Lastweek, I was in New Orleans, Louisiana, to speak to some of the most pleasant, most wide awake, alert people I've ever met. They are a group called INFOR, and they do software solutions for extremely difficult problems.
I could not have asked for a better audience.
They even asked questions, and that’s a real treat.
I stayed at a lovely hotel called the Windsor Court and had a fine breakfast every day.
My pal Judah and I strolled around the French Quarter to whatever extent my bum right knee would permit.
Here’s what I noticed above all in that glorious city: it has had the racism taken clean out of it.
Now, I first went to NOLA in the fall of 1961 (yes, 1961!) on a Montgomery Blair High School field trip to visit famous Civil War battlefields.
The parents of about 30 of us Civil War buffs chipped in and we rented a Greyhound bus to take us from Silver Spring, Maryland, downtown, across the 14th Street bridge and then on into the Heart of Dixie, Northern Virginia.
It was immediately apparent that we were in a foreign nation because the bathrooms at the Gulf Oil stations were rigidly segregated. There were white and colored bathrooms and water fountains. One of our buffs, Bill Silverman I think it was, took down the "colored" sign from above a Coke machine, and got yelled at severely by the manager.
Down, down, down we went until we were at a truly tragic spot, Shiloh, where the dead had to buried in a mass grave.
That was for the Confederates. The Union men could be identified.
Then along endless pine-hedged two-lane blacktops through Mississippi and finally to an immense bridge and there we were in the metropolis of New Orleans. Our hotel was in the French Quarter and we could hedge our bets on sin by just hanging out where 99 percent of the other tourists were. On Bourbon Street.
Redolent of gin and beer and vomit but still wildly fun. And still that white/colored horror show. That part was not fun at all.
Still, we were there to have fun and look at Civil War sites.
But it was strange to see a full-fledged city as segregated as a Klan rally.
Now time has passed. A lot of time. Last week Judah and I were promised a new New Orleans, and that’s what we got.
First of all, it’s not racially segregated at all. Not one bit.
To read Ben Stein's full article, please visit The American Spectator.
Ben Stein is a writer, an actor, and a lawyer who served as a speechwriter in the Nixon administration as the Watergate scandal unfolded. He began his unlikely road to stardom when director John Hughes as the numbingly dull economics teacher in the urban comedy, "Ferris Bueller's Day Off." Read more more reports from Ben Stein — Click Here Now.
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