As a downtown white girl (one with deep ties and long residency although certainly not a native), I always read CW Cannon's work with great relish whenever I run across it. He comes off as a sensible New Orleanian from the same parts and one that involves himself in the life and breadth of his town.
This piece on "exceptionalism" is one that should be required reading for every "new" New Orleanian, this as well as his piece often titled "New Orleans Manifesto," which was published in "Do You Know What It Means To Miss New Orleans?"in 2006.His piece is linked below but the book remains available to purchase in your locally owned bookstores.
Which brings us back to the central question of whether New Orleans can continue to be exceptional if the buildings are preserved but the people are largely replaced. If transplants buy into certain tenets of exceptionalist ideology — our regard for public performance and embrace or at least toleration of sensuality, for example — will they and their descendants be culturally recognizable New Orleanians? (How about if they start calling each other “darling”? Will that do it?) The paradox is that the final triumph of exceptionalist rhetoric, in convincing the nation how special New Orleans is, also represents the greatest threat to preserving the city’s exceptional social character. This is where Americanist goals and the utopian daydreams of the exceptionalists must finally part ways. Because the Americanist vision of a thriving economy and high property values clogs the paradoxical wellspring of much of the city’s exceptional culture: the proposition that grace and elegance can arise from cheap materials and a legacy of trouble.