Monday, September 10, 2012

Detroit is Injustice Defined

Opinion post from Stephen Boyle

There is a single line from Martin Luther King Jr's "Letter from a Birmingham Jail", written April 16, 1963 that has been quoted often. That quote is "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere."

When I looked further at the section of the letter it seemed that replacing Birmingham with Detroit seems to make sense in these times of struggle for the City of Detroit. This is how those paragraphs would read with the replacement made, and I believe are words worth sharing far and wide.
Moreover, I am cognizant of the interrelatedness of all communities and states. I cannot sit idly by in _my home_ and not be concerned about what happens in Detroit. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. Never again can we afford to live with the narrow, provincial "outside agitator" idea. Anyone who lives inside the United States can never be considered an outsider anywhere within its bounds. 
You deplore the demonstrations taking place in Detroit. But your statement, I am sorry to say, fails to express a similar concern for the conditions that brought about the demonstrations. I am sure that none of you would want to rest content with the superficial kind of social analysis that deals merely with effects and does not grapple with underlying causes. It is unfortunate that demonstrations are taking place in Detroit, but it is even more unfortunate that the city's white power structure left the Negro community with no alternative. 
In any nonviolent campaign there are four basic steps: collection of the facts to determine whether injustices exist; negotiation; self purification; and direct action. We have gone through all these steps in Detroit. There can be no gainsaying the fact that racial injustice engulfs this community. Detroit is probably the most thoroughly segregated city in the United States. Its ugly record of brutality is widely known. Negroes have experienced grossly unjust treatment in the courts. There have been more unsolved bombings of Negro homes and churches in Detroit than in any other city in the nation. These are the hard, brutal facts of the case. On the basis of these conditions, Negro leaders sought to negotiate with the city fathers. But the latter consistently refused to engage in good faith negotiation.

Brutality in Banking and Insurance

In this final paragraph the brutality lays in the manner in which banks and corporations have thoroughly gutted this city over the past 50 years. Development of downtown Detroit stood arrested while the suburbs became the destination for "upwardly mobile" business people. Highways were built to shuttle people to their segregated life devoid of daily interaction with persons of "lower class". It became common thought that success was defined as something you ascended to by leaving Detroit for something better.

Generation upon generation continued to espouse this urban myth, forming a new reality that Detroit was not a destination for success. City leaders have tried to form alliances through corporate, state and federal contacts and yet the public opinion remains stuck. The banks and insurance companies continue to suck at Detroit without relent. Red-lined auto insurance rates make holding insurance on a vehicle more expensive than mortgage payments on a house in the city. Housing prices have fallen and many homes are valued at less than half the cost of replacement materials without labor.

Federal housing agencies Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have not adjusted home evaluation under such catastrophic terms. Banks have preyed on Detroit homeowners talking them into refinancing mortgages and adjusting terms to continue their indebtedness, offering a hollow wall of credit that will not change without a massive forgiveness program for homeowners.

The banks maintain a War on the Poor by evicting home owners struggling with life situations such as loss of work, health problems, and other conditions that are maintaining a . The number of continuously unemployed persons in Detroit is cataclysmic, being over 42%. Our children are born into poverty that their parents and their parents have known no better. How can we fight a war on poverty when the weapons in such a fight are actively being removed from availability. Detroit Public Schools has been under State of Michigan control as an emergency for over 10 years, that would be 2 entire high school generations passing through school. The opportunity to learn has been fragmented by the ruling class through school closings and assignments that moves students from school to school. Combine this with families moving from neighborhood to neighborhood in a quest for work and survival. There is little trust developed in a fractured life when the friends you want to count on seeing become no longer accessible.

We all hope our children have a chance for a better life than we have. That is how we were raised. Detroit families were the first to have been outcast as globalization rolled through the "Motor City" and left as human collateral in the dust of the Industrial Age's height. Through school we learn of expansionism and growth for society and business, and fail to practice contracting when the needs of workers are at risk. Rather than be bothered business just moves to find new workers.


Advocates for a moratorium on home foreclosures and evictions have drawn up legislation sponsored by Senator Hansen Clark and are seeking support for change. Detroit will be one of those communities affected by such change. Detroit will need more than financial relief, we need a restructured city that confronts racial injustice and inequality head-on.

Our society has a number of right-wing zealots whom endorse limited government and a free market. This approach leaning toward anarchy is perilous in the minds of hard working people. People whom have worked to build the foundation of society paved with their blood and sweat, and yet these workers have been fighting for basic freedoms against a system of bigotry which reinforces class warfare in a claim to riches.

You can be rich in possessions and poor in spirit when what you claim has been fought for by people whom you leave as derelict workers, offering them a wave of the hand, a thank you, and perhaps a few crumbs from that slice of American pie that is so coveted. Those who cooked that pie hope you choke on the sweetness of gluttony. 

Finding Inspiration Through Perspiration

There are people whom are at the core of creating a New Detroit for the people and in the eyes of the people. They take the terms of beauty and distort it often - beauty can be such a temporal thing, influenced by perceptions of what is normal and significant. It becomes a requirement to question what is of value. Human needs are something we all agree are valuable, but how to meet them seems to be where conflicting and inflicting differences show up.

We have to work at making something from all this stuff, and nonsense - because it doesn't make much sense that we have what we have. Some would say we choose what is in our path, but I can introduce you to thousands of people that will tell you they didn't personally make the choice. They feel as if they were processed like so much livestock through a system that bleeds you dry and hangs you for slaughter.

The system is what we encounter every day. We get to know it through our real world vision and not something that is watched on television or read in the paper or online. How we confront it depends on what resources we have available, and more importantly how resourceful we are in mind and spirit. That is one thing the system attempts to rob people of through abusing the needs for food and an abusive health/medical condition that prevails. The system wins when our spirit and mind are conquered, therefore we must resist and unite in resisting.

Create When There's Nothing Left

Artists carry something very real in the midst of chaos, because it is through chaos that true creation arrives. It is my opinion as an artist that where I'm headed to has a way of shifting as new encounters are made. Listening is the lifeblood of artistry. Being fixed in course doesn't leave you many options and when options rise and fall like flies on a carcass, you simply can't count on them too much.

In parting I'd like to ask you to put something on your bucket list - support local artists. But do something special with that one, never cross it off as done. We need to turn currency within the city in the city more times to gather as much value from it as possible. Hopefully, when I'm making money I can afford to buy you lunch.

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