You start with the burned-out buildings. You have to start here, because at one time, its homes were a part of what made Detroit great. You stand in the middle of Woodward Avenue, surrounded by what used to be, not knowing what to say or how to feel. You try to catalog your feelings, try to capture the sight and emotions in words. Yet, it’s hard. After all, Detroit is home.
No matter where I go or where I have been on this earth over the past 26 years since I left home, I am proud to say, “I’m from Detroit.”
So, when I see what’s going on with former Detroit mayor, Kwame Kilpatrick, and the kind of attention his transgressions has brought to a city already in trouble, I can’t help but look at the television set, read the blogs and shake my head in disgust.
I know it’s hard to believe, but at one time the city was living proof of American success. At one time, it was the most prosperous manufacturing city in the nation. At one time, it was the fourth largest city, now 11th and tumbling. Unfortunately, the city has become a beacon of disaster. The school system is in disarray, the murder rate is out of control, with seven out of 10 going unsolved. And the unemployment rate is 20 percent, more than twice the national average.
Needless to say, I just want to cry.
Given the current climate and Kilpatrick’s inability to just go away, many would love to blame Detroit’s demise on the former mayor. But Detroit’s decline started well before he took office.
It was the two-decade rule of former Mayor Coleman Young, who became Detroit’s first black mayor in 1973, that ruined the city. Young governed more by grandiloquence than by action. Under his watch, the local phenomenon known as Devil’s Night took on a life of its own. One year, it was so bad that 800 houses burned to the ground in 72 hours. Violent crime soared under Young. The school system began to deteriorate. And jobs disappeared.
This was not Kilpatrick’s fault.
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