Candy ChangI'm tired of having to be resilient, from the series Light the Barricades, 2019-2021.
Photo: courtesy of the artist

Refusing Resilience

Kristen Lewis
In 2015, posters covered worn-down telephone poles in New Orleans, declaring to passersby, “Stop calling me resilient.” Quoting Louisiana Justice Institute member Tracie L. Washington, the justification for refusing resilience continues, in a bold electric blue: “Because every time you say ‘Oh, they’re resilient,’ that means you can do something else to me. I am not resilient.”1 1 - Candy Chang, “nola_resilient,” Washington’s words were being used to protest the City of New Orleans’s new “resilience strategy” launched on the tenth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, an environmental disaster that disproportionately affected Black residents.

A Google search for the strategy brings up a colour-blocked website emblazoned with a trio of “empowering” soundbite colloquialisms: ADAPT TO THRIVE; CONNECT TO OPPORTUNITY; TRANSFORM CITY SYSTEMS.2 2 - Resilient New Orleans, A closer look at the strategy reveals more of the same jargon, only in longer format and with more motivational subheadings. On each page, “resilience” is transformed into “resilience value,” with environmental and social existence palatably quantified to satisfy donors and “protect critical economic assets.”3 3 - City of New Orleans, “Resilient New Orleans: Strategic actions to shape our future city,” 36, accessible online.

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This article also appears in the issue 108 - Resilience

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