More Than Meets The Eye - Part 1
A Discourse on Social Action & Political Oppression in Detroit
by David Rambeau
Those above us look powerful only because we are on our knees. Let's stand up.
- motto of Revolutions of Paris, a weekly newspaper, founded just after the storming of the Bastille, Paris 1789
Headline - Detroit declares bankruptcy! Is Michigan next? December 2009.
This is likely to happen this year. With vision (or hindsight) it should have happened in 1967. You know what happened in '67, the Detroit Rebellion. All the signs or trends were there to be read then and acted upon.
With even more insight one could have, probably should have, started to become apprehensive in the early 40s when the freeways were built which facilitated white exodus from the city, and the influx of low-skilled, marginally educated blacks exploded in Detroit because of employment opportunities stimulated by World War II. Despite what seemed like boom times, financially and socially speaking, it was over then; we just didn't know it.
Then the war prosperity ended; the white folks left; the real estate and auto industry collapsed; end of story.
Even now, in 2009, we're pretending bankruptcy and decline aren't happening or going to happen; they are; we're simply in chronic denial, the mayor, the city council, the courts, the unions, the workers. With deep denial we can't even begin to work on social and financial change. Most of us who aren't zealots are terrified or disdainful of both.
Terror or disillusion precipitate flight. It happened after '67, it continues today--from the city, from the schools, factories and businesses from the metro area. More would flee Detroit if they could sell their property, but to whom; people don't want to move here.
Detroit appears (my analysis) to be headed toward a population of about 600,000 people in the next 20 years, a continuation of a steady, relentless decline which started in 1945 when the city had a population of nearly two million residents.
Instead of planning and working with that in mind, Detroit's leaders (an oxymoron) have always worked and planned and deluded themselves into thinking that Detroit would grow and expand. Not going to happen. With mass transit Detroit will become a proximate and poor suburb of Ann Arbor, or a distant and poor suburb of Chicago or Toronto, or all three.
Who knew/knows this would happen: city fiscal officers: Sean Werdlow, Roger Short, Irv Corley, demographer Kurt Metzger, formerly at Wayne State University, and the Power Structure: the local aristocrats of the Second Estate: CEO's of large corporations, the people who serve on elite boards.
This last group pushes poverty on the people, like what happens in any Third World nation, and continues to skim or rip off the community through exorbitant auto insurance rates, bank credit denial, last hired/first fired hiring, inflated interest rates on everything, and capital flight, using the poor, the unorganized, and the uneducated as a dumping ground for all the ills of this society.
Why don't/didn't those who knew say anything? Some knew nobody would believe or listen to them. Some just went along to get along; some didn't care. Some, if white and local, also knew they'd be called racists, and castigated by blacks. And some, obviously, profited from the exploitation or oppression.
The question since the 40s has always been what to do with or how to handle a growing number of black folks in the city of Detroit who currently number about 800,000. The solution as of 2009 is to continue to economically exploit them, to yoke them with a mayor (as of now Dave Bing) willing to do the power structure's bidding, to starve them out with unemployment and underemployment, to criminalize as much of the black male population as possible, and to retain control of targeted areas of the city: the river front, the downtown, the culture center and tech district. Blacks can scramble over whatever's left. So far the power structure is achieving its goals. Only democracy (elections) has slowed the process.
For Detroit/black people to even minimally accommodate successfully this geographic (regionalism), technological (mass transit), financial (employment decline and bankruptcy) and social change (massive population decline), we will need a marked psychological shift in our hopes, dreams and direction and concerted community action. This can start with the city election in November.