A commenter at the G Bitch Spot recently said,

I can’t help but wonder why the term ‘carpetbagger’ is so pervasive – and (the real issue) why so many New Orleanians seem border-line condescending to those who didn’t grow up here.

Leaving aside the “carpetbagger” question (far, far to the side), I thought the “condescending to those who didn’t grow up here” deserves consideration.

I don’t need to toss around links to support this commenter’s claim.  It’s not a revelation by any means.  As a non-native New Orleanian, I’ve certainly felt the condescension s/he refers to.

I have to admit that a lot of the condescension is earned.  As a native Northerner, I know that when we come South we can be a pretty sanctimonious bunch.  I’m sure I’ve been guilty of that.  After living 17 of the last 20 years in the South, the last 12 in New Orleans, I’m resigned to the condescension–to a point.

What I’ve always objected to is how this condescension morphs when combined with nationalistic zeal.  You know, New Orleans chauvinism.  We’re the best city in the world.  Have the best radio station in the universe.   “Only New Orleans is real, the rest is done with mirrors.”

I like that nationalistic thing to a point.  It can be fun, and given what an underdog New Orleans is in almost every conceivable way, it doesn’t seem so brutish.  I even have that “Only New Orleans is real” sign hanging in my office at work.  Plus, there’s basis in fact.  New Orleans is truly that unique.  It deserves to be celebrated–and protected.


When the condescension is simply reflexive, automatically dismissive, then I start pulling at the thread and I ask, Isn’t this on the same continuum as the “blood-relative ordinance” that St. Bernard Parish tried to impose after Katrina?

If we want New Orleans to grow, we need to import people, or outlaw birth control, right?

I say all this not to excuse the stupid things outsiders will say about New Orleans, nor to excuse in any way the damage someone like Ed Blakely has done to the city.

Personally, I cede nothing.  I’ve come to think of myself as having dual citizenship.   I don’t live in Louisiana, I’m a New Orleanian (I have this pet idea that any non-native who lived here before the federal floods and came back is now a naturalized New Orleanian).   And I’m also from that place done with mirrors.  So it’s all good.

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About the Author

Derek Bridges

Derek Bridges lives in New Orleans, trading in words and pictures. A carpetbagger of long standing, he grew up in the top right corner of IL and later went to college in the middle cornfield part. He has also lived in MS and FL, for educational purposes only, and was diasporized for a time in TX.

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