How does it feel?
Last week Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr suggested the art at the Detroit Institute of Arts could be sold in bankruptcy. At that point, the region and state began to realize they are not immune to Detroit’s financial problems.
For years, Detroit has been the dumping ground, figuratively and otherwise, for Michigan. It’s where suburbanites go to buy drugs or dump trash.
It is where burned out houses remain because many of those fleeing the city wanted to collect insurance money after they had collected the highest rents and made the fewest repairs possible for years.
The media has dumped on and dogged Black leadership for mismanagement, ineptitude or worse for more than 40 years.
State policy with a ban on residency requirements and failure to pay its own obligations has effectively isolated poverty and its accompanying problems within the city.
Yes, many got a feel for life as a Detroiter when they learned the art could be sold.
Art is a culture’s identity, says historian Paul Lee who described what the potential loss of a 60,000 piece art collection might mean. No wonder it hurts.
So much of the region’s culture and history is fractured. For people who have fled the city, they look back at their neighborhoods and don’t see what they remember from their childhood. They listen to Motown in new places, and labor history is all but forgotten.
For people who have stayed, the break worsens all the time. Once solid neighborhoods have been destroyed.
In the last 10 years, more than 70 schools have closed and the public school system dismantled, leaving the hood without its heart; often every child left on the block attending a different school.
It is a loss of community connection heaped on the disinvestment, isolation, and lack of social and economic opportunity.
Today, Detroiters are missing schools, libraries, churches, parks, businesses, bus lines, recreation centers … the list goes on, and will, under emergency management, unfortunately, grow.
We have moved far from the history Diego Rivera’s murals depict. Rivera set out to illustrate Detroit’s roots in technology, manufacturing and labor.
He shows not only the industry of the city but also the workings of business and the brute strength and efficiency of workers — Black, brown and all people who built the city.
What took generations to build has been torn down too quickly.
And no one feels it more than those who stayed. Which could be why so many Detroiters lashed out: “How does it feel?”
Michigan must change the history of loss and fragmentation and understand emergency management with its thoughtless potential sale of Detroit’s assets, the regions’ assets and the further destruction of our shared history, identity and culture.