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J. Eric Wise
Is Detroit Dead? « Back to Story

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Take a look at for a real well documented of the underlying problem with Detroit, and at least 80 other American cities.
With a population that is roughly 50% functionally illiterate, and a 90% Black majority that embodies every pathology gripping African-Americans, Detroit could not be more dead. It's responsible, law-abiding and educated citizens have been ethnically and economically cleansed from the environment. What's left is a kleptocratic, welfare state culture ruled by parasites, predators, and Great Society throwbacks. The 1968 race riots, where Whites were targeted for arson, assault, looting and murder was the death blow to an already tottering city. The thoroughly evil Coleman Young sealed Black Detroit's pyrrhic victory by abusing the power of eminent domain to level one of the last viable White enclaves (Poletown) for a GM factory that could have gone on any number of vacant parcels in a city that had miles of them. In an environment where educated, ethical and responsible workers are the most sought, Detroit's aberrant thug-life subculture provides nothing of value to an employer.
Whether we want to say it out loud or not,race is the elephant in the room when speaking about Detroit. We can say the same for Gary,IN, Newark,NJ,East St. Louis,MO, New Orleans, LA, etc.
The horror ahead is the rest of the country having to absorb these feckless and feral Detroiters when the city's definitive end finally occurs.
Racism? Ha, didn't see that comin'....what about the big government liberal entitlement plantation? You don't get benefits if theres a father in the house, so the unsupervised bastards are loosed on the streets and the law abiding tax payers flee. It really isn't complicated at all.
Detroit is truly dead but unique in one respect – the Motor City creates and then recites its own eulogy on a daily basis. Today, like most days in recent decades, Detroit’s media is publishing more “Happy Talk” stories cooked to just the state of golden brown optimism Detroiter’s prefer.

Headlines will often read “How To Reinvent Detroit”, “Detroit’s Revitalization”, “Whole Foods Opens New Store in Detroit” – these tales always stress how Detroit is fighting its way back from oblivion. A city without grocery stores, the Whole Foods story provides a concrete example of businesses which actually want to be in Detroit.

But how much truth is there in Detroit’s Happy Talk Tales – or are these mostly fictional stories meant simply to relieve the ongoing depression of these wretched Motor City dwellers? Only the good news is told in Detroit – when a business closes and leaves Detroit no one notices, at least not officially. Like the city’s tens of thousands of vanished former residents, the businesses disappear like ghosts into the night with no journalist on hand to record the event because none of his readers want to hear the story.

And that’s Detroit in a nutshell, a city watching itself gradually disappear and describing its own death in only the most hopeful of terms. However, there is a side to Detroiters which is fighting desperately to survive but fighting in the only way Detroiter’s know. Begging, aggressively going after charity, demanding outside help, but monetary help only, not unsolicited advice on building character. America’s oldest surviving mendicant, Detroit has refined begging to an art form.

Often Detroit will hatch some fantastic scheme to reinvent itself such as urban farming. And then Detroit will ruefully point out it needs seed money to get the project off the ground, a few million dollars or so it doesn’t currently have but would put to good use if only someone would donate it, no strings attached. But give Detroit the money and it promptly disappears like water in the desert, no reinvention occurs, the money is simply gone. Next month, a new scheme will be devised and the search for generous suckers to swindle begins anew.

Detroit does possess boundless energy but only when it comes to begging for charity and today the Detroit News reports the latest swindle in the making- tax free zones where new businesses can thrive inside Detroit. But wait, a group must first be formed to find some money to finance these tax free zones. Detroit, which has no money of its own of course, should be encouraged to apply for “grants” to improve city services within these imaginary tax free zones so new businesses will come. Grants provided by nameless others, free money for Detroiters, charity for the helpless, begging without shame – today, as in so many other days, it’s business as usual in Detroit and it never changes.
Liberalism = Civic suicide. Make no mistake. Soon to be national suicide. Fitting punishment, though, considering the 59 million abortions.
I was on a tour performing back in the 80's and we went to Detroit. The man whose apartment I stayed in was a homosexual who was a pastor's son. He had been having a tryst with a black male who had come searching for him while my wife and I were there alone in the apartment. He left us alone. 2 weeks after we left, the gay man was cut to shreds, blood from one end of the apartment to the other. I thank God for His intercession, and that of the Blessed Mother and our Guardian Angels for stepping in and protecting us. Pray the Rosary. As distasteful as it may be, PRAY THE ROSARY. The time is short and Pope Francis is the last one. There is no time to waste.
Of course it's true. But what does Truth have to do with political correctness? Everyone is completely compromised, just like the citizens all were in the Emperor's New Clothes. Shhh. Don't mention the obvious, lest you be reviled by the elitists!
Does the fact that Detroit is ninety percent black have anything, anything at all to do with the fact that it looks more like Nairobi than Zurich?

I know. I know. That is racism.

But could it possibly be true?
Detroit won't be the last major city to go bankrupt. Just as the housing crisis triggered a disaster, so will the municipalities crisis. Elected officials that are bought by special-interest groups and endorsed by those receiving government handouts will watch and do nothing while our society continues to erode. We are lemmings on a death march. Detroit's political leaders should be prosecuted.
Since this author’s law firm has no presence in Detroit, a reasonable question is how much can he really know about Detroit? And the obvious answer, based on this author’s naive conclusions, is not very much. Charlie LeDuff, who wrote the book subject to this review, is only one educated individual among tens of thousands former Detroit residents who voted with their feet and departed for greener pastures (LeDuff has since returned to his native Detroit from New York). And what this reviewer doesn’t comprehend is that Detroit went through a mass exodus several times starting in the early 70’s and ending around the late 80’s – the reasons were varied and many native sons and daughters fled the Michigan region entirely as well as the dying Motor City.

The automotive companies created a one industry economy which generated a devastating ripple effect within the local economy each time a periodic sales downturn occurred. Local businesses from retail stores to service industries felt the pain of layoffs and terminations whenever the Big 3 were having a bad year or years - and often felt that pain more intensely than the auto workers themselves. Residents fled not only across the infamous 8 Mile road border between Detroit and modern day America but also to Houston, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Phoenix and San Jose – anywhere educated individuals could make a new start within a local economy not dominated by a slowly dying, union dominated industry.

The so-called “white flight” to the suburbs simply moved the traditional white Democratic Party voters down the road a few miles into border suburbs where the schools were safer and the homes only a little more expensive. The Detroit Metro area is by no stretch of the imagination a ring of white Republican suburbs surrounding a Democratic Party plantation of mostly black Americans residing inside Detroit’s borders. Rather, the long term, union mindset was transplanted to suburbs with names like Warren, Southfield, Livonia and Hazel Park. The zip codes may have changed but the thinking remained deeply mired within a traditional Liberal philosophy, no right to work legal structure, vote the straight Democratic ticket and maintain traditional union supporting family values rooted within the WWII and 1950’s eras.

LeDuff is dead on in all his criticisms and observations regarding Detroit. And this author is dead wrong in his conclusions; the Detroit Metro area isn’t actually dying but neither is it learning valuable lessons from the City of Detroit’s long, painful death. The area remains heavily Democratic in their individual politics and firmly rooted in a state of denial when it comes to effective self-government. The border and more distant suburbs of Detroit will educate their young folks only to watch them flee to more rewarding regions of the state and the nation. The demographically aging Detroit Metro suburbs haven’t come to understand why Detroit will never recover and why their kids won’t remain in neighborhoods where they grew up. Michigan without Detroit and its suburbs would be better off economically and Michigan’s residents outside Detroit are coming to that realization as well.
Consider Detroit as the opposite in political organization to Sydney, Australia.

Race is fundamentally irrelevant in Aussie local politics.

Cities are huge, especially Sydney. So there is no organizational difference between the city and the suburbs. I'm talking solutions, here, because Michigan integrate all of Wayne County and make a New Syndey of result.

That's not going to happen. It should have happened in the 1940s.
700,000 is still a very large population and the city has assets it could sell to spend down the $25,000/person debt. Detroit could recover with creativity, forward fiscal thinking and if persons in charge face up to the fiscal realities and take the role of leadership in their communities. To date political reality has usurped fiscal reality. Vice-president Biden said "We killed bin Laden (Al-Queda) and saved Detroit. oops, wishful thinking. Detroiters believed him and still hope that the president will pay back the debt for their votes.
Historically Detroit's population didn't support leaders who offered fiscally sound ideas. There were paths presented along the way of Detroit's history that could have saved it. They could have saved themselves.
Of all the comments here, I think NC Mountain Girl comes closest to understanding the real problem. I still remember when Coleman Young was elected first elected mayor. In his acceptance speech, he all but said to the whites to "get north of 8 Mile", the city's northern border. And I remember the rabid cheering of the adoring masses.

It went downhill from there. There is talk of white racism made in several of the comments. But, as someone once said, let he who is without sin cast the first stone. It seems the only cooperation most black politicians in Detroit wanted starting with Coleman Young was to just keep cooperating in sending money. That was the only use they had for white people. And that's why most white people left during Coleman's reign.

I was born and raised in the city. Several of my family members (uncles, cousins) were City of Detroit employees. I'll bet they're turning over in their graves after witnessing the stranglehold put on the city by the unions and how they hosed the residents. But, at least for the last 20 years, they were equal opportunity hosers in that they hosed their own. The city is effectively a sewer now.

I haven't read LeDuff's book, but if he claims that racism killed Detroit, I couldn't agree more. He's just wrong as to what side the racism came from.
As a door-nail . . . thanks lib's, and public unions, and race hustlers, haunting the city for the past 4 decades.

Hope you're happy.
Good point Eidsness on state sovereignty/responsibility although cities have understandably been given what they wanted up to now. Detroit has been moribund since 1967 but the analogy to human pathology is not so good since an American city will never humanely be allowed to die. I a former Detroiter remember the way many of my neighbors actually attacked the first house (Chalfonte St.) that was integrated near me in the mid-fifties. I became a liberal right then at the age of nine I think; but that was the main type--and time--of anti-Black racism in my city. The South was worse. However the main trend of flight from Detroit had to do with people's actual experience of greatly increased criminality--and tolerance of criminality. One other thing: it gets annoying hearing some conservatives dump on the Great Society programs. They were a wellmeaning attempt to address the real problems of Blacks and especially the kids. When I hear this stuff I know I am listening to an ideologue and an ignorant one at that.
I have seen no comments from any reputable reporter on the responsibility of the state of Michigan to effectively oversee its municipal creation. Where were state audits and oversight? Weren't most of Detroit's problems aggravated by nonfeasance by the state of Michigan?

"Municipal corporations owe their origin to, and derive their powers and rights wholly from, the legislature. It breathes into them the breath of life, without which they cannot exist. As it creates, so may it destroy. If it may destroy, it may abridge and control." Clinton v Cedar Rapids and the Missouri River Railroad, (24 Iowa 455; 1868). This is Dillon's rule.
I would say yes, Detroit is indeed dead. With current demographics, financial collapse that was well over-due and a city that is in utter ruins -- why or how could it be resurrected? What person or persons in their right mind would wish to live in such a city that resembles a third-world country in more ways than one? The race riots of the past were sort of prophetic in what Detroit has become today, though I know no one here at CJ would want to suggest any connection to race realism, perish the thought.
excellent article
I am waiting for the analysis that looks at how Coleman Young's disastrous tenure was the first under a new city charter that was sold as a way to correct the problems of the 1960s. The system was supposed to empower dispassionate technocrats. Everything I have read suggests that instead it created an overly bureaucratic system in which no one was accountable for results. Because of this, it wasn't so much whites who fled, it was middle class voters of all races and ethnicities.
This author is a partner at Gibson Dunn and Crutcher?
Let's see: They represented a certain investment banker and banking firm, who used Michigan Pension funds to get very very rich!
Gee,the pot calling the kettle black!
Note to A: Houston did not exist 200 years ago. If Detroit is to recover, how? To move there is to take on a $25,000 debt, which is its municipal debt per capita. Its local tax rates are the highest among the fifty largest US cities yet its municipal services are appalling. Do you want to enroll your child in a school district in which 7% of eighth graders meet national standards in math? I can well understand why so many former Detroiters abandoned it but I can't understand why anyone else would move there.
This is no different than Zev Chafets book. That seems to be hogwash that they want to sent out -- I guess that's true of Washington DC & ST Louis too. If you cherrypick your cities and cull what you want, you can make anything true...And what is this doing here anyways?
Oops' not Detroit -- Michigan
For the last 30 years I have referred to it as Arkansas North.
It might be better to read Sugrue's The Origins of the Urban Crises: Race and Inequality in Postwar Detroit and other more scholarly works rather than rely on the book or this column. As for Henry Ford as champion of equality: yes, for whatever reason he was ahead of his time in hiring African-Americans to some types of jobs in the plants, but he was anti-Semitic and had his mouth organ publish the Elders of Zion as truth even as Albert Kahn designed his factories.
Detroit has an awful racist past for sure, but does that really explain its current stat? It's not like Atlanta, Houston, Birmingham, New Orleans, Oklahoma City, St. Louis, or Columbus, OH were oases of racial tolerance 200 years ago. Not that these cities are necessarily doing great -- but they are not Detroit. I am guessing that the correlation between past racism and current problems is low.

This doesn't mean that Detroit's past racism isn't important or significant, just that it doesn't explain its current decline.

I think that Detroit has a lot of CURRENT racism, which is probably more problematic than its past issues. The racism goes multiple ways and is not just white vs. black.

I read and liked LeDuff's book. It is short on statistics and long on anecdotes, which I think is appropriate. It's also a personal and family story as much as a story about a city. Statistics can't really demonstrate how bad things can be.

I hope Detroit can recover. I do think that my own city is on the way to becoming like Detroit, which frightens me.