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‘Emergency management is racism’

Participants at the People’s Forum Aug. 17  PHREDDY WISCHUSEN PHOTO

Participants at the People’s Forum Aug. 17

By Phreddy Wischusen
The Michigan Citizen

DETROIT — Over 150 people gathered at the Samaritan Center Aug. 17 to resist emergency management in Detroit and other Michigan cities. Organized by Detroiters Resisting Emergency Management (D-REM), The People’s Forum to End Emergency Management in Michigan brought together lawyers, activists and civil rights leaders to examine the usurpation of democracy in Detroit and create a unified action plan for continued resistance.

Organizers say emergency management policy is racist and doesn’t solve the financial problems of economically distressed and disadvantaged communities.

“The bottom line about the emergency manager is about race and racism,” said Lila Cabbil from the Rosa and Raymond Parks Institute for Self Development and the moderator of the conference’s first panel discussion. “Racism is an economic system. It was from the beginning. It’s about who is making money and who is providing the labor.”

She added, “The city of Detroit has been devalued because it has a predominately Black population.”

Grace Lee Boggs; poet Tawana “Honeycomb” Petty; Elena Herrada, Detroit Public Schools board member; Shawndrica Simmons, lawyer and secretary-treasurer of the Detroit Metro AFL-CIO; and Marian Kramer of Michigan Welfare Rights Organization were among the many speakers at the forum.

Attorney John Philo from the Sugar Law Center for Economic and Social Justice says emergency management policy is disproportionately impacting Black municipalities and school systems.

“There’s no question that (emergency management) is about race. Nobody wants to admit they are a bigot. The challenge is to force the bigots to expose themselves,” says Philo.

Philo explained that 11 out of 12 predominately Black communities rated in the worst financial trouble got an emergency manager or a consent judgment, while 15 white communities that had those scores or worse did not have an EM appointed or consent agreement implemented.

Detroit Deprogramming’s Gregg Newsom, a videographer, related how the media had portrayed the Coleman Young administration to create a division between Black and white metro Detroiters.

Moratorium Now’s Jerry Goldberg accused the auto industry of deliberately destroying the Black working class by shutting down city plants in the 1970s but keeping suburban plants open.

“Chrysler was 70 percent African American in its hourly workforce in ’79, (and) by ’82, it was only 30 percent,” Goldberg says. “GM did the same thing in the late 80s.”

Goldberg believes the same tactics used in predatory sub-prime loans to homeowners leading to the 2008 collapse were employed on the city in the form of predatory bond programs that artificially created the debt crisis currently plaguing the city.


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