Demography is destiny and that is very evident in Detroit. In 1912, blacks were slightly over one percent of the population. One hundred years later, blacks are 82 percent of Detroit (and 92 percent of the core city). They have controlled the city government for roughly 40 years. During that time, Detroit went from being the “Paris of the West” and the “Arsenal of Democracy” to a symbol of American failure, ineptitude and decline.
In the 1920s, Detroit was home to the tallest buildings in the world. It was a cosmopolitan city with a thriving arts and cultural scene. Its innovative architecture can still be seen today in empty and dilapidated old buildings such as Michigan Central Station, the Metropolitan Building, Lee Plaza and Broderick Tower.(Right.)
Even into the 1960s, Detroit was a modern, advanced and civilized place. It was even a candidate to host the 1968 Olympics. This hilarious 1965 promotional video [Detroit: City on the Move in the '60s]—narrated by then-mayor Jerome Cavanagh, more on him later—shows Detroit right before the collapse (it “stands at the threshold of a bright new future,” as the video puts it). The comment thread on YouTube suggests it was made in an attempt to halt white flight—blacks were just 26% of the population in the mid-1960s but committed over 65% of the crime.
(Ironically, the New York Times has just linked to a similar video, apparently because it also features GOP nominee Mitt Romney’s father, George W. Romney, the then-Governor of Michigan. The NYT concluded, typically: “Who knows if the Olympics could have helped Detroit mitigate [the coming] calamities?” Paul Kersey knows! Flashback Friday: Detroit’s Olympic Dream , By Joanne C. Gerstner, May 23, 2012)
Whites were still over 70 percent of Detroit’s population at this point and the city boasted museums, a symphony, parks, beaches, skyscrapers, universities, libraries, highways, good schools and restaurants, businesses, night life, theaters, concerts and numerous cultural festivals. The video shows flocks of white people (with only occasional blacks) going about their daily lives and having fun. Detroit truly was “A City on the Move.” It must be painful for the old white residents of Detroit to view this and remember how great their city used to be.
Today’s Detroit is a much different place. It has lost over 60 percent of its population since 1950. Half of all people in the city are functionally illiterate. It has not one major chain supermarket. All public school students are eligible for the free lunch program. Detroit is home to the largest deserted skyscraper in the world. Billions of gallons of water are lost every year through a neglected, century-old sewer system. The average price of a home in 2009 was just $7,000.
Forbes recently rated Detroit as “The Most Dangerous City in America,” and with good reason. Since 1969, over 21,000 people have been murdered in the city. This comes on the heels of Forbes rating it as “The Most Miserable City” in 2008.
On top of all this, Detroit is bankrupt, loaded with debt and on the verge of being placed under emergency management a.k.a. be declared unfit to govern itself by the state of Michigan. (Detroit challenges consent agreement in court, By Darren Nichols and Oralandar Brand-Williams, The Detroit News, June 3, 2012).
Kersey points to the years 1967 and 1973 as key to sealing the fate of Detroit.
On July 23, 1967, police raided an illegal after-hours bar in a black neighborhood. This seemingly minor incident triggered a riot by blacks that resulted in 43 dead, over a thousand injured, 5,000 left homeless, 2,500 business looted and $134 million in property damage. Federal troops had to be called in to stop the riots, which lasted for five days. “It looks like Berlin in 1945” said a dispirited Mayor Cavanagh.
Cavanagh was a white Democrat who had come to office unexpectedly with massive black support after running against “police brutality.” He sought to consolidate this support by marching with Martin Luther King, implementing affirmative action in government hiring, getting millions in federal funds for “anti-poverty” programs and generally pandering to black race activists. Before the riots, Cavanagh was considered an emerging star with an appeal similar to that of John F. Kennedy. He was blamed for his slow response in stopping the violence, and the riots effectively finished his political career. ["Phooie on Louie: African American Detroit and the Election of Jerry Cavanagh". By Joseph TurriniMichigan History, Nov./Dec. 1999. ]
As an aside, it is worth noting that Detroit was home to the last white-on-black riot in the U.S. in 1943—sparked by a fight between a white sailor and a black who had insulted the white’s girlfriend.
Kersey does an excellent job tracking down long forgotten books and articles about Detroit. Predictably, the 1967 riots were blamed on whites. The August 4, 1967 Life magazine cover read: Negro Revolt: The Flames Spread. The magazine praised the “progressive” policies of Cavanagh but wrote:
… Beneath the surface the city simmered. Few of the statistics meant much to the Negroes who inhabited the eight-block area of 12th Street where the rioting erupted. The unemployment rate there was still 11%, and even higher among Negro youth. The area was the most densely populated in the city. Only 17% of the residents owned their own homes – compared with 60% in the entire city. … Even though economic conditions had improved, it served simply to raise Negro expectation – and the inevitable frustration when those hopes were not quickly satisfied. In the carnival-like revel of looting, Negroes took liquor, color TV sets and hi-fi phonographs. …But by 1967, white backlash took the form of leaving rather than retaliating. White flight was already underway but the 1967 riots took it to another level. Whites were 72 percent of the population in 1960 but dropped to 56 percent by 1970.
The rioting demonstrated the power of the discontented to disrupt and paralyze any city and the difficulty of reimposing law and order. It also raised the menacing prospect of white backlash. Whites have already started a run on gun shops and there was a danger that any community confronted by racial violence might be split into armed camps, white vs. Negro. If this occurs, an important lesson of the violence will be obscured. That lesson, says a Detroit psychologist, is ‘Learn, whitey, learn.’
The 1967 riots helped usher in the ultimate death blow to Detroit – political control by blacks. By 1973, the city had a narrow black majority and the mayoral election was essentially a racial headcount. Black Democrat Coleman Young campaigned against “police brutality” while his white opponent John Nichols ran on a law and order platform. Young won by a few thousand votes and would begin a 20 year reign that finished off what was left of Detroit.
The city became the crime capital of America in the 1970s and Young implemented massive affirmative action for city employment. To give an example of the kind of leader he was, here is Young, quoted by Kersey, on affirmative action:
“Some people say affirmative action is discrimination in reverse. You’re damned right. The only way to handle discrimination is to reverse it.”Kersey cites an August 1991 American Renaissance article by William Robertson Boggs on what Young’s leadership meant for Detroit:
Now, no other city in the United States has a character or identity that is so clearly black. Mayor Coleman Young calls himself “the black mayor of a black city.”But what about the role of the auto industry? Doesn’t its decline have something to do with the collapse of the Motor City?
This is scarcely an exaggeration. The police chief and all four police commissioners are black. The school superintendent is black, as are the heads of virtually every city department. Both of the city’s congressmen and most of its judges are black.
While federal and state subsidies keep Detroit from complete collapse, Mayor Young operates his city much as an African potentate might. His picture hangs in every city office building, and his name graces the municipal letterhead. The personal business cards of every city employee bear the mayor’s name. At every opportunity, he names parks and civic centers after himself. Even the city zoo is now named for Coleman A. Young.
The very history of the city now has something of a colonial-African hue. The period of prosperity before the riots is now officially viewed as analogous to colonization. A city document describes the pre-1967 police force as “a hostile white army, entrusted by white authorities with the job of keeping nonwhites penned up in ghettos.”As the riots recede further into the past, they are increasingly seen as a glorious insurrection, in which the oppressed black man threw off his shackles and wrested control from the white man.
Detroit even has its own anthem, which is also the unofficial anthem of black America: Lift Every Voice and Sing. The people of Detroit still sing the Star Spangled Banner when the presence of whites makes it necessary, but it is invariably followed by an enthusiastic chorus of what Detroiters call “our”anthem. No city in America is more self-consciously black, no city more clearly and completely governed by blacks than Detroit.
In one of the best chapters of Escape From Detroit, Kersey compares the fate of Detroit to another Rust Belt city—Pittsburgh. The steel industry in Pittsburgh was hit much harder than the auto industry in Detroit in the 1970s and 80s. Yet the loss of its main industry did not cause Pittsburgh residents to riot and burn down their city. In fact, Forbes recently named Pittsburgh “The Most Livable City in America.” The Economist called Pittsburgh “The Best City in America.”
Of course, Pittsburgh is one of the whitest big cities in America while Detroit is the blackest. Whites are 65 percent of the population in Pittsburgh while blacks are only 25 percent. Whites comprise nearly 90 percent of the greater Pittsburgh metro area.
Escape From Detroit is vigorously written, well-researched—and visibly self-published. As Jared Taylor discovered last year, racial truths are unfit to print in today’s America. Paul Kersey did not even try to find a mainstream publisher. But the truths about how black crime and political incompetence destroyed a once great city need to be told. And they can be found nowhere else.
And, despite almost no publicity outside of his blog, Kersey has already sold over 1,000 copies of his book. The proceeds will help Kersey with his next book, in which he will turn his sights on what black leadership has done to Atlanta.
Peter Bradley (email him) writes from Washington D.C.