... In 1967, Detroit erupted in rebellion because while the city appeared to prosper, too many of its residents lacked the bare essentials: housing, schools, jobs and equal justice under the law. Rather than remedy the roots of the uprising, those who once celebrated the city quickly chose to abandon it.
But 50 years later, they are coming back. They were cautious and tentative at first. Now they enthusiastically, even proudly, are saying “I live in Detroit.” Yes, “Detroit, Detroit.”
But what is actually happening, right now, in that “Detroit, Detroit”?
Black Detroiters are, once again, largely an afterthought in this new era of prosperity in the Motor City.
Just like 50 years ago, it is very difficult for black Detroiters to be homeowners as whites have been snapping up properties — first for a song, and now for upward of a half-a-million dollars — in neighborhoods like Palmer Woods, Indian Village, Boston Edison and on the Detroit River. Longtime black Detroiters are notably not enjoying the new housing construction boom that is sweeping the city. More significantly, an overwhelming number of them can’t even afford to keep the homes they live in or pay their water bills and heating bills. The resulting shut-offs have led to serious problems for children and the elderly alike.
It isn’t just that black Detroiters, once again, are not enjoying the benefits of gentrification equally. Much as in the Detroit of yesteryear, the new development in the city has come at their expense. Today black Detroiters aren’t becoming homeless because white Detroiters want to “clear the slums” to put in a new freeway or medical center. Today they are being made homeless because developers want them out of the buildings they just purchased for a pittance.
And then, of course, there are the schools, an issue that has been glaringly absent from all discussions of Detroit’s “comeback.” With a few exceptions, kids in Detroit today must attend classes in buildings that are infested with rats and mold, without enough textbooks and with no extracurricular activities or college counselors. The shocking state of poor city schools further highlights the contrast between the haves and the have-nots in this city. ...