on August 21, 2014 [8 favorites]


So, every city on earth then?

That statement requires a rather flexible understanding of the word "regularly."
posted by yoink at 3:09 PM on August 21, 2014 [2 favorites]


Well, honestly, so do a lot of people's read on this article too.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 3:14 PM on August 21, 2014 [1 favorite]


Makes me think of when I saw a woman get punched on the bus and iphone stolen a year or so ago and a friend who commented on my fb post about it said"Oh, I see that in PDX all the time! Wait, NO I DON'T!". I'm sure it happens but it's all about perception. Baltimore is dangerous, Portland is not.
posted by josher71 at 3:22 PM on August 21, 2014


The big problem is that the police don't really take it seriously, for whatever reason.

Both the article and this thread show that the victims and the victims' demographic don't really take it seriously, so the police won't either.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 3:51 PM on August 21, 2014


Your thoughts about this are understandable. It is truly upsetting that a few people have been attacked in this neighborhood by a few kids. However, a trend cannot be extrapolated from a couple of attacks. Perhaps the author and editors could have waited and gathered more data over a longer time period before publishing this?

Remember that VICE has never once cared more about a story than about what that story means in the context of VICE's image.
posted by Navelgazer at 3:53 PM on August 21, 2014 [2 favorites]


I'll throw my two New Orleanian cents in. I was born, raised and have lived my entire life there. My mother grew up in the Bywater and I've lived in the Quarter/Marigny/Bywater for 25 years.

Without a second thought nor a moment of doubt I say that New Orleans is safer now than it has been in my entire life by orders of magnitude. It is hardly recognizable in that aspect.

To be clear: the beatings, muggings, murders are horrible and way too frequent for a city its size.

The big difference I see these days is the internet and the precious gentrifiers.

By the internet, I mean things like this clickbait article. Every chance to tug on a heartstring or rile up some hate is taken and/or manufactured. We now have multiple facebook groups for this sort of thing.

As for the gentrifiers, they commit economic and cultural violence and are targets of physical violence. The gentrifiers are still getting the better deal.

We weathered the americans at the end of the 19th century and we're doing it again. New Orleans will be fine.
posted by garbhoch at 7:26 PM on August 21, 2014 [3 favorites]


Both the article and this thread show that the victims and the victims' demographic don't really take it seriously, so the police won't either.
There are currently 1,139 police officers and are losing about a hundred a year. Officials state they need around 1600 to be effective. However, crime is not skyrocketing; the reporting of it is. The police have little effect on it.
posted by garbhoch at 7:50 PM on August 21, 2014


"Yes yes yes, there it was. Youth must go, ah yes. But youth is only being in a way like it might be an animal. No, it is not just like being an animal so much as being like one of these malenky toys you viddy being sold in the streets, like little chellovecks made out of tin and with a spring inside and then a winding handle on the outside and you wind it up grrr grrr grrr and off it itties, like walking, O my brothers. But it itties in a straight line and bangs straight into things bang bang and it cannot help what it is doing. Being young is like being like one of these malenky machines."
posted by ricochet biscuit at 8:03 PM on August 21, 2014 [4 favorites]


I was attacked in a similar fashion 20 months ago. I was new to Pittsburgh and accustomed to flaneuring through the well-lit, very white Heritage Hill area of Grand Rapids, MI. My new neighborhood is mostly black, but it didn't feel particularly unsafe, so I thought I would continue my nighttime tradition.

I was lucky in that, unlike the guys in the article, I was only attacked by one kid. One kid, one punch, no words, no robbery. I called the cops, but there was nothing for them to do; I didn't see his face, and the dude didn't leave his business card (how rude). I remember a flash of white, a cascade of nightmares as I timbered to the ground, and standing there, numb, watching his silhouette melt into the sodium light. It seemed obscene that he could continue to exist in that tangle of apartments rather than drop through a manhole cover or skitter into a shanty illuminated by a neon sign reading "CRACK HOUSE". So, the police report reads "black male".

I lost an incisor, but no bones were broken. I was pretty chipper in the hours following the attack, but I crashed hard, probably due to the dull pain encompassing everything above my shoulders. I slept a lot for a few days, it hurt like hell to eat, and I looked like a dingus with a missing tooth for a year while I got a dental implant. But save for the tooth and a small scar on my chin, I made it out okay.

However, it was hell inside my head. I was fine during the day, but my mind spun non-stop when I tried to sleep.

I want to sit down with this kid and find out why he did this... I bet we would understand each other... But it could happen again... If it happens again....

I jerked from a compassionate conversation with the ghost in my head to a Stalinesque fantasy of bulldozing an entire zip code and back again. Home didn't feel safe, but I don't think anywhere would have felt safe. I understood the impetus to move a family to the suburbs.

In the weeks that followed, everyone offered their theory.

I bet he was trying to knock you out and take your wallet.

I heard it's a gang initiation to punch a white guy!

You shouldn't live in the city, we gotta get you out of East Liberty.

Have you thought about moving to Shadyside? How about Oakmont? Please move, I can't sleep at night.

I appreciated the support, but I don't think any of the theories were particularly helpful. I mostly dwelled on them, and my inability to explain the attack made it worse. I comprehend why you'd punch me and take my wallet, but to hit me for no reason? That's evil.

When the first stories about the knockout game circulated about 9 months ago, everyone pointed and said "Ah ha! We have a motive!" I inherently do not trust anything on the local news circuit, especially when the simplified version is "black people are awful", but to see it presented as a game... somehow, that helped. I can't understand random violence, but I can understand kids being total jerks to amuse themselves.

I can understand it even more in the context of the vacuum of industry in East Liberty, or if the kid is a victim of the underfunded Pittsburgh public school system. I was fortuitously reading about the failure of American public schools at the time (and actually finished the book in the ER), and the logic built itself: here's a kid who grew up in a neighborhood with no jobs, no businesses, a school system unfit to teach him anything useful, and no structure at home that resembles what we call success, because this probably happened to his father and his father's father. If I spent an entire youth being treated as a problem to be solved and with no hope better than pulling down $8 an hour, hell yeah I'd resent some white kid moving to my neighborhood and making everything that's unaffordable more unaffordable.

(I think that it's hard to understand that dynamic as a white male. I live in a world where the police listen to me, landlords trust me, and people who have money speak like me. I keep trying to think of gentrification analogues, and the best I can do is a cadre of Arab oil sheiks moving to an affluent suburb and buying out the police force to hire their Islamic buddies. That's the only way I think the average white family would feel existentially threatened.)

I stayed in my apartment in East Liberty, one third of a mile from the spot. I'm glad I stuck it out, even if I'm still jumpy and have not walked past the intersection of Negley and Rippey since. The revenge scenarios faded with the PTSD, but if I pass a black kid at night on the sidewalk, I keep my head on a swivel until he's out of sprinting distance. I hate it, but those are the associations I have, fueled by a childhood of Detroit local news, Catholic schools stuffed with mistrustful Reaganites, and a haymaker to the jaw.

I've stared into the abyss of racism, which is the scariest, saddest part. I struggle with both the mistrust and the resultant shame of a logical response to trauma, and while I'm trying my damndest, I hate to think of what this would be like for someone unwilling to empathize.

It's natural to seek a narrative for complicated events, and so the narrative du jour is the knockout game. It's facile to distill resentment of decades of failed urban planning and centuries of mistreatment into a damn game, but it's an easy answer. Violence will always happen in cities, and inequality will always lead to violence, and until we collectively decide to have the attention span to listen and to sacrifice, it will continue to be packaged as a silly little thing that will blow away with the next news cycle.

It makes me mad as hell, not just because this happened to me, but because someone lives in a world where punching a stranger makes sense. I want to talk it out and help others see the awful spiral in which we're trapped, but lunch table discussions about race invariably devolve to white guys "poppin' a cap in yo' ass" and, well, shit.

I'll go scream at a cloud.
posted by Turkey Glue at 8:42 PM on August 21, 2014 [17 favorites]


There are so many reasons why violence happens here. Not just drugs and thugs--every city has those problems. Not even gentrification. There are at least a few other things I think we have to seriously consider and address in New Orleans:

Inadequate police: The NOPD is short several hundred officers, the lowest count in 39 years, in fact, although the population has returned almost to pre-Katrina levels.

Inadequate schools: Twenty-five percent of metro New Orleans students attend private school, the largest percentage of any metro area in this country. The current state administration has cut the education budget to the bone and beyond. This makes for a school system, still reeling from reshuffling following Hurricane Katrina, which is ill-equipped to deal with the neediest student population.

Katrina Kids: These same needy students were probably affected significantly in negative ways by Hurricane Katrina nine years ago. Today's fifteen year olds were terrified first graders when their world flooded; many of them lost their homes and even family members in the chaos that lasted longest for the poorest people. Some families were never reunited. The deaths from Katrina stress continued for at least a year. The only inpatient mental health facility in the city was closed and the very desirable uptown land was sold post-Katrina, so definitely less mental health care just when it might be needed more than ever.

Cumulative effects of poverty and racism: Almost every black family in New Orleans has a relative or friend who has had a brush with the law. The incarceration statistics are startling. The circumstances of poverty and racism make life very difficult for the majority of New Orleanians--white like me is not the majority. Anyone who is not in that majority is privileged in significant ways, regardless of individual circumstances.

That's just the tip of the iceberg but these are real, horrendous problems that have affected the lives of the majority of children and families in this city. It's intolerable that our governor and so many people seem to think these things are not our problem, that there's nothing we should or can do about it.

Sorry for the absence of links, memail me if you're interested in specifics, I just wanted to add a couple of thoughts to the conversation.
posted by Anitanola at 11:53 PM on August 21, 2014 [10 favorites]


I think that one of the reasons New Orleans seems scarier may be that "bad neighbourhoods" in other places are more distinguishable from "good" ones. My relatives in New Orleans drummed into me the idea that I shouldn't go wandering around as if I were in Australia. Australia is remarkably safe (by US standards), but I think their point was more that New Orleans' patchwork of safer and less safe areas meant that I not only had no way of knowing which parts were dangerous, but that when I was in danger I probably wouldn't even realise it.
posted by Joe in Australia at 4:48 AM on August 24, 2014 [1 favorite]


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