In one of the more impressive bait-and-switch pieces of journalism ever published, the Times goes there in a piece on 83 percent black Detroit, stares into the abyss, and then blinks.
The abyss always stares back, though most shield their eyes from what they never truly forget[Testing Ground for a New Detroit: Mayor Mike Duggan’s Pledges Echo in Detroit’s North End, New York Times, July 6, 2014]
Annexed by the city in the late 19th century, the North End once was the northernmost point in Detroit, bordering on the cities of Highland Park and Hamtramck. It quickly became a haven for the upper class.
These days it still has some of the city’s most glorious homes bordering some of its harshest blight. While it counts judges, doctors and other professionals in its ranks of homeowners, its remaining residents are mostly low-income blacks who bear the brunt of Detroit’s economic decline because of a legacy of confinement to the lowest-paid, least-skilled and least-mobile jobs.
Older residents remember when Oakland Avenue, the North End’s main north-south drag, was a crowded strip of businesses and bars, such as Phelps Lounge, where some of black music’s hottest acts, like the Temptations, performed in the 1960s.
Or when the likes of Aretha Franklin, Smokey Robinson and Diana Ross lived in the well-to-do neighborhood alongside Detroit’s black elite, who migrated there after World War II, exceptional for a time when racist policies generally kept black residents crowded into the city’s most tattered sections. Now there are more open fields than buildings along Oakland.
And the most notable concerns operating on the street are a liquor store, a few churches and an old Jewish bathhouse. “I drive over occasionally just to look at the old neighborhood,” said Ms. Franklin, who lived in the North End in the 1950s when it was thriving with affluent blacks.
“You wouldn’t even recognize it now.” North End residents are not necessarily looking for a return to their neighborhood’s heyday.
Their desires are more pressing and basic — being able to sit on their porches at night and actually see their surroundings; walking the streets without worrying about who is in the high brush or in abandoned buildings along the way; keeping away scrappers, who descend on houses, especially vacant ones, and steal all the metal to sell at a scrap yard; and being able to shop for basic goods within walking distance.
But the city confronts longstanding social and cultural hurdles. Its populace, which is 83 percent African-American, has become inured to disappointment and cynical about years of political corruption, mismanagement and broken promises.
Longtime residents will want to see whether prosperity can start to reach a broad base — including the poor and less educated — or merely widen the divide.
Residents openly wonder whether city leaders want to drive them out to make way for a more affluent class.
The North End, like other neighborhoods, also struggles with an array of sometimes competing interests: public and private agencies, real estate speculators and longtime residents. Some newcomers have drawn heightened scrutiny from residents and other community organizations.
The Vanguard Community Development Corporation, a nonprofit group founded in 1994 that works to attract commercial and residential investment to the North End, and the Michigan Urban Farming Initiative have been at odds since the farmers arrived two years ago.
For those who cannot imagine abandoning Detroit, a big question is how to grapple with new forces flooding in. As a large metropolitan hub, more populous than Boston, Detroit is attractive to businesses and charities looking to make their mark in a major urban market.
That was what Banika Jones thought three springs ago when she saw a large group of mostly young white people clearing thick brush in empty lots near the home she inherited from her grandmother. She and her brother Olando, who share a red brick two-family home, can be suspicious of change. They have about 50 relatives in the North End.
Their family laid roots there about half a century ago when their grandmothers moved in. Ms. Jones cannot imagine living anywhere else. When she was away in the Army for nearly four years, she said, she would sometimes have to sleep out in the field and she tossed and turned and longed for what she felt was the more soothing nighttime soundtrack back home: sirens, crickets, gunshots. “It’s comfort,” she said.
But the white farmers showed up when Ms. Jones, now 34, was at her most vulnerable. Months earlier, her 2-year-old daughter, Bianca, had vanished from a car driven by the girl’s father, who was later convicted of killing her.
Ms. Jones believes he had nothing to do with her disappearance, and the emotional wounds of the case were fresh. Suddenly these outsiders were preparing to plant in an area where she had been trying to sow a garden for her missing daughter. “I’ve been looking at this damn lot literally my whole life and I can’t get no damn help with it,” she said.
“A few white kids show up from the suburbs and it’s like, ‘Let’s let them adopt these lots and let’s get some’ — all of a sudden it’s corporate sponsors. So, yeah, I wasn’t even feeling it.”
Her brother, 23, expressed even greater irritation. “When you black and you broke and you poor and you ain’t got nothing, you, like, really picky over everything,” he said. “It was all white people over there. It was like, ‘What the hell are y’all doing?’ Seemed like it was going to be some type of takeover.”
The group was the Michigan Urban Farming Initiative, whose mission was to use “agriculture as a platform to promote education, sustainability, and community — while simultaneously reducing socioeconomic disparity” in order “to empower urban communities.”And then, if just to tease reality (dangling it like a carrot), the Times publishes this:
There was a time when Inell Byrd felt as if people were trying to take advantage of her. That was last year, when, overwhelmed by her family’s precarious finances, she put her home up for sale for $100,000.
But after getting only lowball offers mostly from white buyers, she said, she decided not to sell. But this is a city whose mammoth struggles are an inherent part of one’s daily life, and for Ms. Byrd this means ambivalence.
One morning in late March, with dawn about to break, she slipped into her warm Chevy Malibu, ready to transport herself to a different world. She closed her eyes, whispered a prayer and cranked up the Yolanda Adams morning gospel show on the radio. Then she was off to her job helping an elderly couple in West Bloomfield, a suburb of strip malls and office parks.
The trip provided a seductive glimpse of what else was out there. Dodging potholes near her home, she drove 15 minutes before reaching the suburbs, a landscape with signs of a more peaceful life. Businesses on every corner. Manicured lawns. Wide, smooth thoroughfares. Windows and doors intact, and buildings with new facades.
When she turned into the village with cookie-cutter apartment buildings where the couple lives, the fuel light in her car flickered on. She chuckled. It was a reminder that, even though it might be dark when she left the village, she could still stop for gas around the corner, a luxury not afforded in Detroit because of the danger of stickups.
She parked and surveyed the woods around her through her cracked windshield.
“These are the finer areas, the more upscale,” she said. “Sometimes, I can leave my car unlocked. You call the police, their response is like less than 10 seconds.”But why could you leave you car unlocked, Inell Byrd?
Why are businesses found on every corner?
Why are manicured lanes and wide, smooth thoroughfares ubiquitous, when in 83 percent black Detroit, these sights are highly abnormal?
Why are windows and doors intact, and buildings replete with new facades?
Why can you leave your car unlocked and why are police attentive and attuned to answering 9-1-1 distress calls?
Oh, the answer rests in the demographics of Detroit, the primary cause of the city's misery; just as the demographics of the suburbs Byrd travels to in West Bloomfield are responsible for creating an environment where business, manicured laws, intact windows and doors flourish and 9-1-1 calls being answered quickly are the hallmark of social capital.
White people, who take civilization for granted until black people pull the rug out from under them and proclaim it theirs (as what happened in Detroit).
Only two weeks, the Detroit News published a story so alien to the white reader it could have easily appeared in the pages of a Congo or Nigerian newspaper. [Community crime walk to show Detroiters haven't given up on city,The Detroit News, June 17, 2014]:
The constant murders, robberies and carjackings in the city haven’t discouraged some residents, community groups and police from trying to find solutions.
“The last thing we can afford to do is give up,” said Martin Jones, spokesman for the Detroit 300, a patrol group that’s scheduled to march with police officers from the 9th Precinct Wednesday. “These criminals need to see we’ve got men and women in this community who refuse to let them take over.”
The march, which begins at 6 p.m. at Gratiot and Lappin on the city’s east side, aims to “show solidarity between the Detroit Police Department and community groups and put the would-be criminals on notice that their behavior will no longer be accepted in our city,” according to a police press release. During the walk, citizens will be encouraged to sign up for Night Walk patrols.Has a white community ever had the need to have a "crime walk" to show they haven't given up on a city? No, it takes constant and consistent black crime to convince white people to walk away from a city their ancestors built and go in search of new land to rebuild a civilization lost to the savage winds of equality, tolerance, and diversity.
Only in 83 percent black Detroit would this be necessary.
Or majority black Philadelphia.
Or majority black Baltimore.
No matter happens to the United States of America, the dream of Disingenuous White Liberals (DWLs) and those who helped construct Black-Run America (BRA) died when Darwin dared show up, unannounced and unwanted, in the once thriving city of Detroit.
No matter how much we are instructed race doesn't matter, there rests a city in Michigan serving as a powerful reminder it does.