Over a year ago Eminem released the song “Beautiful” along with a video that roots the song in the de-industrialization of Detroit.
The history and political backdrop to the city been a source of cultural definition and hope for its people.
The Great Rebellion of 1967 was a turning point in the city of Detroit. After years of attacks by the police, and being relegated to the most grueling, lowest paying jobs with no chance of promotion, black and poor white folks revolted, shaking the foundations of the ruling establishment in Detroit. Both before and after the rebellion, there were a number of important organizations which were key in cultivating the means and spirit of revolt, such as the Revolutionary Union Movements (RUMs) along with the League of Revolutionary Black Workers, and the Republic of New Afrika. But the organizational weaknesses of these groups coupled with the relentless onslaught by the city elite left the people of Detroit open to a new wave of attack that resulted from the collapse of the Black Power movement. The city, afterwards, would not be the same.
All the wealth that black and white workers had created was looted from the city by the capitalists and moved out to the suburbs or down to the southern United States. Along with that went the tax base of the city, and forty years later the city is falling apart due to an emaciated infrastructure. This story is shared by other cities where brown and black folks rose up to take their city back. Gary, Indiana and Newark, New Jersey are only two more examples. I’ve heard Detroit described by visitors as resembling a war zone — well that’s what it is; it’s the American Third World.