by Yusef Bunchy Shakur
Detroit is a city that became 85% Black by default and the surrounding cities became 85% white by design. In order to further overstand the social, economical, educational and political plight which has been imposed on Detroit, we should examine the embargo that amerikkka has imposed on Cuba over 60 years. A similar embargo has been imposed on Detroit by the surrounding white suburban cities who engage in unfair treatment of Detroit. These majority white neighboring cities are openly engaging in institutional racism through attempts to buy off pieces of Detroit’s Water and Sewerage Department as well as open racist acts towards all of their neighboring Black cities like Benton Harbor and Highland Park. In order for a Truth and Reconciliation process to grow with in Metro Detroit, we need to take a deeper look at the historical patterns of racism that are perpetuated today.
We have witnessed a tragedy of Black politicians openly betraying the people they were elected to serve by going out for self and selling Detroit out to the highest white bidders. Many of them openly choose to cater to the white elite by developing “Downtown”, “Mid-Town”, and “Cork-Town” for white people’s enjoyment and places to live, while neglecting other neighborhoods and leaving Black people to suffer in them.
The foundation of any city is its neighborhoods and failure to invest in the neighborhoods is a complete betrayal and jab at the heart of the city. When resources stopped coming into the city, neighborhoods began to dry up like a river and the people began to subscribe to a survival of the fittest mentality. This is detrimental since amerikkka’s northern cities are as segregated as the racist south was almost 60 years ago. The illusion of racial progress and racial equality in this country is a fucking joke because at the core of amerikkka is white supremacy.
The migration of southern Blacks to northern cities exposed the racism of northern whites that fell under the radar. The brutality here was not as visibly open as the brutality Blacks were facing daily by southern whites. Upon arriving in northern cities in inordinate numbers, northern whites demonstrated their racist attitudes towards their new Black neighbors by burning crosses in their yards and exploitative practices like “Blockbusting.” White home owners would sell their homes below market and Black folks were forced to buy the same homes at higher-than-market price from white real estate companies. In addition, many of the grocery stores sold bad food to poor Blacks daily. The influx of more Black people migrating to northern cities for job opportunities sparked a trend of more and more white people moving out.
White flight became the social movement to deal with Black people’s quest for equality in education and job opportunities. That equality never came into fruition because Black people found themselves facing the same wretched social and educational conditions that they faced down south only this time with a northern white racist flavor.
This migration also gave birth to popular Black neighborhoods such as “Black Bottom” in Detroit in the 1950s. “Black Bottom” became a beacon of social, cultural, educational, and economical hope for Black folks. It spoke to the history of Black people in amerikkka, which was developing and creating beauty out of some ugly racist conditions. Many successful Black-owned businesses, social institutions and night clubs that sustained a healthy community. In 1920, there were 350 Black-owned businesses, including a movie theater, the only black-owned pawn shop in the United States, a co-op grocery store, and a bank.
This successful Black community became a target for what was deemed as an ‘urban renewal project’ and was demolished and replaced by the Chrysler Freeway (Interstate 75) and Lafayette Park, a residential development. This new expressway and park took priority over Black life. Black people were forced to relocate to other parts of Detroit as if they didn’t matter, which is a common theme of amerikkka. “Black Bottom” is a forgotten history of Detroit where the reliance and self-determination of its people were destroyed and are rarely spoken of.
To overstand the complexity of race in the City of Detroit, we need to include other neighborhoods, in particular, Southwest Detroit. In a community that is primarily Latino, many of its community members are being deported daily by boarder patrol police snatching family members after dropping their children off to school or leaving church.
For a climate of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission to become part of the fabric of Detroit and Michigan, white people here have to recognize that communities of color in Detroit and in Michigan are still oppressed and exploited. There are a good number of white people here with good intentions but they have become marginalized in their respective communities with the majority of the other people’s white missionary mentalities. The struggle for justice, equality and freedom in amerikkka has a different meaning for Black people than for white people. For Black folks it gives definition and meaning to our livelihood in a white society that has worked overtime to deny us our human rights.