“All men are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality.”
— Martin Luther King Jr.
Cities across Michigan are marked by population loss and tax base destruction. Schools are suffering, blight is spreading and the people are under attack. Republicans, and some Democrats, are trampling democracy and busting unions under the guise of fiscal management, undermining self-determination for the state’s African American population with emergency managers.
Detroit citizens who suffered through the crack wars, the blight of their block, the loss of neighbors and neighborhoods through foreclosures and shootings, insurance redlining, the destruction of Detroit Public Schools and creation of its debts through a decade of state takeover expressed their distress with the idea of an EM and consent decree in comments before the state-appointed Review Board March 26. Their frank, open and harsh talk sprang from anger and frustration, but was neither heard nor understood by the corporate press, who immediately put their top employees to work expressing disdain for what they hope — and want you to believe — are small numbers of dissenters to the state’s drive to control Black cities.
While racism frees the way for the destruction of democracy in Michigan’s cities — only Black populations have EMs and consent decrees imposed upon them — all of the state’s citizens are in danger. Three decades ago, 300,000 automobile jobs left the city within a three-year span. The move was justified by corporate management. Downsizing was necessary. Today there are 23 million Americans looking for work and uncounted millions who have given up. The disinvestment believed to be something happening to major cities has now encompassed the suburbs and beyond.
No one group can continue to grow its poverty, alienation and loss of rights without everyone being affected. In the spirit of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., we must convince our officials to stand up against bank-ruled public policy. Debt can be renegotiated. The banks can’t tell cities what they need to do.
In the spirit of Dr. King, whose assassination we mark for the 44th time this April 4, it is time to speak up. Remember, he said, “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” Democracy and self-determination matter.