So the official bankruptcy hammer has fallen on Detroit. No one who has open eyes is surprised by any of this. There are a lot of black folks on the left side of the spectrum who see racism at the heart of the matter. While there are certainly racial angles to the problem, it is not the full issue. As many people on either side of the argument will point out is that Detroit is a mostly black city (~85%). It is also a heavily Democratic city. What I always fail to see on coverage of Detroit is that it once was a mostly White city. When Detroit was mostly white it was prosperous. No one can argue against that fact. Folks don't like hearing that but hey don't hate me hate the history. We all know that there was a riot (or uprising if you will) that started what we refer to as "white flight". It is at this juncture that we, meaning The Ghost, and regular black liberal folks, part ways in how we assign "blame" for the current mess. Generally speaking whites essentially left Detroit and took their money with them. For many people this was a racist move. Sure. You can say that. Let's say it is. What are you really saying? Complaining about white flight is equivalent to saying that White people don't have the right to live where they choose, among who they choose, and to take the money they earned with them. That is called freedom of association. Do you believe in freedom of association/ NO seriously. Answer that question. Because either you believe in freedom of association or you do not. Because if white people aren't free to up and move wherever they please, then black people do not have the freedom to up and move and live where they please. Isn't one of the principles of Kwanzaa, which many "pro black" people support, Self-Determination? If you believe in self-determination then you mustrecognize that everyone else has that right as well. So again, do you believe in freedom of association? What the white flight argument essentially is is a claim on white people's money and property. Black people ought to have access to the money and wealth that white people have based on the idea that white people's money was gotten in an unfair manner. White people didn't really earn it. OR due to discrimination white people are obligated to fund black development. of course being the Garveyite that I am, though I am all for reparations, I am not of the position that whites are obligated to do black development too. I believe that black people are responsible for black development. If whites must pay, blacks must work. But lets focus on Detroit. When I was in Michigan in 1989-91 I knew that middle class black folks were trying to get the hell out of Detroit. So there goes the white flight argument. I read about the Halloween devil's night events in the Detroit Free Press. Never had I heard of any such thing. Folks committing arson for no other reason than they could and it was Halloween. I read about the staggering crime rates. How anyone with a straight face would say that Detroit's problems were the sole result of white people moving out is smoking very potent crack. Anybody who was able to was leaving Detroit as far back as 1989 when I finally knew Detroit existed. Detroit's bankruptcy was long in coming. In 1950 Detroit had a population of 1.8 million. In 2013 that number is around 700,000. Over half the population (assumed tax paying) up and gone. Where were the business development done by the black middle class? Why weren't black people who controlled the government able to get a grip on crime? Was that the fault of white people too? To restate Garvey: Black Detroit! Where are your factories, Where are your cars? Where are your men of big affairs? Where are the fathers of the babies? Why did Detroit have this coming? Simple economics. Here's the deal: poor people do not generate [much] tax revenue. They do not generate enough tax revenue to run a city the size of Detroit as it stood in the late 1970s. A city the size and complexity of Detroit depends on middle class (and higher) persons and businesses to generate the income necessary for stuff like bus service, street lights, street cleaning, police (and we know Detroit needs police), schools, etc. I mean really, do you THINK the fare you pay to get on a bus or subway reflects the ACTUAL COST of running that service? Really? Wake up son you've been dreamin'. You think I'm making this up right? OK check the image from the Tax Foundation:
See the darker blue area? That's the income taxes. Watch it fall.
See the even darker blue area? That's the utility taxes. Watch it fall.
Watch it all fall. However pay close attention to that first area. The light blue representing income tax. Note that it never kicks up again after 1973.
So as the middle class, both white and black, left Detroit, it's tax base shrunk…and...shrunk…and...shrunk. But those services still had to be paid for. The choices: raise taxes, borrow or gamble. Raising taxes on a population already unable to pay for services they want doesn't work so Detroit borrowed and gambled (see that black area on the chart). And lost. Here's the obvious truth. One that hit Mandela while he was on Robben Island: You can't run out the folks who create the wealth and expect to keep the city afloat. Now for the part that shouldn't have surprised anyone:
That the bankruptcy judge allowed the city to put it's pension on the chopping block in direct violation of the state constitution is alarming. Well it would be if so called "constitutional guarantees" were in fact guaranteed. As we have found out in the past couple of years, our so called "constitutional rights" have already been tossed aside by none other than the chief executive and his people. Since we cannot expect the highest law of the land to be honored by those who swore to uphold it, how can we expect that any lesser constitution such as a state constitution to be worth much more than the paper it is printed on? It should shock nobody that a judge saw no reason for the pensions to be put on the chopping block rather than paid in full as provided for and required by the state constitution. I'll call this trickle down disenfranchisement.
It's not surprising that these things are happening. We are living in a country in which not only does the federal government not give a damn for the rights of citizens, but it is actively trying to accommodate those non-citizens who have entered the country illegally and who use fraud as a means of remaining. It is insulting, as an African-American to see the government at the state and federal level devote money and other resources that would be better spent on infrastructure, education of it's citizens and on job opportunities for it's citizens on folks who have not even a legal right to even be in the country. And I'm supposed to feel guilty about holding the position that the government ought to be looking out for it's citizens first and above all else. If the government on the state and federal level actually gave a rats ass about the rights of the citizenry, Detroit's pension would not even be on the chopping block in violation of the state constitution. It would be on the state of Michigan to make good on it's obligations to it's pensioners even if they wished to change the plans for future benefits.
Barclay's Bank and all other financial institutions that took the risk of lending to Detroit would have been told that they line up AFTER the constitutionally protected pensioners. But no, In a country where citizens rights and privileges are only as valid as the paper it's written on, no one should have expected any different.
But back to Black Detroit. What is glaringly obvious from the course of events in Detroit is that all the talk about "black power" means diddly squat without a sound economic plan and a social movement that addresses young black men. It serves to underscore that for all that "we're a black city" talk, Detroit essentially was dependent upon white money to stay afloat and when that money left, we saw what happened. If black folks want to talk about how equal they are to everybody else, I suggest they take up the words of Garvey and build and maintain their own stuff. All those black ballers making millions? Step up to the plate and finance these black communities rather than complain about what Bank Of America is and isn't doing. These rich black folks? Why don't YOU put your money where your mouths are and finance home mortgages since it is the consensus that B of A is so racist and corrupt. Let's put our money where our mouths are and build up Detroit without the money of those "racist" white folks who "selfishly" took their money ball and left the playground. I'm with Garvey and Delany before him: build your own and show and prove. Name calling doesn't lower crime. It doesn't open small businesses. And it certainly does not provide employment.