For decades Detroit has been the center of the automotive industry in the United States, and was the destination of many black migrants in the early 50’s and 60’s. The factories provided jobs that allowed black men and women with little education to pay for their families in sustainable and even upwardly mobile ways. As late as the mid-nineties, I can remember guys I was growing up with telling me that college was a waste of time because they could make good money working in the factories like their fathers had.
As such, when the economy crashed last year–and took the automotive industry with it–Detroit, and the black people who inhabit the city (Detroit is 81% black), were especially hard hit. With a 22% unemployment rate in the City of Detroit alone (the State of Michigan unemployment rate is 15.2%), the circumstances become more dire daily.
With the economy taking a nosedive, corruption scandals in Detroit became national news. All of a sudden, Former Mayor, Kwame Kilpatrick and his text-message scandal became fodder for both daytime and late night news. Recent scandals around Monica Conyers have become fruit for mainstream news, bloggers and youtube.
It seems that at every opportunity, when it comes to the City of Detroit, what can go wrong, does wrong.
But the question remains, does the color of the corrupt make a difference? When Kilpatrick was ultimately charged with obstruction of justice and sentenced to 120 days in jail, upon release, Kilpatrick and his family immediately moved away from the City. But in the State of Illinois in the face of a Federal Investigation, Former Governor Rod Blagovich went on a late night tv tour.
While Kilpatrick is still being blamed for a city that was honestly already in shambles way before he got there, Blagovich is busy performing at comedy clubs in Chicago. Is it Blagovich’s own understanding of his white privilege that allows him to be unshakable in the face of a somewhat insatiable media? Or is it the media and the electorate’s understanding of his whiteness that allows them to view his misconduct so lightheartedly?
Perhaps at the end of the day, the reason that everybody forgot about Detroit on November 5, 2008 is because it is a city of black people run by black people.