American Renaissance

Race at Issue in Corruption Inquiry

Scott Gold, L. A. Times, Mar. 6

NEW ORLEANS — This city, which over the years has seen its share of corruption, did not get terribly worked up when word first leaked that investigators were looking into whether shady deals and cronyism had plagued the former mayor’s administration.

But everything changed last month, when federal agents donning flak jackets drew their guns and used a battering ram to burst into a French Quarter home. They were not searching for drugs or weapons, but computer files and documents. And the home was not that of a violent criminal, but a political operative: Jacques Morial, former Mayor Marc H. Morial’s brother and a member of one of New Orleans’ most prominent black families.

In the weeks since, the city has become enmeshed in a debate over the politics of race and the definition of progress. A coalition of 30 black pastors denounced the early morning raid, asserting that authorities had treated white defendants like Martha Stewart and former Enron Corp. Chief Executive Jeffrey K. Skilling with more restraint and respect. And they have used the corruption investigation as a springboard for a wide-ranging dialogue on race.

Such heavy-handed tactics, in the religious leaders’ view, are proof that African Americans remain second-class citizens, even in a city where they represent about two-thirds of the population. Political gains made by New Orleans’ black community have not been accompanied by parallel economic gains, they said.

“I look at this as more than one investigation,” said the Rev. Tom Watson, pastor of a nondenominational New Orleans church. “This is a spiritual assault, an assault across America, an assault on black men.”

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