I was there when it all began. Just transferred to a new position in Detroit, I watched the city burn from a motel room in Southfield under curfew. It was 1967 and the riots had broken out. I was trying to convince my wife with a new baby that moving to Detroit was a good idea. The result of the riot was 43 dead, 1189 injured, over 7,200 arrests and more than 2,000 buildings destroyed. It all began at a speakeasy at 12th Street and Claremont.
My job took me to the war zone where 3 of our Standard Oil of Indiana stations had been burned to the ground. I was on a team to assess damage to our retail businesses. It was like a combat zone. We were nervous with good reason. The curfew was still on and there was still occasional gunfire. The Michigan National Guard and US Army Reserves still patrolled the city.
The riot was the beginning of the end for a once great city. Detroit has never recovered and never will. Many of those 2,000 buildings destroyed were never rebuilt. Leaving nesting places for mischief and eyesores.
My second stay in the Detroit suburbs began in 1971. My job took me to the inner city several times a month. Not to meetings but to the street. To our retail service stations where our dealers were at war with the criminals every day. Sometimes the dealer or an employee was shot trying to run his business and sometimes a dealer shot a crook trying to take his money and his life. Crack cocaine had come to Detroit and no one was safe. Crime is what added to the damage done by the riots. Detroit became the murder capital of the world. (harken, Chicago). It was too dangerous to live south of Eight Mile road and whites left in droves for the suburbs. Followed by middle class blacks.
Coleman Young was running the city and he was only interested in two things. Getting rich and getting re-elected. To do both he needed the unions and he got them by pouring money into their coffers and cutting good deals for union employees. The private sector jobs were leaving and 60% of the people who worked were working in the public sector. Taxes had to be raised, but there was no money to pay the taxes. The greater the percentage of blacks, the higher the vote count for Coleman. Running whites out of Detroit worked in his favor.
I read articles that have great optimism that the city will come back. I ask how? No one has a job, the public services are unacceptable. One hour to get a cop to a 911 call. There is twice the geography needed for the population. The crime is still bad and there are no cops to keep it from getting worse. You can’t sell a house for a buck. There are no assets and no jobs.
Money doesn’t solve everything, and money won’t fix Detroit. The City needs a “do not resuscitate” form.
Detroit is the endgame for America if the Democrats keep getting elected. The Obama game plan is identical to the Coleman Young plan. Grow the government employment and pay them better than the private sector, give the unions what they need, pander to the environmentalists even though jobs are lost and energy costs go higher, and make speech after speech about inequality. In Detroit, it was inequality against those who tried to stay and support the city vs. those who stole and killed them. It was serious inequality. But, those who left won, and those who stayed to pilfer what was left of their neighbors and the city are mostly all that’s left.
Symptoms of Detroit are everywhere in America today. States that have the Detroit virus, like New York, California, and Illinois. Cities that have it worse, like Chicago and Washington DC. People are leaving those states just like they began to leave Detroit. Chicago is now the murder capitol of America. And, it’s moving to the Loop. When it’s not safe to shop in the Loop, the exodus of residents in Chicago will begin.
It’s comforting to believe it can’t happen here. But, I can tell you from my experience in Detroit, it can happen anywhere.
We have a president today who seems to want to see it happen. With his new buzz word, “inequality” and second favorite, ”racial unrest”, he’s beginning to sound like Coleman Young. He’s using Trayvon Martin to stir up the minority community.
This week in Park Ridge, Illinois cops claimed a 95 year old man attacked them with his cane and they had to use force to subdue him. He died en route to the hospital. For we elderly, isn’t this as bad as the Trayvon Martin situation. Taking on a 95 year old makes less sense than the age difference between Zimmerman and Martin.
There is no Jesse Jackson or Al Sharpton or Barack Obama to speak for the elderly. Unfortunately there is no one to speak for the kids of America either. The ones who will inherit a country much like Detroit because we watched while it happened.