I think we can all agree that when Detroit is brought up in conversation around non Detroiters, they never have one good thing to say about our city. I feel that there are two big reasons behind these sore feelings about Detroit. I think that the true downfall of Detroit started with the 1967 riots. The riots ultimately began due to the ignorance and racism of the Detroit law enforcement upon the people of the city. The police were constantly meandering around, either harassing the black youth on the streets or looking for African Americans to arrest who were making an illegal living because they were repressed so much as to not be able to obtain a normal 9-5 to support their families, I.e. prostitutes, drug dealers. With the hatred of the Detroit Police building up over time, their finally came and event to push it over the edge. When police executed a raid on a speakeasy on Twelfth Street and Clairmont Ave., where there was a celebration taking place for returning Vietnam Vets, these Detroiters had had enough. They felt that these establishments were the last place they could go away from home and not be harassed by the police. This made them realize otherwise and out of anger and frustration the riots began. This information about the ’67 riots came from a book called “The Origins of the Urban Crisis: Race and Inequality in Postwar Detroit”, by Thomas J. Sugrue.
The riots in 1967 permanently scarred Detroit in that there are parts of the city that haven’t been rebuilt to this day. This brings me to the second cause of Detroit being looked down upon. Since the riots, Detroit has not had the money to rebuild or restructure because the economy has been in the trenches. Jobs have left the city since many of the major motor plants have closed. I think that when the economy turns around, and the people of Detroit learn to live together, looking out for each other, instead of in fear of one another, our city will again be one of the greats.
Until then, we have to realize that all of the abandoned buildings will be just that, until they are demolished and rebuilt. So let’s not make judgement calls by noticing what may be “tagged” on all sides of them because “neglect can change public space” (Jonathan Silverman, Dean Rader: 482) as well, and I feel that neglect can change it in a much worse way than an artist expressing him/herself through painting on a building (or defacing property with graffiti).
– Jake Morse