Sep 14, 200912:00 AM
The Editor's Room

Weekly Commentary with New Orleans Magazine’s Errol Laborde

Errol Laborde: The Incident, Part 2

I got quite a reaction to my blog a couple of weeks ago about a scam incident I faced in a supermarket parking lot when a woman holding a baby tried to claim that she was hit by my car while it was stalled in traffic. (The original article is here.)

Here are some updates:

• To date, I have not heard from the woman. I did explain the situation to my insurance agent, who said he thought I had little to worry about since we did not exchange numbers. “These things usually end with a letter to the insurance company making a claim,” my agent said, “but when they don’t know who the carrier is, it’s like finding a needle in the haystack. They are blind.”

I should add that if you are in a legitimate accident, especially if it is your fault, do exchange information. But in the case of an obvious scam, or at least in my case, it was better that no information was exchanged.

• Among the blog responses was the suggestion that I should go to the supermarket and ask about the tape (actually digital images) from the outdoor surveillance camera. If it came to a challenge, the images could help prove a non-accident.
       I did just that the next day. I spoke with a Rouses manager who said he thought that the images were kept for about 40 days but that the view of the parking lot would be very wide angle. If it came to the point where I needed to gain access to the images, he said I would have to go through the Rouses corporate office in Houma but added that it was probably something that an attorney would have to do.

• Another blogger, identified as Kit, offered some great suggestions including:

… If someone attempts a hustle, simply say, "Let me take your picture," aim your cell and photograph them and then the license number of their vehicle if possible. They will depart in haste. …

I especially like the picture idea. My cell phone does not have photo capacity (I am about five years behind technologically), but I think I could have faked it. I would have loved to see how they would have reacted.

• Several of those who wrote reported similar incidents. There are, unfortunately, many stories to be told. In too many cases, insurance companies wind up writing a check, though they know better, just to close the case.

• A few people were critical of my having called 911 rather than dialing the police accident line. I stand by my decision, though. To me, what had happened was an emergency because the woman in the SUV had talked about calling the police. For all I knew she might have already called 911 reporting me as a hit and run. I wanted my side of the story to be recorded on the police record. The fact that the 911 operator took time to explain the legalities to me did not suggest that I was inappropriately using her time.

• Finally, there’s the issue of race. I did not make any racial reference in my initial article, yet it became part of the discussion. In the world of blogging, where people are unhindered by having to identify themselves, when the discussion is about race, it tends to get increasingly mean-spirited and nasty.

Such discussions miss the point. The issue is not about race; it is about class. It is not so much skin color that people react negatively to but behavior. Frequently that skin color is linked to behavior but not entirely. No black family would mind having Drew Brees as a neighbor or Tulane President Scott Cowan or a solid white family. Conversely, any white family would be pleased to have Chris Paul living next door or Xavier president Norman Francis or a solid black family. What neither side –– nor any of us –– wants are neighbors whose presence suggests criminal activity or a disregard for the neighborhood. ( I know because in my racially mixed block, we once had neighbors like that, and they were white.)

Just as Caucasian people speak critically of “white trash,” all races have slang for people within their group whom they regard as a less desirable class. Poverty alone does not create those people but rather a whole set of maddening social circumstances. Such people are not inherently evil. They are just individuals that society has somehow failed. 

In the case of my incident, the women who perpetrated the fraud were of the same race as the 911 operator who responded so professionally and of the nearby security guard on whom I would have relied for legal protection if needed. 

I keep thinking about the kid in the woman’s arms and my hope, indeed belief, that he will grow up in a better world.

I hope it will be a world in which when people talk about race they will actually understand what they are talking about. Better yet, it will be a world in which there will be no need to talk about race at all.

Let us know what you think. Any comments about this article? Write to All responses are subject to being published, as edited, in this newsletter. Please include your name and location. 


Krewe: The Early New Orleans Carnival - Comus to Zulu by Errol Laborde is available at all area bookstores. Books can also be ordered via e- mail at or (504) 895-2266.




Reader Comments:
Sep 14, 2009 12:00 pm
 Posted by  Anonymous

Racism is a claim of last resort when there is no other plausible explanation for one's behavior.
Our country since the '60's--i am 65--has encouraged us to identify ourselves as Hispanic, Afro American, etc. to claim racism, "our piece of the pie" The divide has been exacerbated by our politicos, white and black for the almighty vote.

I agree with you about being race blind, but we have a lot of harm to undo. Maybe the American reaction to what is going on in D.C. will ultimately provide the way to unity.

Sep 14, 2009 12:28 pm
 Posted by  Anonymous

So you asked the 911 operator what her race was? Or was it a video call?

Sep 14, 2009 01:02 pm
 Posted by  FSJFAN

I once lived on a block where we had "equal opportunity trash" - white, black, Hispanic, Asian. My wonderful house, huge yard and garden and very reasonable house note couldn't make up for (in addition to many other things) watching my middle aged neighbor lady walk out onto her porch, lean over the rail and scrape her dinner plate into the open garbage can.

The Sesame Street song "One of these things is not like the other" began running through my head and I realized it was me. My house went on the market immediately.

I now live on a racially and culturally diverse block - lifelong New Orleanians, whites, blacks, Jews, Muslims, immigrants, transplants - where our common concern and affection for the community far overshadows any doubts there may be (and I don't know of any) because of our differences.

And in re the comment about whether Errol asked the operator's race - there was a recent Craigslist post for voice-over actors that requested a photo. I replied to ask why a photo was needed and not an audition tape and the poster became quite defensive. Makes me wonder how the photo would be used :)

Sep 14, 2009 02:14 pm
 Posted by  jh

I had an incident happen to me in 2004 when a woman jay walked and ran into my front bumper. I had just turned a corner and was doing no more than 15 miles per hour, there were no skid marks so it was easy to stop. I jumped from my car to aid the woman only to watch her carefully place herself on the ground and proceed to take out her phone to call her office. I was calling 911 and she was calling the court house where she worked. In deposition she stated she was in a cross walk, however the crosswalk was 30 feet from her. After being questioned she admitted she jay walked and had done so for four years everyday leaving work. The lady also had a bad back from another accident and had been on pain pills from that incident. She also stated after taking a trip to Austin Tx. she had to visit a pain clinic for treatment because of her accident with me. How do you drive 8 hours with so much pain? This was a pleasure trip. I was so upset over this I had nightmares for months and worried about this woman until I heard her lies.I was not issued a ticket but I still felt sick over the possibility that I could have hurt someone even in an accident. Inspite of her lies and the fact that she broke the law my insurance company settled with her. I hope the money was used in a good way and I hope she can live with herself, I know I am scared to death of having this happen again to me.

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The Editor's Room

Weekly Commentary with New Orleans Magazine’s Errol Laborde


Errol LabordeErrol Laborde holds a Ph.D. in political science from the University of New Orleans and is the editor-in-chief of Renaissance Publishing. In that capacity he serves as editor/associate publisher of New Orleans Magazine and editor/publisher of Louisiana Life magazine.

Errol is also a producer and a regular panelist on Informed Sources, a weekly news discussion program broadcast on public television station WYES-TV, Channel 12. Errol is a three-time winner of the Alex Waller Award, the highest award given in print journalism by the Press Club of New Orleans. He also received the National and City Regional Magazine Association Award for Best Column for his New Orleans Magazine column, beating out 76 city magazines across the country. In 2013, Errol received the award for the "Best News Affiliated Blog," awarded by the Press Club of New Orleans.

Errol’s most recent books are Krewe: The Early Carnival from Comus to Zulu and Marched the Day God: A History of the Rex Organization. In his free time he enjoys playing tennis and traveling with his wife, Peggy, to anywhere they can get away to, but some of his favorite spots are the Caribbean and historic locations around Louisiana. You can reach Errol at (504) 830-7235 or




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