In the Dec. 14 edition of the Detroit News Editorial Editor Mr. Nolan Finley penned an editorial "Where are all the black people?" He was referring to the opportunities provided by the comeback atmosphere in Detroit which seems to be absent a sufficient number of black people. He fears that Detroit could become two cities "...one for the upwardly mobile young and white denizens of an increasingly happening downtown, and the other for the struggling and frustrated black residents."
Now on the face of it I would call this blatant racism. But Mr. Finley writes an entire paragraph assuring readers he is not racist and would rather "have a stick for my eye." I for one tend to believe Mr. Finley harbors no actual racial hatred. But hating for racial reasons is not the only form of racism. People who don't harbor any real racial hatred can still practice racist principles. Before I go any further, I want my readers to understand what I mean by the concept of racism.
My Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary says: "A belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race." We can see that racism then is a form of determinism which says that your character is not determined by your own values and decisions but by your race or skin color and that this results in notions of superiority or inferiority.
Mr Finley then gives a few examples of why he fears the 'two cities' scenario: "It's a clear red flag when you can sit down in a hot new downtown restaurant and nine out of ten tables are filled with white diners, a proportion almost exactly opposite of the city's racial make up." But I ask why is the city's racial makeup important to Mr. Finley? He continues:
"It's a warning signal when you go to holiday events for major Detroit cultural institutions and charities, and you can count the number of African-American revelers on both hands." Again, why are racial numbers important? And one more:
"It should stop us in our tracks--as it did me the other day--when a group of 50 young professionals being groomed for future leadership shows up to hear advice from a senior executive, and there's only one black member among them." For the third time I'm saying so what? Why are racial quotas important? Why should a city have the same number of races in every social gathering? This is pure racism.
Maybe most blacks don't like the food at that hot new restaurant or can't afford the price. Maybe they don't go to holiday events because their leaders have convinced them not to celebrate white man's holidays. I just don't know. Maybe they don't want to participate in rebuilding downtown while their own neighborhoods continue to deteriorate. Maybe most of the black job creators (businessmen) have left the city for the same reasons white ones did, job destroying taxes and regulations. Whatever the reasons are, they are not mentioned.
There is a lot of rationalizing and evasion in this editorial. For example, what does the notion of "upward mobility" mean? Is that something that automatically accrues to white denizens but not blacks? A nine year old can testify that to step up on a simple foot stool takes some effort. Are we to understand that blacks somehow lack this effort? Use of the term upward mobility evades the reasons for said mobility. After telling us that most of the new kids coming to rebuild downtown are white and that he is not disparaging this fact, he then states:
"We can talk all day about why African-Americans didn't do the same thing. It doesn't matter." What? It sure does matter! Mr Finley is treating the racial numerical differences as the given, as if they are, like upward mobility, causeless, not to be questioned or examined. But everything has causes. To pretend they don't matter is evasion on a large scale.
He continues that paragraph with a veiled threat: "We have to understand that we're buying trouble if we don't encourage more black participation." Really? What kind of trouble? No answer. And what does encourage mean in this context? Does it mean at the point of a legislative gun like forced busing? Or does it mean economic favors like subsidies, loan guarantees or other favors? He does answer this: "This isn't about handouts or set asides or affirmative action. Nor is it about gentrification, an absolutely ridiculous concern in a city that needs so much rebuilding. I don't even believe it is about racism." So government incentives are out. So what is it about?
"Rather, it's about downtown employers making sure they're truly cognizant of the diversity of their workforces, and stretching a bit more to recruit and train native Detroiters, who will then fill the lofts and nightspots." To be cognizant of the diversity of their workforces means to be conscious of the races of ones workforce i.e. race consciousness, exactly what Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. did not want.
"It's about encouraging black entrepreneurs to come to or stay in the city, and recognizing there are cultural and opportunity gaps that have to be closed to create a vibrant base of small business started by people drawn from the city's neighborhood." Again we see another phrase 'opportunity gaps' that doesn't seem to have a cause. Who is to do the encouraging of black entrepreneurs? Since he doesn't mention government it can be assumed that other private citizens are to do it though he isn't very specific about that.
I think it would have been a good editorial if it had noted all the racial discrepancies then focused on their causes. For example why are the black residences struggling and frustrated? Why aren't they attending more cultural events and eating at the hot new restaurants? Why aren't they hastening to take advantage of the new growth opportunities? There are reasons and they need to be identified and addressed.
Off the top of my head I can think of several. 1. The insane War on Drugs has turned inner cities into gang laden fiefdoms where a kill or be killed sense of life dominates. 2.The equally perverse welfare state has destroyed the black family and made dependency on handouts a way of life. 3.The long waits for police to respond to crime calls and other unresponsive city government departments has caused the almost complete destruction of confidence in the police and the city as such. 4. The government policies aimed at reducing racial tensions--multiculturalism, egalitarianism, diversity, affirmative action and race consciousness--are themselves based on racist principles. I think it would have been a good idea to walk through a black neighborhood and ask them for reasons.
The collapse of Detroit did not happen overnight. It took a long time. Its recovery will take time too. It will only happen when the government stops treating blacks as a herd, a collective and starts treating them as individuals with the full protection of individual rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Nothing less will do.