Posted on October 1, 2004

For The Love Of Detroit, Reject Racist African Town

Kay Everett, Detroit Free Press, Sep. 30

I have a grandson whom I love and cherish to no end. I fear for his future in Detroit should he decide to hit the entrepreneurial trail. I fear for him because Amir’s father is of Middle Eastern descent.

There is a lady who understands my dilemma. The lady stands alone holding a torch, beckoning all to the shores of hope, freedom and opportunity.

The lady sheds a tear for Detroit and my grandson today. Statues of Liberty are like that.

I love the city I was born in. I, too, cry for my Detroit, as I fear for my grandson. Why the tears and fear?

I cry because Detroit, a city on the move, has fallen prey to hate and become a national embarrassment.

PowerNomics, a program designed to increase job and business opportunities exclusively for African Americans, is a suicidal form of reverse racism and a bad deal for my grandson and Detroit.

The madness of scapegoating immigrants and others who are not Americans of African descent must stop. Nonblack immigrants are wrongfully blamed in the PowerNomics report for ripping off community resources and taking jobs from blacks. So Detroit City Council passed two racist resolutions that will divide our beloved city as much as the deadly race riots of 1967 and 1943.

The resolutions will help fund a Detroit economic development zone known as African Town. In one resolution, my colleagues define Detroit’s “major underserved minority” as African Americans. In another resolution, Detroit City Council sets up an economic development authority funded by casino revenues that will authorize loans and grants only to the “major underserved minority” or exclusively African Americans. My grandson could not get one penny to fund a start-up business under this mess. The madness must stop.

The African Town proposal is racist in that it excludes other races to the perceived benefit of Detroit African Americans. The proposal is detrimental to the interests of Detroit and southeast Michigan. The rationale for this ill-conceived plan is rooted in a form of victimhood justifications that scapegoats those of other ethnicities that we should be coalescing with, not separating ourselves from, such as our Hispanic, Arab, Asian, Chaldean and white neighbors.

We fought too hard, were beaten and jailed too much and died too often fighting the ugliness of segregation to now embrace the same ugliness of neo-segregation as we wallow in victimhood. I will not wallow in victimhood. I will not marginalize the people I represent with neo-segregationist policies that only satisfy hooded nightriders.

Some of us cry because we know our history. We know that our people have been the victims of racism and suffer today from manifestations of institutional racism that would deny us business and job opportunities. But we need not wallow in the crippling morass of victimhood — angst lashing out at generations of immigrants that have snatched a share of the American dream with a strong work ethic and belief in America. We need to stop whining. We need to get busy working instead of looking for an exclusive handout.

It is ironic that those who proclaim to support Detroit workers would support such a racially and ethnically divisive program. African Town will actually create a negative environment that will drive businesses from Detroit and create a climate of fear that will eliminate Detroit from serious consideration as a location to develop or grow a business. This business flight-from-fright will further erode a tax base essential to job development and delivery of needed municipal services to the citizenry of Detroit.

I will fight such stupidity to my last breath. We are a better city than that. We are a better nation than that. I am not a hyphenated American. I am an American. This council needs to understand that so we can make decisions that don’t make Detroit an American embarrassment.

Elected officials are all capable of errors in judgment. God knows that I am, and I am comforted in that I have asked for forgiveness. My colleagues should fall to their knees and do the same for the shame that is about to be ours as a body that couldn’t get it right. I only pray that we will get it right — for Detroit’s sake, because I see a flourishing city with challenging issues that we can confront and solve together. I want to look my grandson in his eyes and say, “Detroit is your city, too.”

KAY EVERETT is a member of the Detroit City Council.