New Orleans councilwoman says mostly Black residents like ‘greasy fried chicken’

Cyndi Nguyen was answering a question about what kind of businesses could thrive in her neighborhood, which has declined since Hurricane Katrina.

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Cyndi Nguyen, a New Orleans city council member, said that her constituents in the city’s Lower Ninth Ward have an affinity for “greasy fried chicken.” 

The comments were made as Nguyen was taking a driving tour of the district accompanied by members of the media. The councilwoman was responding to a question about what kind of new businesses could come to the neighborhood, which has declined in population since Hurricane Katrina in 2005. 

“I’ll be candid—having Wal-Mart come to the neighborhood, it ain’t gonna happen,” Nguyen said. “This is just a reality, OK, and this is not putting anybody down: I think people in the Lower Nine like those greasy fried chicken” places. 

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“I don’t like to have conversations just to sugarcoat people and say, ‘Yeah, we can get a Raising Cane’s,’” she said of a popular fried chicken chain. “You know very well that people here like those chicken, those fried chicken … you can’t ask people to start up a business and not be able to make money.” 

Rep. Jason Hughes, a New Orleans Democrat whose district overlaps with Nguyen’s, said on Sunday that he was “shocked, appalled and insulted” by her words.

Nguyen is the first non-Black person to represent the majority-Black district since 1985. She was elected in 2017. 

(Photo: Cyndi Nguyen/YouTube)

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NOLA.com reported that as recently as 2018, the Lower Ninth Ward’s population is only a third of its pre-Hurricane Katrina levels. Recent estimates say that there are approximately 1,600 residents in the area, down from over 5,000 pre-Katrina. 

In the same article, as Nguyen passed dump sites and tire piles, she is quoted saying, “You know what I really want to do with all this? Burn it down.” 

She pointed out a site of illegal dumping, claiming that clearing it would cost the city over $40,000, but “now if you burn it down — controlled burn — it’s a way of really getting things going.” 

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Nguyen is, however, pushing for a Black Lives Matter mural in the neighborhood, as well as affordable housing above a museum and anti-racism site that commemorates where a 6-year-old girl helped desegregate New Orleans public schools. 

Nguyen has since apologized for her “greasy fried chicken” comments, saying they were taken out of context.

“In the context they were presented, my example of residents enjoying fried chicken and its abundance in the area came off as insensitive, and for that, I apologize,” she said in a statement Sunday.

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