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.
“In a scene reminiscent of the crowds of jobless workers who lined up for free soup during the Great Depression, a queue of tens of thousands of workers and unemployed people wound around the downtown arena. Young mothers pushing baby carriages, disabled workers in wheelchairs, senior citizens and throngs of young workers and youth stood for hours waiting. Many had slept on the streets the previous evening to be the first served.
Several people fainted during the wait and were treated by medical personnel on the scene. By 11:30 a.m., Detroit’s mayor, David Bing, made a public appeal for citizens to stop coming to Cobo Hall. Hundreds of police, including officers from Detroit’s special Gang Unit, stood guard at the entrances to hold back the crowd.”
It is tough watching Detroit go through this. But anyone familiar with the state of the Midwest, the rustbelt, with majority Black cities, knows that the recent budget and social crisis has been in the making since the early 1970s. Some historical accounts like Thomas Surgue’s The Origins of the Urban Crisis and the famous Detroit I Do Mind Dying by Dan Georgakas and Marvin Surkin place this transition to the 1950s. Yet these two books paint a very different picture of what Black working class life and city looked like before deindustrialization officially attacked the Black working class.
The articles below, from the World Socialist Website and The Michigan Citizen bring us to Detroit amidst a national and international recession. The last decade or so saw the Detroit bourgeoisie try to revive the economy through the casino economy. They also hoped that they could ride the coat tails of the real-estate boom, but Detroit has been cursed—always too late, always too little. The official unemployment rate of Detroit is 17.7% and I have talked to friends who have told me it is probably closer to 30%. Considering 80% of the city is Black, it is not hard to figure out who is getting hit the hardest. The new mayor of Detroit is using this crisis as a pretext to attack almost all layers of the class in the city. Now working class anger is beginning to erupt across the city. Public sector workers are on the move. I will try to interview a friend next week so we can get a picture of some of the movement dynamics happening. As this crisis unfolds, we all have come to a realization that movement alone will not push the racists and capitalists back. Our people need to step up their game cuz the enemy is on the march. Continue reading Struggles from Detroit→