Gov. Rick Snyder must begin paying attention to diversity and inclusion — it must be a priority. If the only growing populations in the state are communities of color, the future of the state — literally — depends on it. We will not build a sustainable or viable economy if resources and dollars are organized by race and gender.
We will continue to be racially and economically segregated, crippled by our inability to share.
There must be a mechanism, or dashboard, to measure inclusion in Michigan, especially because emergency management policy concentrates so much power in the governor’s office. With that power comes responsibility.
So far, the governor has only appeared to pay attention to race in appointing emergency managers who effectively disenfranchise and control resources at the behest of the state. The governor has hired African Americans to direct the policy of a homogenous Snyder administration — not one of the state’s department heads is a person of color —
which makes the actual decisions. This is too critical when over half of the state’s Black population has lost the right to vote under the Snyder administration, while also losing the right to direct local resources.
In what may be one of the largest contracts farmed out under Orr, the privatization of trash pick up and solid waste collection, went out with no real consideration for minority or locally-owned contractors. In fact, it appears only “gentlemen” bid.
There will never be any real revitalization in Detroit if the assets are sold and the big contracts let to entities that are not invested in the city. If this is the case, Detroiters worst fears are confirmed — this is a complete looting and thievery of the city.
Detroit-owned businesses and Black businesses are more likely than others to hire people from their communities. One of the problems in Detroit is massive unemployment and underemployment. Unemployment is such a problem official statistics, that only consider those receiving unemployment insurance, do not fully capture the depth of the problem. Some have estimated unemployment in Detroit at over 50 percent and most residents cobble together at least one or two part-time, low-paying jobs to survive — this is called underemployment.
The community won’t survive this way. Detroit is in economic free fall. The median income in the city has fallen every year since 2007.
Diversity is not just good for Detroit, it’s good for everyone. Poverty, and problems exacerbated by poverty, will not stay isolated in cities like Benton Harbor, Flint, Pontiac or Grand Rapids. The problems will migrate. So, we must keep our eyes on economic justice.
Rep. Thomas Stallworth said Detroit needs “comprehensive” solutions, and we agree. Spending $52 million on demolishing houses isn’t enough if Detroiters don’t get the work, and the money leaves the community. Leaving a vacant lot only reinforces blight. If, as the Governor says ending the blight will help neighborhoods more safe, let’s measure crime in the area and let the Snyder administration go after the insurance industry to lower rates. Let’s turn over dollars in the communities and help Detroit-based businesses get the demolition work. Let’s think about workforce development and consider teaching Detroiters green demolition techniques. This is what the Michigan Black Caucus is advocating. This is what we are advocating.
Emergency management denies democracy, now it also clearly denies economic justice.