I have lost count of the number of friends, relatives, co-workers and acquaintances who have moved out of Detroit, usually to a nearby suburb like Farmington, Farmington Hills, Southfield, Ferndale, West Bloomfield or Bloomfield Hills, but some have gone as far away as Los Angeles.
The motivation in most cases is discouragement, a dreaded sense of “things aren’t going to ever get much better than they are right now,” despite promises from many quarters of a rebirth.
I still think that could happen. A look downtown with its new businesses and more cosmopolitan population offers verification.
But on the other hand, there always seems to be something to be embarrassed about, such as the new police chief having to step down because of a sex scandal, prompting one late night TV host to quip that he wasn’t aware that Detroit even had a police department.
And what could be worse than the travesty of former mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, the saga of which seems never-ending. It hurts to know that there was that much corruption in his administration, and that he betrayed the people of Detroit so blatantly. This has been especially hurtful for the Black community.
Detroit’s image was already tattered, and these things just added fuel to the fire.
I, like so many, am tired of being fodder for comedians and mean-spirited editorial writers and radio commentators, among others.
But so often my hopes are dashed. For example, I had extremely high hopes for the almost-all-new Detroit City Council, but they, too, have generally been a letdown — especially with the constant fights with the mayor, and I am sure he is at fault too — although they are still better that the City Council that preceded them. Maybe I was expecting too much.
I will never get over the deplorable Monica Conyers situation.
Which brings something else to mind: Too many Detroiters have a tendency to vote for people based on name recognition. There was no justification for Monica Conyers being president pro tem (second highest vote getter). It’s just that she has a last name that is almost legendary.
Martha Reeves, someone I like a lot personally, was voted to City Council based on the classic Motown hits that she and the Vandellas recorded in the 1960s.
And let’s not forget Coleman A. Young II, who was born Joel Loving but changed his name to benefit from the recognition factor. He was voted to the position of state representative. (Which is not to suggest that he is not doing a good job.)
Detroit started its painful decline, certain bright spots notwithstanding, in 1967, the year of the riot. Whites immediately started moving out in droves, and later on, “White flight” was followed by “Black flight.”
No one wants to live where they do not feel safe, where basic services are lacking or where the public schools are substandard. Hopefully the improvements being made by DPS will prove to be lasting, and not offset by the usual negative factors.
Crime has no boundaries, but cities like Detroit, which have Black majority populations, should be shamed by their crime statistics.
I am by nature a positive person, but I was once robbed at gunpoint and, very recently, someone smashed the window and broke into my car in broad daylight on a crowded supermarket parking lot. Things like that are discouraging.
So is the fact that many neighborhoods that used to be so nice, in some cases idyllic, are now eyesores. Being lower income is no reason for being dirty, littering the streets, behaving in an uncouth manner, looking the other way when a dope house is fully operational, abusing a beautiful park like Belle Isle, etc.
The general tone of this commentary might suggest that I am a Detroit basher, but I am far from it. I was born here, have never lived anyplace else, and have no intention of ever leaving.
I still believe in the city, and know for sure that an “attitude adjustment” on everyone’s part would go far in making things better in the Motor City. Sometimes we are our own worst enemy. One has only to look around to see, and feel, things to be proud of.
Detroit has a great history — cars and music put us on the map — and has the potential for a great future, although circumstances frequently blur that thought, that hope.
I still like Detroit — very much — but I don’t love it. I hope to again.