It's Time to be Honest About Race in New Orleans

Fear of a racially divisive campaign prompted Senator Ed Murray to end his mayoral bid on Sunday. Murray's honesty about this issue gives all of us an opportunity to honestly address the continuing issue of race in New Orleans' politics.

Let's be honest. Racial inequality still exists in New Orleans. Although laws have changed, schools and neighborhoods are still shockingly racially segregated. Racial segregation has a tremendous impact on student achievement, home values, transportation access, health outcomes, and concentration of poverty. We can only be a great city when we are a fair city.

Let's be honest. Far too many politicians have used race as a wedge issue to divide our city. Far too many private business interests have willingly profited from this political abuse.

Let's be honest. Our often racially separate worlds can breed prejudice, distrust, and misunderstanding. In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina New Orleans' politics have been deeply racially divided. Far too many votes of the city council have split along racial lines and race has been used as a wedge too many times. Rather than finding common ground our leaders have sought to divide us.

In this mayoral election the people of New Orleans have a chance to shape a new direction for this city. As I see it, we have three choices.

We can choose to pretend that there is no racial problem. We can bury our heads in the sand and refuse to address the painful realities of racial differences in crime, education, housing, and employment.

We can choose to let racial differences divide us. We can choose leadership that will continue to pit the people of New Orleans against one another just for political or economic gain.

Or we can choose to courageously heal this painful divide, through open and accountable government, fair policies and procedures, broad community input, collaborative political efforts, and a determination to build a city that works for all her people.

Let's be honest. New Orleans is a city rooted in a history of cultural and racial diversity. We know that our differences are our strength, not our weakness.

Let's be honest. There is no way for one group to succeed, while another group fails. We must all come up together. The only way to make progress is by acknowledging the problems, finding common ground, refusing to politicize our differences, and telling the truth about where we are and we are going.

Racial injustice and racialized politics too often stand in the way of doing what is best for the whole community. We need leadership that will stand for fairness for all people. We need leadership that refuses to misuse racial antagonisms for personal gain. We need leadership that will put progress over politics.

I am the only candidate for mayor whose career has been devoted to fairness, justice, and common ground, not to politics, profit, and personal gain. I pledge to work with all the members of our city council. I pledge to create open and accountable government procedures. I pledge to consider input from all our neighborhoods and to work toward solutions that benefit all. I pledge to conduct a campaign and run a city government that will not use race as a wedge issue.

I hope that you'll join me in making New Orleans a city that finally works for all New Orleanians.