Congressman Cedric Richmond defends New Orleans against criticism in heated exchange

A heated exchange between Congressman Cedric Richmond and Congressman Steve King of Iowa put New Orleans crime once again in the national spotlight.

NEW ORLEANS -- The big talk on TV at the Real Gentlemen Barbershop on Claiborne wasn't the LSU baseball game.

"It's not appropriate, it's insensitive, and it's nothing more than the traditional white privilege of 'let me criticize a minority city,'" said Congressman Cedric Richmond (D-La.).

It happened as Congressman Steve King (R-IA) was proposing legislation that would require the Department of Justice to report crimes committed by unaccompanied immigrant children.  His inference was that those children contribute to crime rates.

"That shocking number in El Salvador 93.09 violent deaths per 100,000," King said.

King compared the countries those children were from to New Orleans. That's when Richmond went off. 

"We're going to lose all civility in this committee if he thinks it's appropriate to compare New Orleans to Guatemala," Richmond said.

But those remarks hit close to home at the Real Gentlemen Barbershop.  

"I'm glad he had the audacity to say something, a lot of people just sit there and let them run up the statistics," said Dan Rideau, a stylist and CEO of the shop's operation.

Some said the remarks represent how out of touch some leaders are with inner-city struggles.

"Inner cities are mostly populated by impoverished young blacks," said Jerome Morgan, Co-CEO.

Congressman Richmond used the example of the crack epidemic, which affected a disproportionate number of black men.  He said that instead of getting those addicts help like with opioid addiction, they were locked up. 

"You locked all these people up for these drugs that left a void in the household because primarily, it was locking up young black men," Rideau agreed.

To heal these inner city problems, Richmond says Congress must review its laws. 

"You have to give these kids something to do, you can't continue to put them down," said one barbershop patron.

Those at the barbershop say they want to do what no one did for them, and they hope the community will follow suit. 

"We walk on the streets, we walk the community just to let them know that we are here for them, that we have a mentor program," Rideau said.

We reached out to Congressman Richmond and he reiterated that words matter -- especially in light of the shooting in Alexandria. He says that comparisons like this were irresponsible, coming at the expense of people he knows and loves. 

© 2017 WWL-TV


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