Thursday, April 23, 2009

REQUIEM FOR A CITY



Kevin Boyle, one of the great historians of his generation (his book, Arc of Justice, won the National Book Award in 2004), is also a native Detroiter and a true Rustbelt Intellectual. He grew up on Chatsworth Street, on the city's East Side during the 1960s and 1970s, and witnessed the dramatic racial and economic transformations that left Detroit--and so many other cities like it--ravaged by disinvestment.

In this moving article, Boyle revisits his childhood neighborhood where today, you can buy a single-family detached house for about $5,000 more than what his parents paid nearly fifty years ago. Boyle offers a subtle reflection on the intersection between memory and history. It's one of the most powerful, personal meditations on urban change that I have read--and a rare one that evokes childhood memories without slipping into maudlin nostalgia.

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

The Chinese send their appreciation to the proud union leadership that destroyed these neighborhoods decade by decade. I hope he thanked them in the book.

PTCruiser said...

Labor unions and their leaders did not destroy Detroit, at least not in their capacity as trade unionists. What sowed the seeds of Detroit's destruction was race and anti-black racism.

If, for example, black folks had been allowed to live where ever they could afford to live both within the city and its surrounding suburbs, Detroit would have managed to escape many of the ills it faces today. Black folks who could afford to purchase homes in Detroit's white neighborhoods in the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s were people who worked for wages just like their prospective white neighbors. The white working class in America is still not able to grasp this fact and move on with their lives.

PTCruiser said...

I should have added that whites in Detroit allowed their racism, whether overt or covert, to create and fuel a system that expropriated the value of the taxes, fees and other forms of revenue black tax payers paid into the city's coffers while systematically depriving these black residents and their neighborhoods of services that all residents of Detroit were entitled to receive under the law. The end, as the protagonist in Invisible Man declares, was in the beginning.

Scott said...

@PT:

That's interesting,however Micheal Moore blames it all on GM not racism.

PTCruiser said...

Causal lines run all through the universe so it makes little sense to attribute Detroit's demise to a single factor but anti- black racism, I believe, played a larger role than the automobile industry. Look, for example, at how people who should have known better continued to defend Kwame Kilpatrick long after his behavior was indefensible.

Their attitudes reflected the sort of siege mentality that is displayed by folks who feel they have long been under assault. It grows directly out of their experiences over generations as residents of Detroit and, no, it does not matter how long Coleman Young served as mayor or how long black folks have been running the city. This crap is in the city's DNA and it may never evolve into a more civil form of community.

likwidshoe said...

Well,...it's so easy to blame all of Detroit's problems on "anti-black racism".

The city's defenders always have some sorry-assed excuse for why the black-run city is such a basketcase. The city will not ever rise again with such a victimhood mentality.

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