Like a lot of people, I engaged in some light reading this summer. My literary choice? CityStats, Baton Rouge Area Foundation’s annual scorecard on the quality of life in East Baton Rouge Parish.
Let me say it was a real page-turner! There were so many plot twists and turns, my head is still spinning!
I mean, I expected to read about statistics that wreaked of rampant idiocy and fucked-up priorities in the capital city, and BRAF’s CityStats certainly delivered on that note. However, what I didn’t anticipate were the slight hints of progressiveness intermingled with the cartoonishly conservative beliefs held by much of our populace.
Next time somebody accuses you of being a degenerate asshole for drunkenly yelling “Tiger Bait!” at total strangers, you can tell that uncouth philistine you’re just showing how goddam cultured you are.
Right off the bat, on Page 4, the report rattles your brain with a Deacon Jones-esque head slap reminding you that you live in Baton Fucking Rouge: Under “Culture and Recreation,” BRAF includes “college sports and tailgating” as a “cultural event.”
Oh, and here’s a shocker: Not only has “college sports and tailgating” been the No. 1 attended “cultural event” in our cosmopolitan metropolis since BRAF began publishing CityStats in 2009, but the percentage of survey respondents who say they attend such “cultural events” has increased every year save one.
So the next time somebody accuses you of being a degenerate asshole for drunkenly yelling “Tiger Bait!” at total strangers, you can tell that uncouth philistine you’re just showing how goddam cultured you are.
Speaking of unsophisticated buffoons, Page 11 reveals that 35% of my neighbors believe we are NOT in a period of global warming. That’s right, more than one in three people in a city with two universities and a community college say the Earth is NOT currently in a global warming pattern.
Now, I’m not talking about 35% said they believe the cause of global warming is not man-made, but is rather the result of a natural cycle that the Earth has undergone untold times for millions of years, because that’s too close to being a legitimate argument.
No. These people – more than 1/3 of our population – insist that the Earth is not warming … PERIOD.
In other words, fuck science. Fuck empirical data. Fuck satellite thermal imagery of the planet. Fuck time-lapsed photography showing vast summer ice melts at THE NORTH POLE are becoming increasingly common since 2002.
For a rather consequential percentage of folks living among us, a warming Earth – regardless of the cause – is either too scary to consider or is somehow a threat to one’s belief system, and therefore must not, in fact, be happening at all.
Or maybe some of these people deny global warming is actually occurring because we sometimes have days in Baton Rouge in which the temperature is unseasonably cool, or because this summer wasn’t as hot as recent summers, and therefore, the planet CAN’T be warming.
Maybe – just maybe – more than just three out of four middle-schoolers would pass the LEAP test if they didn’t hear their parents dismiss real science as bullshit.
They might even think they’re being cute with totally original and hilarious statements such as “Jay Grymes said we’re going to have a hard freeze tonight. Must be all that global warming! Am I right?!”
In my humble opinion, maintaining that the Earth is not currently undergoing a significant overall warming trend because it doesn’t seem that warm to you is like saying a cancer patient doesn’t really have cancer because he doesn’t look sick to you.
Maybe – just maybe – more than just three out of four middle-schoolers would pass the LEAP test (Page 10) if they didn’t hear their parents dismiss real science as bullshit. Perhaps if their parents truly valued the work of scientists, those other students might pay more attention and study harder for science class.
But discounting science is something we apparently do really well around here, because Page 13 shows that 48% of East Baton Rougeans either mostly disagree (14%) or COMPLETELY DISAGREE (34%) with the concept of evolution being the best explanation for the origin of human life on Earth … which is not, in fact, warming, because God controls the thermostat.
Here’s the deal: I don’t care what your religious beliefs are, but if you fall in this 48%, don’t bitch and whine the next time you read a story about “brain drain.” Because I don’t care how many downtown grocery stores they open, or bike paths, or skate parks, or bona fide cultural attractions that don’t involve college football, or whatever the hell this town’s leaders think will attract young professionals; the best and the brightest do not want to live in a city where a significant portion of the population wholeheartedly believes the Earth is only 6,000 years old … and that it’s totally not warming one iota.
And for a city full of people who love to brag about God’s creation, we sure don’t place a high priority on enjoying it. I say that because we don’t seem to care for parks, at least not within the city limits (Page 5).
Only 2.8% of the incorporated area is dedicated to parks, compared with a national median of 8.2%. This puts Baton Rouge near the bottom in park acreage among cities its size, which to me is not surprising, given this town is essentially run by developers.
Then again, who wants to spend time outside at a park when it’s always so hot outside in our small patch of the globe that isn’t warming at all? It’s just our tiny section that’s almost always unbearably sweltering, unlike Albuquerque, NM, which is No.1 with 28% of the city’s acreage dedicated to parks.
More and more seniors are switching from pouring Grape-Nuts to Grape Kush in their bowls.
It’s also apparently too hot to want to ride a bike in this town, especially to work, given that we have a grand total of 30 miles of bike trails. Naturally, CityStats mentions Austin, TX, has, like, 1,000 miles of trails, but just like Albuquerque, the weather is so much milder over there. Plus, all the people there are nothing but a bunch of granola-eating, pot-smoking hippies who can’t afford cars anyway, which brings me to the second-oddest plot twist in this edition of CityStats.
Nearly half (45%) of the people living amongst us said they would vote to legalize marijuana (Page 16). Even more surprising, this significant reefer gladness demographic includes one in four of the city’s oldest folks (65+) and a whopping 41% of people between the ages of 55 and 64. I guess more and more seniors are switching from pouring Grape-Nuts to Grape Kush in their bowls.
For THE oddest plot twist, turn to Page 26. There, you’ll read that “for the first time in the three years this question has been asked, more EBR residents are for same-sex marriage than against it.”
That’s right. Thanks to a four-point swing from last year’s poll, 47% support same-sex marriage while 45% oppose it, which means more Baton Rougeans are going to burn in hell than spend eternity in heaven tailgating with Jesus.
Speaking of J.C., He mentioned something about taking care of the poor, something we are really dropping the ball on, since the overall poverty level shot up to 20%, nearly four points higher than the national average (Page 24). Moreover, there’s more extreme poverty in EBR than in areas of similar size and nearly one in three (29%) children are poor, three points more than the year before and the highest level since 2005. Almost one-third (31%) of respondents said they couldn’t afford food in the previous 12 months.
Another problem for the parish, CityStats says, is income disparity (Page 8). The median annual family income for African-Americans dropped by 10% to $35,476, while income for white families stayed relatively steady at $81,251. It appears Florida Boulevard isn’t the only thing dividing Baton Rouge.
At the same time, Hispanic families saw their median income plummet in one year from well over $50,000 to $37,415, contrasted with Asian families, who enjoyed a significant increase to $70,970. I guess that means a lot of people started doing their own landscaping and getting their nails done.
I guess that means a lot of people started doing their own landscaping and getting their nails done.
These income disparity numbers are echoed back on Page 24 where, of the 20% in poverty in EBR, 29% are black while only 12% are white, which begs the question: Given our surprisingly high level of poverty and the increasing disparity between the haves and the have-nots, is it any wonder why 57% said they’re concerned that they or their family members would be crime victims in the next 12 months (Page 23)?
Maybe next year, CityStats could ask respondents to describe the person they fear will perpetrate a crime against them or their family. Wouldn’t that be fun?
I know, by now, some of you are crying “class warfare,” which is the go-to label for conservatives to slap on any conversation involving income disparity, but let’s be honest. People love to complain about two things in this town: crime and traffic.
We know traffic sucks because of shitty planning and an even shittier public transportation system. Until we aggressively address those issues, traffic will continue to suck.
Now, this may come as a shock to some of you, but study after study after study has consistently and positively proven a direct correlation between income inequality and crime rates in society. It’s true. I understand it may be difficult to fathom that people who can’t afford food could possibly resort to illegal activities in order to feed their kids and themselves, but they sometimes do. It’s very primal, I know.
Fact is, ignoring income disparity and complaining about crime is like complaining about extreme weather and ignoring scientific evidence of climate change. Oh, wait. Well, that explains a lot.
And by the way, on Page 26, CityStats says 54% of African-Americans said racism is a problem in EBR, compared with 33% of whites. Imagine that. White people around here don’t think racism is that big of a deal. Maybe that’s because it’s hard to see race while living in a gated community.
It also indicates 51% of people over 65 think racism is a problem, compared with 38% of people between the ages of 18 and 24. That just tells me those dumb young saps haven’t lived here long enough.