Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Urban Affairs of the Heart

Ta-Nehisi Coates' article in The Atlantic about a certain area of Detroit exploded if you will, an already burning interest in the city, it's history, its glory and it's decline. I can't describe this feeling as anything less than pure obsession. Although, I am concerned this is more like watching a car crash over and over. While Coates article was a rare piece of good news, the New York Times put out the additional bad news blues about its disintegration. Detroit's population declined 25% over the past decade.

It was the largest percentage drop in history for any American city with more than 100,000 residents, apart from the unique situation of New Orleans, where the population dropped by 29 percent after Hurricane Katrina in 2005, said Andrew A. Beveridge, a sociologist at Queens College.
The number of people who vanished from Detroit — 237,500 — was bigger than the 140,000 who left New Orleans.

I think it is more than a coincidence that I recently attended an Urban Affairs conference in New Orleans this past weekend and there was a panel dedicated solely to the city of Detroit. The big difference between the two cities isn't the number of individuals that fled, but the manner in which they did. New Orleans residents fled (relatively) all at once and trickle back home. Detroit had the painful experience of amputation by butter knife. That kills spirits, morale. It's heartbreaking.

What I don't understand it the idea of Black Flight being a root cause, Black residents moving to the 'burbs. But if they are moving to the suburbs due to foreclosures, it doesn't make much sense to me. So what they are now renting on the edge of town? The stats show that the suburbs lost people too.

Considering Detroit is somewhat the birthplace of  America's "middle-class" and the now very unrealistic expectation that a high-school drop-out can have that very same lifestyle ----we kinda owe the city. We should make a better effort of ensuring the lifestyle of coalminers, autoworkers, etc. the same way we do farmers in this country.  They are all equally an American tradition. If we were truly money driven we would be shipping in sugar from the Caribbean. The question is who is the country really loyal to?
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