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Deconstructing contradictions and constructing the truth

By Elena Herrada

I recently attended an event that featured a brief film about the progress Detroit is making on its “comeback.” The narrative was clearly the voice of philanthropic interests and corporations (and their finger puppets, nonprofits). Among the developments presented, one I find troublesome and perplexing is the initiative to bring “legal” educated immigrants to boost the economy and be “creative.” This is an issue I found that h went unaddressed during the ballot initiatives to build casinos in Detroit.

We were promised not only a new economy, sorely needed in the absence of manufacturing jobs that would never return to this union city that had come to expect and demand living wages, but also benefits and respect on and off the job. We knew that train had left the proverbial and literal station. What happened bore no resemblance to what was promised. The jobs promised to build the casinos went to the same skilled trades people who always got the jobs because Detroiters were not “qualified” to do that work.

It was never clear what the hurry was to build casinos when we didn’t have them and didn’t miss them before. There was plenty of time to train Detroit workers in the skilled trades, but they did not qualify, based on criteria of the skilled trades: race. This was never addressed.

The jobs did not come, the casinos hired several hundred people, but the benefit has been negligible next to what casinos bring to any community.

Now comes this initiative for “legal” immigrants. What is the statement when people need to be imported to fill jobs Detroit is not prepared for? What is the assumption? The fact is that people here have been denied opportunities for reaching our potential for generations, and rather than address this fact and bring meaningful training for jobs that either could exist or do exist is not an option presented.

It breeds tremendous resentment to local people when we are told we don’t rate and that others need to be imported when we have an unemployment rate of upwards of 10 percent, and likely double that if we knew the truth. The arrogance of ignoring our own human capital and courting people to come to Detroit, waive taxes, burden Detroiters with taxation and no representation, loot our precious resources, re-segregate our schools and never mention these facts is a delusional and dangerous narrative.

Demographers and developers should not be allowed to partner. Add to this the corporate recipe for tax evasion nonprofits that take over governance who are accountable to no one. If we don’t check this, we will be taken over by culture and arts for the rich and illiteracy and subservience for the rest of us.

Elena Herrada is a Detroit Board of Education member, District 2.

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