“In the space of a single generation, Detroit managed to ruin itself,” is how Kevin D. Williamson opens What Doomed Detroit, his incisive look at the forces that led to the Motor City’s downfall.
The book, a volume of Encounter Broadside, is only 34 pages. Yet Williamson does more to explain what happened to Detroit than Charlie LeDuff did in 300 pages. LeDuff’s recent Detroit: An American Autopsy, does little to dissect the reasons behind the city’s fall (short of blaming bad leadership from city hall to Wall Street). LeDuff bewails Detroit like a mourner who cannot see through his tears. It is Williamson who takes up the scalpel and performs the required autopsy.
Detroit is bankrupt and at least $20 billion in debt. Half its streetlights don’t work because thieves have made off with their copper wiring.
More than 120,000 homes stand vacant. Bus drivers are afraid to drive its streets, and its murder rate is 11 times New York City’s.
While the city has an official unemployment rate of 16 percent, its real unemployment rate is closer to 50 percent.
One of the main culprits, Williamson writes, is racial politics: “Detroit is a city in which black identity politics has trumped, and continues to trump, every other consideration, from basic finances to public safety.”
To be sure, Williamson notes that race politics in Detroit started with white racism. Led by Democratic politicians, whites resisted desegregation when the black population exploded, rising from 6,000 in 1910 to 120,000 in 1929.
Williamson ends on a pessimistic note, warning that what doomed Detroit could doom other cities. Chicago, New York City, San Francisco, and Boston face similar liabilities.
“It is an irony of our history that the political home of black racism in American politics is also the historical political home of white racism: the Democratic Party,” Williamson writes.
By 1970 whites had largely fled, 344,092 of them in the previous decade. A combination of taxes, crime, declining institutions, and civil disorder—specifically, the 1967 race riot during which “2,000 buildings were burned to the ground; 7,200 people were arrested; 1,189 injured; and 43 left dead”—sparked the exodus.
Detroit elected its first black mayor, Coleman Young, in 1974. His stock in trade, writes Williamson, was “blaming whites for the problems of an increasingly whites-free city, charging that, in his words, ‘the money was carried out in the pockets of the businesses and the white people.’”
Since Williamson wrote his Encounter Broadside there has been one surprising development: Detroit has just elected its first white mayor in 40 years. Mike Duggan took 53 percent of the vote in an 83 percent black city. He did so even though his opponent played the hitherto unbeatable race card, and was endorsed by the NAACP.
Remarkably, Duggan won the support of Malik Zulu Shabazz, the leader of Detroit’s New Black Panther Party. “I’m not supporting the best black candidate. I’m supporting the best candidate,” Shabazz said. “Our city is collapsing. Our city is dying. We need legal experience. We need government experience. We need crime fighting experience. And we need business experience.”
Read more - http://freebeacon.com/death-of-a-city/
Detroit becomes the largest US city to file for bankruptcy
The summer of 1967, when they burned their own neighborhoods
From Motown to ghost town
PICTURES OF POST-APOCALYPTIC DETROIT
Abandoned and destroyed architectural jewels
Haunting pictures of crumbling neighborhoods
Derelict Detroit - 25 years of decline
Ghostly pictures of urban decay
One hundred crumbling houses
More crumbling neighborhoods
Motor City's Breakdown - Detroit people and city - pictures in black and white