This guy Sam Tabachnik wrote an article on The Lens. I can't let an elitist, arrogant, ignorant, Tulane Trustifarian write an article about how he is all those things without writing a response to point out how he acknowledged being all those things and then had the AUDACITY to EXPECT he deserves to be handed a well paying nonprofit job in New Orleans. Also I read it when I happened to be in the lethal combination of homesick for New Orleans and Super Sassy Sam mode.
This article, Confessionsof a 20-something: You want to save the world? Take a Number, is an unsurprising display of typical Tulane elitism but nonetheless, it punches me in the heart. Welcome to the delusion that is the non-minority American college graduate. It sucks that the rest of us have to put up with not only your ignorance, but lack of attempt to educate yourself outside your mandatory lecture hall.
You and I at first appear to have several foundational similarities. For one, we share the same first name. We both are from out of state. We both spent four years getting our undergraduate degrees in New Orleans. We both did “service work”. At face value probably our biggest difference is that you spent your freshman year at The Boot (Okay, I assume. But I’m right aren’t I?) and I spent mine at Tucks.
I am often hard on Loyola (my alma mater). #LoynoProblems is undoubtedly my most used hashtag of all times. But for all of its flaws at least it’s not Tulane. Now, it’s not all bad, Tulane sometimes get a lot of crap for things that are outside their control, or at least the student’s control. I also do KNOW for a fact that there are a lot of GOOD people that go to Tulane and that go on to be 20-somethings that ARE changing the world. That being said... you are the classic example of why the majority of New Orleanians snarl when you say "Tulane" and smile when I say "Loyola". More than just a fence separate Loyola and Tulane. We may both be in the Uptown Bubble but at least Loyola has its windows open with a ladder leading their students out of the Ivory Tower.
I often cringe at the "motto" (and I'm not in anyway making this a religious/ secular argument) but the majority of Loyola students are not out and about PARTICIPATING in the city because it's the new hub for 20-somethings that want to "save the world"; they're out there because they understand what being people with and for others means. Not in the religious sense but in the human sense; something that is undoubtedly lost on self-described “do-gooders”.
You write that you were enticed by, "the chance to be in on the ground floor as the city climbs back from the depths of disaster". You are not entitled to be apart of the city’s recovery. From this article, it appears that your only contribution to the city’s recovery is a boost to the economy via your parent’s bank account. Taking a personal risk, and what you seem to equate with a sacrifice, to move to this destitute city (note: sarcasm) and give your time and your talents does not mean that you are then owed something. But this is assuming that you are even giving your time and talents, which, “for now I’m just a hard-luck Trustafarian” doesn’t suggest. I don't know you but I'm going to garner a guess that you gave a whole lot more of your time and talents to frat parties and the LBC Panda Express line than participating in the broader community.
Also... for the record, since this is an emergency management blog, Katrina and the proceeding events were a catastrophe - not disaster.
"...sky-high murder rate, a rapidly eroding coastline, treacherous hurricanes, rising rents. Beat it, all you Johnny-come-latelys. Don’t you want to go somewhere safer, somewhere with a better job market? I’ve been here for years (four, to be precise). I’ve paid my dues. Now, if I could just figure out a way to get paid."
Please, tell me how many people do you know who have been murdered? Do your parents have a beach house? Which hurricane destroyed your house? Please, tell me more about how your rising Uptown rent is too much for Daddy. Oh and you are SO right that you’re entitled to move to New Orleans but no one else is. You’re right, you you’re your dues - they’re sitting in Scott Cowen’s driveway.
You go on to say, " New Orleans is the new Seattle. The new San Francisco. It’s the place to be! Which is why, after graduating from Tulane, I decided to stay. That meant finding a job. Shouldn’t be a problem for a committed young idealist like me, I told myself. Hell, I’d work for practically nothing. Put a roof over my head and gruel on the table and I was ready to serve".
Please tell me you recognize that you decided to stay in the city not because YOU liked it or because YOU thought you had some talent or resource that could benefit the city in ANY way. No, YOU stayed there because OTHERS told you that New Orleans was "The place to be". You didn't stay because you are a "young idealist" you stayed because you thought that YOU could PERSONALLY benefit from the city. That the city could GIVE you something.
Additionally, you realize that in a city that was 80% under water and touts the highest poverty rates in the country you are complaining about making $12,500 and having to go on food stamps? You really have the nerve? “It would be a good lesson in financial responsibility”… “live like Medieval mendicants”… my jaw is on the floor. Poverty is not a tourist attraction. Americorps isn’t a vacation package.
Career fairs? The fact that you were even at a career fair to try to get a job at a nonprofit in New Orleans demonstrates your utter lack of knowledge of the nonprofit system in New Orleans. Further your perception meter must be broken. Nonprofits in New Orleans know exactly what they want. Your GPA and your service award are to satisfy your parents and prove to them you weren't just wandering around Bourbon every night. If you want a job show up. Volunteer. Work. ACTUALLY work. Like... with your hands AND your brain. Demonstrate to them that you understand what their mission is - because it's not to win service awards. It's about someone getting to sleep in a new bed, in their new house, on their property for the first time in 8 years. After four years do you really not see that? It's not about charity. It's about becoming apart of the city. The city doesn't owe you anything. You owe New Orleans for letting you live within her walls. You owe her for expanding your world. You owe her for showing you reality.
But that's the problem – you’ve made it all about everyone and everything else benefiting you. It’s not about you. Don’t you get that? It makes me sad because in four years you didn’t grow, you missed the memo. Talk about a lost opportunity.
Moving to post-Katrina New Orleans isn't about what it will do to you, or at least it shouldn't be. It's about helping ONE city rebuild. It's about showing support in daily actions. It's about celebrating during Carnival because there's still a city to be celebrated. It's about understanding the history going back to before the first marsh was filled in. It's about knowing the stories behind the street names. Knowing why certain streets curve and others dead-end. It's about feeling a body numbing fear when you hear “something is forming in the gulf”. It’s about feeling more loyalty to The Saints than you do your country (and understanding that it is NOT about football).
It’s about understanding how tourists, corporations, nonprofits, natives, gutterpunks, transplants, corrupt politicians, drug slinging police officers, immigrants and college students (of all varieties) are needed to hold the dynamics of the city in equilibrium.
It’s about each group complaining day in and day out about how they hate 552 things about the city – it rains, it floods, you can’t turn left, the stop lights don’t work, I hear gunshots, I tripped on the sidewalk, mold, the roof is leaking, I don’t have a roof, “Who’s on the bribe list today?”, the streetcars aren’t on time, tourists are in my way, do I have to say Mercedes-Benz?, my daiquiri is going to melt because it’s so hot, I walked 5 miles to work, the Dome is covered in gold and the 9th ward is still a field, I was doored, are they EVER going to open six flags again?, there’s a hurricane coming and the levees aren’t fixed, a water main broke and flooded my car, I can never get cell service, water spouts on the lake, “I’m late because there was a parade… in November”, I can’t tell the difference between the temperature inside my hot yoga class and outside, I don’t have food to put on the table, someone pulled a gun out in the Whole Foods parking lot, “hi, nice to meet you, you’re my fourth contractor”, there ISN’T a boil water advisory today? I don’t believe it, BP ruined my beach trip to Grand Isle, BP destroyed my industry, I got the baby – but then coming together in the streets on Super Bowl Sunday 2010 as complete equals.
If you can't write a love song about New Orleans you haven't really lived there. If you can't list all the reasons why you hate New Orleans you haven't really lived there. New Orleans isn’t a place that you ever fully understand. It’s a place that you evolve with and take as it is. You let it consume you and spit you back out whether better or worse for the wear. No one “gets paid” as you’re looking to be in New Orleans. Unless of course you come from money, work at Shell, or steal (or a combination – try shooting for the trifecta).
When you move to New Orleans, not visit, but move you make a deal. You give her part of your soul and she’ll give you life. New Orleans isn’t a city, it’s a collection of souls joined together in some unidentifiable movement of struggle and enjoyment. It’s a city that celebrates life and death equally. It’s a city that cries while it sings and drinks while it works. It’s a million and a half souls sewn together to dance through the streets as one incongruent entity. There are not enough words in the history of human language to explain why someone lives in New Orleans.
New Orleans is a lacuna.
Your nonchalant usage of "trustafarian" really says it all. Congratulations young sir, you are why New Orleanians scowl when you say "Tulane".
I have a question what exactly is it that you think you’re saving the world from? Contributing positively to society does not equate with solving the world. Are you a super hero? Regardless, the analogy you used of having to wait in line to "save the world" demonstrates the exact reason someone like you WON'T change the world. There's no line!! The way to change the world isn't to wait for permission, or to wait for society to catch up with you - it's to go out there, not take no for an answer, work 24/7 days a week, and acknowledging that at the end of the day, or the end of your life, you probably won't have changed the world but you did the best you could and along the way you probably changed some lives.
In the comments section the author wrote a defense of himself and the article (okay, I'll give him that - what a New Orleanian move - comments sections are just SO seductive). Sam, not the critical commenters, brought up white privilege. The only thing more synonymous with Tulane than white privilege is yoga pants and attempting to martyr yourself under the guise of white privilege? I can’t tell if you were trying for some reverse psychology or if you’re really just that stupid. How high was your GPA again?
So, why don’t you take not only your white privilege but ALL of your privilege (I’m sure we have an empty throw bag laying around somewhere) and carry it all home…