Tag Archives: institutional racism

Is America Sending Young Inner City Blacks False Sonar

In capitalist societies, we typically are responsible for the choices we make. Some make bad life choices. But when a massive segment of society continues to make poor life choices, do we not have to question whether or not it is the individual or the circumstances in which they were placed?

For instance, what causes a pod of whales to beach themselves? Are these bad life choices or are they the best choices given the circumstances? If ship sonar signals these whales to turn to shallow waters where they become beached, is it the whales that are too be blamed or is it the ship? And what of baby sea turtles that turn away from the sea, thinking that house lights are the moon, and die of exhaustion?

Given societies signals, are the choices that young, inner city blacks make that end in dropping out of school, turning to gangs, making cash in illegal activities, failing to achieve job skills and living off the system poor choices? If they are, why does such a high percentage of young black make these same choices generation after generation, city after city across America?

I contend that the system provides erroneous sonar, false lights to follow if you will. And our capitalist system works whether the trade is legal or not. Without a legit signal of a living wage to swim toward, our inner city youth strand themselves on the beach. It is this false signal that is the basis of institutional racism that still persists in our country.

Perhaps it is through no fault of any individual. Who is not aware of the probabilities of high crime rates involving black youth. It would be hard not to react to such probabilities and no one can be blamed for self preservation. Yet, these signals create pathways for individuals to interact that in themselves can create institutional racism. It is these false signals which must be broken through conscious effort if we are to reduce its effect on our inner cities.

1 Comment

Filed under American Governance, Racism, social trajectory

Racism as Viewed from the Extreme Right of America Needs to be Understood If We are to Move Forward

TrayvonMartinHoodedYesterday, I spent the day deep within a rightwing chat group that was in the midst of discussing the Trayvon Martin case. Trayvon’s death has created vitriol on both sides of the political divide and once again displays America’s ongoing racial tensions for the entire world. To get a pulse on the extreme right’s 2013 views regarding America’s racism, I engaged the group.

Not wanting sugar coated, political correctness, I stirred the hornet’s nest a bit knowing that angry bees usually sting with conviction. The raw opinions expressed were startling but real. No more startling than those on the left, the right extreme of America sees racism, however, in a vastly different light. Before America can come together to solve our nation’s enduring problems of race, we must first understand that a huge gap does exist, and more importantly, why it exists. Only then can we resolve our differences.

As you will see by the comments, some on the right deny that racism even exists. And when agreeing that it does exist, some say it doesn’t rise to the level of many other problems facing America. I contend, however, that racism is a major cause of many of our other critical issues and that none of these can be solved without reducing the impacts of racism.

Not only does racism tear down the dignity of its victims, but racism also harms its perpetrators. It retards everyone’s prosperity, slows our economy, forfeits jobs, destroys communities, and steals hope and happiness from millions of Americans. Reducing racism’s impact should be is a top priority that demands the attention of our generation.

If racism actually does so much harm, why then do so many think as this group I visited? And if their beliefs are so deeply ingrained, can progress really be made without trying to understand their views? With that question in mind, I share the thoughts expressed yesterday from this right-wing group. The comments have been altered to protect the privacy of the commenters. I caution that you may be dismayed by these comments, yet they are deeply held beliefs of a sizable segment of America.


“Racism does not exist today. Racists are long gone and dead.”

“Slavery has been gone for 150 years. How long does it take to heal the wounds?”

“Racism would be nonexistent if the political class and media didn’t get power and money from it.”

“We have no racism in America. Everyone has the same freedoms. Personal responsibility means we each must take advantage of our freedoms.”

“Racism is from older generations, not my generation and younger. We do not know racism.”

“Racism is a blame game that is fostered by the people who profit from the enslaved remaining enslaved.”

“Racism is more with blacks against whites than with whites against blacks.”

“We live in a post racist society”

“Most often it is those that call whites racist that are the racists themselves.”

“Racists are bigots of low expectations for blacks. “


“Rather than racism, inner city families major issue is poor education caused by drugs gangs, welfare, and broken families.”

“The root causes of racism are bad education, dependency on welfare and denial of God”

“When we pay mothers to have illegitimate babies, they have more. Paying for illegitimate babies destroyed families, and destroyed a worthwhile black culture.”

“High black unemployment is not due to racism. It is due to jail, police records, single parent families, gangs, drugs, and high school dropouts. These problems have nothing to do with racism.”


“Racism is not my problem.”

“Blacks need to take responsibility for their lives.”

“It is time for Black America to clean up their own communities. It is their responsibility to fix their schools, their drugs, and their gangs.”

“There is nothing more that white America can do to fix black problems of unwed mothers, or black’s disdain for education and jobs.”

“The black community is the only one that can fix their own culture.”

“Stop trying to convince us that there is huge racism in this country. People who do that promote racism.”

“Constantly talking about racism and using it to blame others fosters more racism.”

“Blacks need to grow up, get off entitlements and work like all other minorities have done in America.”

“Blacks need to stop following race baiting leaders like Sharpton and Jackson that flame the race issue.”

“Blacks need to stop harboring hatred and racism towards whites for what happened over 100 years ago. This attitude corrupts America.”

“Racism was not caused by my relatives. We immigrated after the Civil War.”

“Quit manufacturing the issue of institutional racism.”

“All that can be done through Congress has been done. In fact, Congress has over legislated to the point of causing reverse racism.”

“Labeling everything as racist is irritating. Let’s stop labeling ourselves racists and instead just label ourselves American.”

“Stop giving people what they should earn. Giving destroys pride and self worth and that destroys drive and hope.”

“Shoving trillions of dollars into the black community did not fix overwhelming poverty and is not the answer.”

“Whites do not make blacks behave badly. Blacks must reduce their crime, illegitimate births, dependence on welfare, offensive behaviors and speech, and their antipathy to education. They must get serious about assimilating into mainstream American culture.


“Liberals believe that blacks cannot succeed without their superior kindness and care. They don’t believe that blacks are their equal. Calling them victims feeds their self-serving benevolence.”

“Liberals would rather provoke race wars that cause deaths of f thousands than admit that blacks bear responsibility for their failures.”

“It is easier for liberals to tell blacks that their problem is caused by hateful whites than that to tell them it is because of their own sloth, dishonesty and lack of moral standards.”


There you have it. At one extreme, American whites are frustrated by the existence of racism and deny responsibility for it. They believe that America has done more than any other country to make up for our sins of the past and that blacks must now do for themselves to eradicate irresponsible behavior and join the rest of society.

At the end of the Civil War, Black leaders asked that Lincoln provide freedmen forty acres of farmable land and a mule. They didn’t ask to be fed and clothed and kept in housing without contributing to society. They were asking to be given a hand up to economic freedom with the ability to work their land and to provide for their families through their own labors. Forty acres and a mule represented a living wage at the end of the Civil War. It was a path to America’s recovery.

America has done much to recover from the sins of our past. The impacts of racism are not nearly as great for many as they were at the end of the Civil War. Yet, in all that has been accomplished in past 145 years, the one thing that was asked of Lincoln in 1864 has never been accomplished. Achieving the equivalent of 40 acres and a mule, a living wage by today’s standard, has yet to be accomplished for millions of blacks in America’s inner cities.

What is needed is a level start and a living wage. Until we pair economic freedom with political freedom, America will not have reached closure with our past. The comments above suggest that one segment of our society believes we have more than surpassed that point. Their visceral responses suggest that much more understanding must be sought between America’s extremes.

Leave a comment

Filed under American Politics, Racism, social trajectory

Detroit is the hole that Mike’s Steam Shovel Dug

mikes shovel
Who here remembers the story about Mike Mulligan and his steam shovel? Detroit’s problem is like Mike’s. Mike’s steam shovel, Mary Anne, wasn’t as nifty as new diesel shovels, just like land-locked Detroit auto plants were not as nifty as new, single story automated ones. But Mike vowed to work hard building a basement hole for city hall, so he and Mary Anne got the job. They dug a great big hole but with no way to get out of it.

Detroit dug a big hole with no way out too! Everything Detroit did to help herself didn’t slow the hole getting deeper, and her city hall was left with a dilapidated steam shovel in its basement. Detroit’s impossible hole is that it needs good paying jobs for its illiterate citizens….period. It’s that simple and that difficult.

As auto jobs left, whites left with them. Blacks could not qualify for federal housing loans because of federally supported racism and could not enter communities built up around the new plants because of restrictive covenants. So the low level jobs that the auto manufacturers allowed them to have went away.

Now, they were left in the city with poorly supported schools with few good paying jobs. Crime got worse. Family situations got worse. Home values plummeted. City revenues dropped. And as the city blight worsened while the outer suburbs improved, new businesses chose to build in growing, safer areas rather than in the city. Dig, dig, dig…

The diesel shovel jobs that competed with Mary Anne steam shovel, those jobs that illiterates in the inner city of Detroit, 47% of her citizens by some accounts, could qualify for, they are growing at 10% per year in Eastern countries but paying well less than the mandated minimum wage in Detroit.

America created an economic infrastructure that produced generations of illiterate Detroiters. Our failure to face institutional racism kept our most oppressed of citizens corralled in the city. Our elites took away jobs that illiterates could have worked. Now, our latest generation of Detroiters sit in a basement hole with no chance at earning a living wage as an alternative to crime and dysfunctional communities.

In the story, “Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel”, because he was stuck in the hole, he created a living wage in the hole by converting his steam shovel into the new city hall furnace, making a living wage to provide the city hall with heat.

America, having created this impossible hole, must now create living wages for our tens of thousands of illiterate unemployed, and we must vow to create a future economic infrastructure that does not dig such impossible holes. Political intransigence must now make way for a willingness to fix the problem.

I wrote an article in 2011, explaining the mechanisms of job transfer to Asia that is worth reading, Called How China Ate America’s Lunch…


China was ready to take back its world leadership in 1978 after “150 years of shame” and America’s elite were all too willing to sell out our posterity to help them. Detroit’s bankruptcy was foretold by the decimating our middle class to fund China’s emergence.

Yet, just as was seen in the Arab Spring, it is the fringes of society that break first. While the whole of our middle class is having its life slowly drained, those poor souls on the outer edges, such as our citizens in the inner city of Detroit, are the ones whose life supply of economic blood is the thinnest. They die first.

Detroit is America’s problem to fix.

Leave a comment

Filed under American Governance, American Politics, Capitalism, China, City Planning, Class warfare, Full Employment, Jobs, Racism

Detroit Failed to Adapt to the Major Threats to Cities During the Twentieth Century

vibrantDuring the 1900s, cities dealt with the issues surrounding institutional racism with various degrees of success. In the midst of these internal issues, external threats to survival would emerge that would threaten American cities’ survival. The Great Depression hit America’s capitalist system hard, causing a drastic reset of economic principles that would remain intact for another half century as economic tools for city growth. Many cities used these tools successfully. Some cities, like Detroit, used them to excess.

The civil rights movement of the 1960s would begin a dramatic shift in the hierarchy of needs requirements of cities that would leave those cities failing to adjust with worsening economic consequences. The entirety of the South suffered as boll weevils destroyed their cash crop and investors shunned Southern industrial enterprises during the second reconstruction era.

After the Viet Nam War, business migration and emigration began draining cities of lower skilled jobs and exposed a rust belt as the most visible sign of maladaptation. Some cities reformulated strategies for economic success better than others during the transition.

The latest threat to city survival has been a series of financial boom/busts that created misguided incentives and that misdirected investments into real estate assets rather than productive capabilities. Some cities survived the lure of building excess housing, office, and retail real estate stock better than others in the transition.

Detroit was one of the cities that did not adapt through the maze of external threats as well as some of America’s other major cities. While Detroit prospered initially as a result of the New Deal, unions created excess gains that did not adapt to the external threat of business migration. Detroit’s highly ingrained institutional racism became more militant in response to the militancy of those it oppressed during the civil rights era. And in a desperate attempt to correct for its inability to heal racial tensions, Detroit fell headlong into the temptations of investing in real estate as a cure for lack of productive industry.

Detroit failed to adapt those attributes of a growing, or indeed thriving city that were necessary to overcome both internal and external threats of the last half of the twentieth century.

Leave a comment

Filed under American Governance, American Innovation, American Politics, City Planning, Immigration, Jobs, Racism, social trajectory, Unions

After 1967, Detroit Would be Left Alone To Fend Off the Death Knell of Racism

1967 riotDetroit had 24 years to correct its glaring racial divide between riots. The Detroit Riot of 1967 began as a reaction to police brutality, reminiscent of the Los Angeles riots that would occur 24 years after Detroit’s 1967 riot. In Los Angeles, Rodney King would be brutally arrested by police officers who would subsequently be acquitted in Los Angeles courts, signaling a continuing institutional racism in America.

In 1967 Detroit, instead of it escalating from conflict between white and black youth as had occurred in 1943, this time the riot started when police broke up a party for a returning Viet Nam vet. What should have been a routine call turned into a bloody five day riot littered with gunfire.

The response of 1967 rioters was more militant with outrage than the 1943 riot. Instead of blacks just targeting white stores as in 1943, this time they destroyed beloved black owned businesses of the city as well. Instead of white mobs roaming into black neighborhoods and beating blacks, this time, blacks stood atop buildings and sniped with rifles at authorities that attempted to put out fires and to respond to scenes with EMS vehicles. 467 were injured in the riots. Instead of mostly blacks injured as in 1943, this time 167 of the injured were police officers, 83 were fire fighters, 17 were National Guard, 16 were federal police officers, and 3 were U.S. Army soldiers.

The response by police officers, known by the black community to be racially oppressive, was brutal as well. This time 43 rioters were killed, mostly black. This time, 7000 were arrested, mostly black. This time the federal troops responded by firing their weapons, killing 12 rioters. Tanks rolled. Machine guns fired. This time the riot continued on for five bloody days.

The escalation of violence seemed out of place to some for Detroit seemed a city racially mending, at least on the surface. Detroit had begun to deal with the institutional racism that sparked the last riot in 9143. The city had begun to reform the city’s police department. Blacks now had political representation and agency leaders. Black incomes had been steadily rising and a black middle class was emerging. The Mayor of Detroit had participated in Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society city revival efforts and had brought millions back to invest in Detroit’s inner city.

Yet, the underlying causes of the 1967 riot remained the same as that in 1943, an unanswered call for justice. Police brutality, housing, and employment discrimination continued. Educational discrimination and segregation intensified. Frustrations had escalated over years of neglect. By 1967, militancy had replaced patience in the fight against the slow pace of reform in Detroit.

Blacks wanted what most Americans want, decent jobs and neighborhoods, and to be considered by the content of character and not the color of skin, as Dr. King had urged for the first time in his speech in Detroit. Yet, while blatant racism enforced by lynching was finally fading, violent racism had mutated into more sterile yet just as potent racism that terrorized the psyche of African Americans.

Institutional racism still infected Detroit society. Detroit hospital wards for instance were still segregated and mortality rates were higher in the black wards than in the white. Black schools were overcrowded and under funded. And FHA insurance ensured that whites could leave the city while FHA continued to trap blacks within through redlining.

New suburbs, made possible from FHA insurance, were free of the environmental racism of industrial toxins and blight that remained in black communities. And civic racism abounded in Detroit. Mo-town had a culture centered in the slums of Black Bottom and Paradise Valley, communities with a history as old as the foundations of Detroit. Yet in the redevelopment of the motor city as the ideal community the automobile world, highways were built through the heart of these black communities, carving up their identities. Highways became cement corrals separating black slums from the sprawling suburbs escaping Detroit’s racial divide.

Detroit’s whites ran to the suburbs away from the city’s oppressive past, just as European superiority ran from its past across America. In the void, Detroit’s blacks became increasingly frustrated from what was left of the city.

Detroit’s industrial employment, which had bubbled higher and higher for two decades on the backs of two world wars, was absolutely destined to decline. Its myopia of industry centered on automobiles certainly had to dilute. Detroit would have to eventually live through an economic transformation from war industry and auto manufacturing to a more sustainable mixed economy. Yet, as whites escaped to the metro area surrounding Detroit, they brought that inevitable transformation with them, leaving Detroit to fend for itself.

Detroit was left with an increasingly distilled, lower socioeconomic class that would be left on the sidelines of economic reform. And as business became increasingly global, Detroit would become the city with the highest African American population, the highest unemployment, and the highest crime rate in America. As city officials searched for a way to turn around the Detroit, the path toward economic transformation would elude them because the city could not heal its racial divide.

The race riot of 1967 is touted as a milestone that cemented Detroit’s economic fate. That bigoted vision of Detroit is skewed poppycock. But the race riot of 1967 was indeed the milestone that challenged Detroit to finally reverse course from letting race divide it. Thus far, Detroit has failed to heed its mission.

Detroit can transform economically. It is a city with vitally important resources that can support an industrial mecca of the future. Yet that Promised Land will never return until factors of race are healed. Why must a community that has been oppressed since Detroit first became a city be the ones to initiate the healing? Well, for the most part, they are all that are left in the city. If it will be done at all, it must be the city that rises up now to do it.

Leave a comment

Filed under American Governance, American Politics, Class warfare, Racism, social trajectory

Institutional Racism Evolved from Long Held Prejudices To Hold Back Detroit’s (America’s) Progress

1943In 1943, at the height of World War II, there were 243 incidences of racial violence in 47 cities including the 1943 race riots that occurred in Detroit. The Axis Powers had a field day with propaganda over America’s inability to manage its racial issues.

Prior to the 1943 Detroit Race Riot and after, recommendations came from city leaders to help fix racial tensions. They focused on easing housing, promoting fair labor practice, and reducing racism in institutions such as the police department and the courts. Yet, these recommendations went largely ignored. Why?

Many work stoppages were occurring throughout the city of Detroit in the summer of 1943 due to race. Two weeks before the riot, 25,000 men from the Packard plant struck, walking out on strike for three days because three black men had been promoted where they would now work alongside white men.

Packard built engines for PT boats. Now mind you, in 1943, we were in the height of the war. In fact, at this exact time the Germans were pulling their U-boats out of the Atlantic because of the successes of PT boats in sinking German subs. In May of 1943, we sank 43 subs against their sinking 34 of our ships in the Atlantic.

Washington obviously knew the importance to the war of reducing these racial tensions across America. By President Roosevelt’s executive order 8802, The Fair Employment Practices Committee had been established to correct unfair hiring but its independence had been scrapped, being placed under the War Manpower Committee and it become inactive when the military pulled its budget. Blacks in Detroit lost hope as the FEPC stalled.

From the beginnings of Detroit until the riot, Blacks had been largely confined to Black Bottom and Paradise Valley sections of town. From 1916, when 8,000 lived there until the three months before the 1943 riot when an additional 50,000 arrived to raise the black population to over 200,000, living conditions worsened by the year, making these communities highly congested slums.

Not that housing was much better for the poor southern whites and Poles pouring into the city also competing with the blacks for the lowest paying jobs. Detroit was wholly unprepared for the surge. Overcrowding, poor sanitation increased the disease rate and taxed the hospitals in town as 300,000 white workers from the Deep South came to the city in months before the riot. These disaffected groups attacked black homes with rocks and bombs on numerous occasions leading up to the riot without interference or arrests from the police.

Businesses of Detroit were reluctant to hire Blacks for many reasons, not the least of which were the work stoppages that occurred throughout the city when blacks were hired or promoted above the lowest positions. Yet to meet deadlines imposed by the war committees, they had to fill quotas.

The City’s racism that had permeated through institutions such as the police and the courts were clearly demonstrated by the effects of the riots. 29 of the 35 deaths were of blacks and 17 of those were by police, several from shots to the backs of fleeing looters. 1,000 faces of whites engaged in acts of violence against blacks were collected from the riot yet none were charged.

One of the violence statistics that would continue forth to the present was that 75% of the rioters were young men between the ages of 17 and 25. Black leaders at the time attributed this age issue to the fact that the more stable of the age group were already committed to the war effort and serving their time in the military.

The riot caused a million man-hours to be lost in the war effort. Pressure from Washington was felt to fix a critical problem that was tantamount to aiding the enemy. Several groups including the UAW-CIO, a supporter of racial equality in the workplace, proposed solutions including:

*Creation of a special grand jury to indict those responsible for the riots
*Provision of adequate government housing for the war effort
*Insistence of fair labor practice recognizing the skills of blacks
*A full investigation of the conduct of the police department during the riots
*Hiring of 300 black police officers
*Hiring of more blacks in the Michigan State Militia
*Maintenance of some federal troops while racial tensions subside
*Compensation to those that lost their homes in the riots by the city
*Provision of recreational facilities for young people
*Integration of schools with black teachers
*Creation by the Mayor of a bi-racial committee to make further recommendations
*Reinstatement of the Fair Employment Practice Committee

Yet, recommendations of how to correct racial tensions that were given prior to and after the riot were largely ignored. What was the reasoning for ignoring such proposals?

In August 2005 when a largely African American population was stranded for days without support in New Orleans, rioting and looting broke out within the city. Onlookers thought at first that blacks were justified in that people needed to survive. But as the Internet streamed pictures of looters hauling off stereos and televisions, justifications turned to outrage. Governor Kathleen Blanco then ordered the National Guard to shoot and kill looters on sight. America had arrived at a moment that reminded us of the pace of our nation’s enlightened progress.

Similarly in Detroit’s 1943 riot, blacks destroyed and looted every white owned business in black neighborhoods, symbols of oppressive authority. Just like New Orleans after Katrina, blacks walked freely about with the booty of their conquest. Without police intervention, black and white mobs intensified. The riot ended days later as one of the worst and bloodiest rights to that date, ultimately being stopped at bayonet point by the army of the United States.

Recommendations of how to correct racial tensions given prior to and after the Detroit race riot of 1943 were largely ignored by the Mayor of Detroit, by the Governor of Michigan, by Congress and by the President of the United States. What was the reasoning for ignoring such proposals and what institutional racism did it expose?

In the weeks after the riot, police raided black homes and by a margin of 85% predominantly arrested blacks involved in the riots. Court charges were mainly brought against blacks. Blame for the riots lined up on both sides of the divide. Yet few actions were taken to improve Detroit’s lot.

Police Commissioner Witherspoon’s report stated that the police department that had shot and killed 17 black rioters had acted with “rare courage”. Mayor Jeffries’ report criticized the army and black leaders for their roles in the riot. The Common Council approved both reports. William Dowling, the county prosecutor threatened to indict the leaders for the NAACP for inciting the riot. Governor Kelly’s report blamed the cause of the riot squarely on the blacks who had instigated early fights and was silent about why tensions existed in the city that could have sparked such a violent reaction throughout 75% of the city’s wards. It also justified all the police killings of black rioters including those that shot them in the back.

In spite of repeated requests, the White House made no comments and took no actions on developing plans to enhance race relations. Proposals for Congress to investigate the riot were squelched. At the height of a world war that ultimately killed 60 million people, Detroit got back to the business of making armaments.

Looking back from our “enlightened view” of 2013, it is easy to see that blacks were living in intolerable, segregated slums, and suffered deplorable work conditions and unfair labor practices. It is just as easy to see the struggles between racially divisive subcultures within the city as each tried to battle for higher ground amidst the dramatic changes occurring in this wartime arsenal of the nation. The recommendations made by civic leaders would have at least moved the city toward reducing blatant abuses that thwarted equal opportunity for peaceful lives. Yet they were met with neglect.

What was the basis of this continuing obstinance against racial equality? Even though this newest black generation was growing more impatient and militant in the face of such slow progress as the country entered a war to free Europe while ignoring blacks at home, institutions of government and business were permeated with an older generation, racially prejudiced and resistant to change. We would instead move toward the even more extreme Detroit Riot of 1967 that would be given the honor as Detroit’s racist milestone in her downfall.

Leave a comment

Filed under American Governance, American Politics, Racism, social trajectory