Over Forty Years Later and Still Paying

Feeling pretty isolated from the current recession out here in Salt Lake City, I’ve decided to track some of the goings on in Detroit.  I have a mild connection with the area after dating a girl during high school and college from Grosse Pointe.  I will never forget my first day driving around the metro area.  As a country kid from Texas I couldn’t even comprehend most of what I was seeing.  I remember pulling up to a red light in my 1984 Volvo 244 DL with all the windows rolled down and my shirt off. (No air conditioning you know.)  Of course I was wearing a red bandana wrapped around my head to keep my long hair out of my face while the wind whipped through my windows.  This was the summer of 1993.

Well, a group of dark skinned youth began to stride toward my vehicle while I idled waiting for the light to change.  I decided to play it cool.  I was a friendly person, so I assumed they just wanted directions or something.  About that time the car behind me started to blow it’s horn rather urgently.  “The light is red you frick, damn,” I thought.  After another short moment the car pulls around me and guns it through the intersection while flying me the bird to boot.  “Whatever Jackass,” I continued my inner dialogue, and then noticed that the approaching youth didn’t look as friendly as I had initially estimated.  And then suddenly…

The light turned green, and I calmly accelerated and continued my drive around scenic Detroit (only a little more nervous than I had been before).  All this to say that I have since been a huge non-fan of Detroit.  Honestly, it is a bit of a hell hole, and has been for a long time.

Some history:  In 1943 Detroit had its first race riot as blacks protested jobs for the war build up going only to whites.  Throughout the 50’s and 60’s the inner city continued to slide into black poverty while car companies built new facilities in the suburbs that were open to white workers only.  Then in 1967 Detroit suffered its second race riot after several cases of police brutality and an entire black neighborhood was bulldozed for Interstate 75.  Almost 200,000 people, mostly white, had fled Detroit between 1950 and 1967.  Almost 100,000 more fled after the riot of 1967.  Only poor, mostly black, residents remained.  At the hight of the unemployment leading up to the riots blacks hovered around 15% while whites stayed around 6%.

Here we are today, still paying the price of our racism over forty years ago.  Unemployment for January was at 20%.  Maybe with all the high paying, low skill jobs that went to whites throughout the car industry boom disappearing, the racial divide is closing.  Maybe not.

It was after the 1967 riot that Detroit became the leading city in the U.S. for gang violence and drug activity.  For forty years Detroit has remained close to the top of this list.  Now it is taking another heavy blow (with the Detroit Lions logging the worst NFL season ever!), and what is to be done?

barlowpowerhouseAn artist couple in Detroit has decided to do the insane and care about their neighborhood and their community.  They have started a project they call the Power House.  Who says that artists can’t be crazy and inspirational?  Oh, right.  Nobody does.  This is exactly the kind of thing we depend on artist for, and so far they have convinced a handful of friends to move into the neighborhood as well.  Through their collective efforts in the bombed out shell we call detroit they are gaining national attention on NPR and in the New York Times.  Since I heard about these guys on the radio I have been tracking their efforts and applaud them tremendously.

This is exactly the sort of creative and bold community growing effort we need in Detroit and throughout the U.S.A.  Detroit residents may have no choice but to take rehabilitation into its own hands on a local level, but this sort of thing is never a bad decision.  And with the growing socialist insanity at a national level this is the perfect time to take your community into your own hands.  Viva el Pioneer Spirit! and gumption that made America great.  Viva Power House!  Viva repairing racial tragedies of the past.

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