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All of Nain Rouge, not just the dwarf, should be banished




By Phreddy Wischusen
Special to the Michigan Citizen

On Sunday, March 24, some Detroiters will gather in Cass Park to watch the 4th Annual Marche du Nain Rouge. According to legend, the founder of Detroit, Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac, encountered a nain rouge (French for red dwarf) one morning while out on his daily walk through the city. Cadillac’s immediate response was to strike the dwarf with his cane. The dwarf ran off, cursing the city as he fled. It is said the Nain Rouge was sighted before various other tragedies: the Battle of Bloody Run in 1763 and the riots in 1967 among them.

When discussing Detroit’s current and past woes, some people blame the dwarf’s curse (not the years of corruption, endemic regional racism, or a national economic model dependent on worldwide capital colonialism).

The Marche du Nain Rouge, founded in 2010, is a parade where residents are invited to “banish the red dwarf” in effigy and end the “curse” on the city. The marchers are predominately young middle class childless Caucasians, recent transplants to the city. Though well-meaning, the theme of the parade supports the very philosophy that has plagued the city since its inception. In the legend, Cadillac’s first encounter with the “native” dwarf is aggressive and violent. He never considers openness, interest or diplomacy. He never questions his “right” to be there. The Nain Rouge’s curse was thought to be at work when Chief Pontiac killed 60 people of European descent at Bloody Run. But after years of Europeans stealing land from native tribes, killing and raping the people, and manipulating the environment, can one not expect a fight? The United States has been at war with two nations for over a decade for a small group of people bombing three buildings. And is it more likely that dwarf-ignited riots in 1967 rather than police brutality, segregation and enforced poverty?

If a group of young people want to end the “curse” on the city, they should embrace what is already here — the people, the cultures and a fuller history. By attempting to “save” the city by banishing the Nain Rouge again, the marchers demonstrate the kind of inner-city bourgeois manifest destiny that will continue to divide Detroit, hijack the local/national conversations and resources, and would most likely have made Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac very proud.


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