We have a long and sordid history in this region of armed white men "taking aim" at people of color and justifying their vigilantism in the name of safety. The violent birth of the Klan and the NRA, and the lynching of black men by white men, supposedly for the protection of white women, come to mind. Those acts were also done by "average citizens," white men similar to the ones in your article who are "learning to shoot a perpetrator square in the chest." More recently, white men with guns in Gretna used them to turn black New Orleanians away from safety during the flooding.
The thought of lots of white men covertly arming themselves on the streets of our city doesn't make those of us writing this letter feel any safer. In fact, quite the contrary.
Real safety begins when we as white people join the conversations happening all around our city that resist profiling people and instead seriously and compassionately target the root causes of violence. It's not just rhetoric to insist that safety comes when we work toward everyone having decent housing, enough food, meaningful work, credible health care and quality education.
We ask other whites to join us in being as committed to "public safety" as we are to our personal safety. We ask you to reexamine our tendency to remain silent and seemingly unconcerned when it is black-on-black violence happening in mostly black neighborhoods. We ask you to speak up and out when anyone is harmed or murdered, not just when that violence hits white bodies in "good" neighborhoods. Otherwise, our silence and inaction will continue to reinforce the idea that a white life is worth significantly more than any other, an idea absolutely detrimental to everyone. Jyaphia Christos-Rodgers
S. dix deLaneuville
Members of European Dissent
While I commend Gambit for historically advocating a handgun ban for New Orleans, "Lock & Load" (March 20) encourages paranoia and racism. While never mentioning race, the article's photos, context and quotes are about whites arming themselves against blacks. This one-sided concern is unconstructive at best. There is a national history of violence against blacks that is institutionalized. Post-Katrina, white vigilantes were shooting blacks on the West Bank, and white troops were shooting blacks on the East Bank. That did not warrant equal concern from Gambit. Nor did Gambit refute the myth of violent blacks terrorizing the city and the Superdome after the floods. It is Gambit's choice to highlight the fears of whites about blacks that makes your story so injurious when guns, violence and safety are everyone's concern.
I appreciate you stating, "In New Orleans, the average time it takes for a legally purchased gun to become involved in a crime is only six months." But you don't follow up on that deadly fact. If your article offered options by interviewing some of the many people and organizations that demand support for policies and programs to decrease violence and increase safety, it could have been constructive.
Having a gun is not simply a personal choice. Guns warp perspective and judgment. Packing a gun makes you look at others with a jaundiced eye, and you want to fire it as the solution. The consequences are why we have a gun crisis.
I doubt my former colleague Paul Gailiunas would agree with using his sad experience to get a gun. He moved back to Canada, where guns and fear of being shot, are rare.
Wall of Safety
Thank you for your editorial ("Save the Seawall," March 20) on our untouched and crumbling seawall. After enduring hours of presentations on long-range hurricane protection in south Louisiana, I addressed this problem in public comments to the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-East Board Meeting in Kenner on Jan. 17. After offering a description of the physical deterioration of the seawall area and my concern over the scouring under the roadway, I concluded my comments: "Regardless of the technical levee improvements planned for our community, residents agree that claims that our historic seawall isn't a crucial part of our hurricane protection system sound unbelievable and may in fact be dangerous. I urge you to determine where this responsibility resides so that we can advocate to that body for a solution."
Many voices are required to influence the Army Corps of Engineers, so I have joined Gambit and others who support the establishment of the 8/29 Commission (http://www.levees.org/commission) and hope all residents, officeholders and candidates will do the same.
District 94 Resident