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Detroit Raw by Sam Riddle

Sam looks at Martin Luther King III

Sam looks at Martin Luther King III

Detroit 2013 not King’s 1963 Detroit

By Sam Riddle
Speical to The Michigan Citizen

Dear Martin Luther King III,

We welcome you to a Detroit in 2013 that is quantifiably worse off than the Detroit that your father, Martin Luther King Jr., marched in some 50 years ago in 1963.

It grieves me deeply to say that the clock of humanity and all that America could be has been turned back on its head in this 2013 Detroit.

When your father marched down Woodward, we were not killing one another with the casual indifference one might stomp on a roach with no regard for its life.

Today, Detroit has worn the hat of “Murder Capitol” so many times that is almost a badge of national street cred when one says, “I’m from Detroit.” That translates to “so don’t even think about starting any crap because I am bred to mess you up.” The D is a no bluff zone.

Yep. It’s like that. Detroit does not roll with the nonviolence espoused by your father, especially when it comes to how Black folk treat other Black folk, preying on one another with no respect for human life.

Martin, our social scientists and analysts of all manners would be quick to point out that there is a cause for all this mayhem. They would note that the 1963 Detroit your father marched in had plenty of work in an automobile industry, where workers could afford the vehicles they produced and work could be found if you wanted to work.

Those auto jobs are long gone for Detroiters, who today are even spatially segregated from work to the extent that — thanks to zip code racism — car insurance in Detroit costs more monthly than a car note.

Times were a lot better back then for the industrious, so crime was not as widespread. Seems crime and unemployment are life partners.

General Motors phallic-like world headquarters stands tall on the riverbank of the Detroit River thanks to fiscal TARP Viagra. Trillions of dollars were administered courtesy of the American people that bailed out GM, Chrysler, too big to fail banks and Wall Street, while neglecting cities like Detroit. Those entities also suffered from poor leadership and corruption yet enjoyed the big buck bailout that eluded Detroit.

Your father marched with a white mayor (Cavanagh), and Detroit had a statistically significant white population. Now Detroit is America’s Blackest (85 percent) and poorest city. Nearly 60 percent of Detroit’s children live in poverty. The Black family structure has been decimated to genocidal proportions.

Single female-headed households are the norm not the exception. These mothers are not getting the help they need to raise families in a humane manner, so their children are too often consigned to that deadly pipeline from birth to prison or street death.

Here in Detroit, your father spoke out against the evils of segregation: “(What) you can do to help us down in Alabama and Mississippi and all over the South is to work with determination to get rid of any segregation and discrimination in Detroit, realizing that injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

Detroit in 2013 is America’s most segregated geo-political sector.

Your father warned us about the danger of letting democracy die: “The shape of the world today does not afford us the luxury of an anemic democracy. The price that this nation must pay for the continued oppression and exploitation of the Negro or any other minority group is the price of its own destruction.”


The Deep South used literacy tests and poll taxes to suppress the Black vote with hooded night riding KKK to instill a fear, with a lynching thrown in to make the point.

In Detroit today, real illiteracy is pandemic and Detroit debt has been used as a poll tax to strip Black Detroit of voting rights where local offices are concerned. The mayor and city council have been replaced by a selected not elected emergency manager installed because of Detroit’s debt crisis — democracy crisis be damned.

Detroit is a city where democracy has died in a grand Koch brothers experiment that has made Michigan Ground Zero for suppression of the Black vote and a union busting right to work law even as the Kochs dump poisonous coke sludge on the banks of the Detroit River while the governor and his Black proxy EM look the other way.

The KKK’s hooded night riders would congratulate Michigan Gov. Snyder who has accomplished what they failed to do in the Deep South with dogs, lynchings, George Wallace and Bull Connor.

Today, the NAACP and UAW underwrite this march. Fifty years ago, the NAACP all but boycotted your father for daring walk with the people’s preacher Rev. C.L. Franklin, Rev. Albert Cleage and The Detroit Council for Human Rights that organized the walk.

The unions are not nearly as powerful as they were when Reuther was at the helm, and unions tend not to support real community activists that support unions. It’s a damn shame all the way around.

No, Detroit 2013 is not the Detroit your father marched in, in1963. Welcome to our challenge, Martin.

We must never let haters cause us to lose hope or dislike ourselves and never let haters make you weak in your faith. Keep the faith. Stay on the battlefield.

Sam Riddle is political director for the National Action Network Michigan Chapter. He can be reached at or

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