Letters to the editor

In response to “Inner City Lives Matter: Detroit’s Disadvantage”

I was disappointed at the publishing of “Inner City Lives Matter” by James Silberman, in which he points out that Detroit, along with a number of other impoverished American cities, has largely Democratic Party Leadership. Navigate, it’s true the Detroit is a poor City and Detroit has a democratic government. But, as we all know ( or do we?) correlation does not imply causation.

After I graduated Whitworth, I moved to Seattle, and then to Boston. Both of those cities had Democratic party leadership, and excellent booming economies and high standards of life.

After that, I moved to Southern China, and then to Japan, where I now currently live. And the thing is, both of those places have booming economies too, including a lot of factories which make cars. These factories sprung up as the American Auto industry, which was the backbone of Detroit’s economy, declined, and Americans started buying more foreign cars.

Now, I’m not saying that the decline of the American Auto industry and the deindustrialization in Detroit necessarily caused its urban decline and ongoing poverty, but it’s probably not a factor to be ignored. 

– Rose Price ’12

Pointing to urban decay in cities such as Detroit as evidence of the failure of Democrats and their destructive “progressive” policies is an extraordinary example of confirmation bias. Democrats have long controlled most major municipalities in the US; some are struggling and some are thriving. Take a look at Seattle; the last time a Republican was mayor was 1969. Under Democratic leadership, the city has grown in size and the economy is soaring. Even the dreaded $15 wage law that took effect in 2015 has not undermined Seattle’s continued growth. University of Washington found the city is creating new jobs at triple the national average rate. There are several factors at play in Seattle, but that’s exactly my point. The rise and fall of American cities such as Detroit are complex phenomena with complex causes; to push such a blatantly partisan narrative does little to help refine our analysis or provide real solutions.

The author’s narrative about welfare being a conspiracy to destroy the “nuclear” family from “the American Left” is not original or new. We can trace it to 1965 with Moynihan’s The Negro Family. Anthropologists have debunked the “nuclear” family as a Eurocentric myth.

The truth is Republicans and Democrats both supported the neoliberal agenda that got us here: the shift in the economy from manufacturing to finance, free trade a la NAFTA, the 1994 crime bill, etc. Partisan politics is juvenile at this point. Mass movements are the future. 

– Keegan Shea ’14

“Inner City Lives Matter” was a page out of a John Boehner speech, with more emphasis on finger-pointing and making conjectures about the state of black communities than in any actual data to support these claims.

The blatant racialization of the inner cities of America is a harmful generalization because while “black” is supposed to be synonymous with “poor,” white poverty remains invisible. The title “Inner City Lives Matter” does not leave much to the imagination (being a clear reference to Black Lives Matter.) The problem with this racialization is that it makes the insidious claim that black culture is somehow partially responsible for the “broken families, failing schools, poverty, violent crime, drugs and unemployment” rampant in inner cities. This is extremely problematic, especially considering poor whites (in raw numbers) make up large portions of inner city populations. This is conveniently overlooked because it does not fit with the narrative that the conditions of inner cities are a “black” issue, and the root cause of racism.

The columnist is incapable of identifying larger economic, political, and historical forces at work in these cities, particularly in Detroit. To act as though Detroit is a liberal island, completely unswayable by larger federal/historical policies, is deeply misinformed at best and willfully ignorant at worst. Detroit is a perfect example of an economy ravaged by deindustrialization; and this factor, combined with racist “White Flight” from the inner city, meant that the tax base of Detroit all but disappeared. The columnist failed to recognize any of these historical factors, but instead hoped to find the Democratic scapegoat to blame for the poverty in our inner cities.

Not to mention, 1960s Detroit is not the example to use for “the epicenter of the American Dream.” Detroit in the 1960s was classified as one of the most hypersegregated cities in the U.S. (a fact which remains true today) and race riots ravaged the city in 1968. This white nostalgia completely excludes the experiences of black and brown individuals, but I supposed this is a trend in most of conservative American history.

The “class before race” strategy is a myth propelled by conservatives and liberals alike that claims if we tackle economic inequality, our country’s problem of racism will magically disappear. This implies that capitalism can fix racism—something that has been disproven time and time again.

I could continue to point out the misinformation and gaping holes in this article or I could do finger-pointing of my own—like pointing out that the states with the worst school systems and highest rates of poverty are actually historically Republican (Mississippi, Kentucky, and Idaho), However, my point is that this type of rhetoric is harmful and divisive. There have been liberal AND conservative policies that have been harmful to some of our most vulnerable populations. The “Us vs. Them” mentality is easy to succumb to and apparently easy to print, but I would encourage readers to engage more critically with the information around them to come to better-informed opinions.

– Kayla Prewitt ’17