Within the last 10 years, Detroit has closed 130 schools. New York City closed 117 schools. Just this month, Chicago announced the closing of 52 more schools. On the same day Detroit protesters gathered at Coleman A. Young Municipal Center to voice opposition to the newly-appointed emergency manager (EM), protestors in Philadelphia gathered in protest to the closing of 26 more public schools and the mayor’s refusal to acknowledge union contracts with raises.
Additionally, median income in the United States has fallen every year since 2000 —almost 15 years ago. Economic indicators for Black Americans have been particularly dire since the Great Recession of 2008. For many who believe an emergency manager will fix the problems in the Detroit, this is magical thinking. Detroit, Chicago, Philadelphia and other cities are caught up in a changing global economy and, unfortunately, African Americans are at the brunt of the shift.
Moratorium NOW! is correct to say this fight is not just about equal protection, democracy and voting rights but also a battle with the financial institutions that increasingly control the direction of this country.
All economic indicators point to a falling standard of living for the majority of Americans but especially African Americans and it is now more important than ever to connect these struggles.
It begins with the school closures.
Closing schools, public worker wage reductions, the elimination of public services are all evidence there is not enough money in the systems of local, state or even federal government. And with the reduction in services, school closures are increasing and will continue to disproportionately impact the poorest, who also happen to be Black.
There is not enough money in these systems. So, how will we sustain and grow our communities?
African Americans and other minorities, but especially those in poor areas, were also disproportionately the victims of predatory lending. The first to lose their homes and, as a result, their communities, cities, city government and now the right to vote or have local input.
The state of Michigan’s answer to this problem is, in addition to eroding quality of life, also eliminating voting rights and citizen’s control of public spending to pay off debt.
The choice is city services or debt repayment and the state is choosing debt repayment for Detroit’s residents.
Since the EM announcement, the credit rating for the state and city have actually improved despite worsening conditions for citizens. This doesn’t bode well for Detroit and anyone thinking the EM is here to fix Detroit. Think again. Know that Detroit’s struggles should not be in isolation. We welcome the national attention to the EM, from Revs. Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson to others who have come to the city to see firsthand what this violation means for Detroit. Let’s now also work to connect the struggles and acknowledge that the real problem is there is not enough money in the system because fewer people work — and they work more for less money. Until this changes or we begin to work differently, our cities will continue to struggle and the banks will continue to profit.