July 23, 2007, - 11:24 am

Their Legacy: Race Riots Doomed Detroit Forever

By Debbie Schlussel
Forty years ago today, several days of race riots began in Detroit.
On July 23, 1967, Black Panthers and assorted other Black extremists (with White hippies and far-leftists backing and encouraging them) eventually wrote their political epitaphs with it (though their movement unfortunately died a long, slow death–far past its time, if there ever was a time). But they robbed and killed Detroit–and a significant portion of Black America with it.
Black Panthers and their radical allies, supported by a thousands of Black Detroiters, rioted for days, starting fires and destroying the city. They wanted more power in the city. They wanted a Black Mayor, a Black police chief, a Black city council.
Scenes from the Detroit Race Riots of 1967 . . .

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Detroit Black Panthers

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Today, they have all those things. And they have nothing. They won the riots, they lost the war. And 43 people died–no, were murdered–in vain (along with countless others since).
As my Dad says, when the riots began, Gentile, White Detroiters ran out to buy bullets. Jews ran out to buy guns (way too late). But eventually, they all ran out–and away–from Detroit. Today, more than nine out of ten Detroiters are Black. And even Blacks are leaving the Detroit morass faster than Roger Bannister. The city is losing population by the tens of thousands, every year. Black Americans, like White Americans, don’t want to live in the crime, failed schools, and other living conditions brought to you by the Detroit riots. Crime under Detroit’s Black police chiefs (the city has had several) is at an all-time high, and Detroit Public Schools, under its Black superintendents and school boards (there have been several of those, too), are at their worst, with record high drop-out rates and numbers of illiterate graduates.
When Black radicals started the riots, they achieved their goal of driving out White Detroiters, but their separatism only isolated them. Unlike every other inner city in America, Detroit is not a tourist destination. It’s not a place where suburbanites generally clamor to go to nightclubs and restaurants. It’s simply too dangerous.
The violence and destruction of the riots never really went away, just the press coverage of it. Such prominent figures as the son of former Detroit Mayor Dennis Archer and the daughter of Detroit Tigers/Red Wings owner Mike Ilitch have been mugged.
During the Superbowl, with thousands of FBI and Homeland Security agents roaming around, there were two murders in the vicinity of the temporary bars and restaurants dotting the main drag of Woodward Avenue. I say “temporary” because that’s what they were. Despite all the moving around of cranes to make it look like something–anything!–positive was going on in the city, Detroit Superbowl Committee personnel had to lease out shops, restaurants, and bars on 7-day leases. Any more than that, and they couldn’t convince anyone to do business on the normally abandoned streets.
Crime is rampant, the city can’t attract a major business, and the banana republicans on the city council junta are busy passing resolutions to name a tunnel after John Conyers, declaring Dubai a sister city of Detroit, and maintaining Sanctuary City status for illegal aliens. Monica Conyers (wife of the radical Congressman) is symbolic of the city council. Drunk and in fist fights at bars, she’s a mess. And so is her legislative body and the city it governs.
With a pimp daddy mayor, Kwame Kilpatrick, who dresses like a Gangsta and is involved in scandal after scandal, the city is the laughing stock. But, hey, the Mayor made an appearance on “Living Large,” a now-cancelled national hip-hop show. Thank you very little. Kilpatrick, whom I like to call Kwame the Kingpin, was suspected in the drivebuy shooting of “Strawberry,” a stripper who allegedly performed in the Mayoral Manoogian Mansion for “His Honor.” He used his 21-bodyguard posse of police officers to serve as his personal harem-recruiter and to ferret him to and from different girlfriends.
These are the people who betrayed Blacks in Detroit, not the Whites who took White flight (followed by Black flight) from the city and gave them free reign to “run” the city . . . and fail magnificently. And, yet, they still blame even this on the White man.
Is it any surprise with “leadership” like this that the city is a ruin much used by Director Michael Bay as a set for movies? With the city a ghost town, even at lunchtime, he has a cornucopia of empty, decrepit, vandalized buildings–once grand palaces of business and industry–to choose from. And he doesn’t have to deal with much traffic–by foot or car–interrupting his shoots.
Instead, Detroit is a burnt out shell. It is the only inner city in America that has not undergone a revival, a gentrification (even Cleveland–the former “Mistake on the Lake”–was reborn). While some of that can be attributed to recent, never-ending downturns in the auto industry, this is a phenomenon that has metastasized throughout the city, even when Ford, GM, and Chrysler were at their height. Now, that they, too, are on the unreclaimable decline, it only helps solidiy Detroit’s rigor mortis.
Drive down the Lodge Freeway, the main artery from Detroit’s Northwest suburbs into the city, and you will see burnt out house after burnt out house dotting the freeway. All of them are in Detroit, and all of them–in their burnt out “splendor”–have sat vacant and ashen for years.
Ten years ago, when I was sworn in to practice before U.S. District Court, my father took me to lunch. We walked down the streets of downtown Detroit on a beautiful spring day, but there was hardly a soul as far as the eye could see. Ten years later, nothing has changed. It’s only gotten worse.
Detroit is in the worst condition of any major city in America, except perhaps New Orleans, and that took a hurricane, an act of G-d. Three weeks ago, A&P-owned Farmer Jack–the last national supermarket in Detroit, the last large national retailer in the city–closed its doors and said Sayonara to the environs South of Eight Mile.
This is the legacy of the Detroit riots. And despite all the Detroit newspaper and media hype that those days are over, their legacy has only just begun.
To the last Black Panther leaving Detroit: Don’t forget to turn out the lights. And start your usual fires, in their place.
Osama Bin Laden has a better chance of getting elected President than Detroit has of arising from the dead.
As Mark Twain might say, reports of its rebirth are highly exaggerated.

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60 Responses

Debbie – There is a grain of truth in what you say. But not much more than a grain. Yes, the voters of the city be reliably counted on to vote for whatever racist demagogue most effectively demonizes the white suburbs. Hence, Kwame, Monica Conyers, and several other racist, corrupt city officials. The mismanagement of these officials has caused school system collapse and a myriad of other major problems.

But, you talk about the problem as if the riots were the cause, and anyone with the SLIGHTEST bit of knowledge about the history of Detroit knows better. You speak as if the city were a thriving metropolis one day, and then black people rioted, and then Detroit was ruined. That’s stupid, in the most strict sense of the word. It’s ignorant in that it ignores the entire history of the city leading up to the riots (as well as all the other cities in the US that experienced similar riots), and stupid in that you don’t believe such a thing is worth exploring. Hence, nearly every judgment you make in this article is tainted with stupidity.

The neighborhoods are no different than they were in the 80′s, while the downtown area is VASTLY improved. In the late 80′s and early 90′s it’s true, there were barely any people on the streets downtown; it was practically abandoned. That’s not true anymore. There are no less than four thriving hubs of activity downtown, and several neighborhoods have undergone a resurgence mostly due to gays and other childless couples restoring vintage homes.

That’s not to say Detroit isn’t still one of the worst cities in the country – it clearly is. But the way you approach this issue – by ignoring all history other than the portions that make black people look bad – belies a stinking and stupid agenda. And thus it’s no surprise that the comments section has attracted so many blatantly racist statement.

Anyone who is actually interested in having an understanding of this issue that goes deeper than “black people ruined Detroit”, I recommend reading ‘Detroit Divided’ by Farley, Danziger and Holzer, as well as ‘The Origins of the Urban Crisis’ by Thomas Sugrue.

For the rest of you who would rather seek validation of your preconceptions (and this includes you, Debbie), I expect you will continue to contribute less than nothing to conversation.

Ziege on April 8, 2010 at 12:27 pm

    Amen Ziege!

    Debbie, you are attempting to oversimplify an extremely complex issue. Detroit’s urban decay is too convoluted of an issue to blame on a single event, or in your case, a single race. Your complete disregard for the effects of deindustrialization and past housing and employment inequalities on the current, dilapidated state of Detroit is sadly na├»ve.

    It’s a shame that a professional such as yourself (which you undoubtedly made sure to mention) is so singulary-minded and poorly informed.

    Alex on November 29, 2011 at 9:09 pm

    I was scanning the internet about Detroit and stumbled on this article.The black panthers did not start a riot in Detroit.If racist people keep spreading these lies to future generations,no future progress would be on the horizon. But it’s great to peep a bigot’s hold card.(First they need to know about Detroit’s other riot.1943.)That spread the flames for 1967.The job market was tight in 67 and blacks came from a racist down south to find work.racial tensions amongst the older generation was prevalent.The all white Detroit police dept, made up of a lot of untrained Vietnam and Korean war vets,used to shooting and killing children,had the white blessings to bang heads and terrorize.They tried to shut down an illegal after hours joint,a few black vets were celebrating their return from V Nam.These men resisted and that resistant pored out into the street with the support of some the black community.CAN she prove that blacks wanted a black this and a black that? That’s like saying Mexicans want an all Hispanic Detroit, they riot for 2 weeks and presto.! . Detroit changes its polices,and we have an all Hispanic city council and Mayor.(it’s not that easy)Lawsuits and laws was passed from the all white U.S.A government.Whites fled Detroit and left the vacant houses and all those structures you see on the waterfront,warehouses,and aging dinosaurs. Blacks didn’t own any buildings downtown.Blacks mostly were renters barely getting by on Big3 paychecks.The white owners of those buildings should be held accountable for those structures,the back taxes ,and demolition.Anybody that doesn’t have any business in Detroit should STAY out!You have enough problems with the white youngsters worshiping the black hip-hop artist.Meth labs,sexual deviants,incest,peeping toms,greedy business men,earth polluters-but the news don’t want to focus on that.Obviously there’s big money to be made in Detroit, and some people want it.NOT ALL WHITE people are racist. But this writer sings that old song,and you know it when you hear it.She is angry,about something.The whole world is changing.She sound so bad,that all you have to do is substitute the word ‘black’ and put Jew there. She would sound like a Nazi.

    Sherm on May 25, 2013 at 7:45 am

I am appalled at your representation of the riots in Detroit and your oversimplification of a series of historically significant events. I can only be consoled by the fact that your ignorance has been called out by every commenter that has read this article. That tell you something?

Your portrayal of the city and “Birth of a Nation”-esque likeness of blacks is shameful and I hope you seek to educate yourself about both in the future.

Shaina Simpson on February 8, 2012 at 7:29 am

    I had to work with bitches like this…and you know you want to slap em!But this is a plus,it let’s you know what kind of stuff is on these people’s minds. I am a blk man.It’s time for Detroit to have another Black bottom.We need our own stores and supermarket and gas stations.Not just working in somebody else’ s stores.When people call us monkeys or worst,the bottom line is we do not have to buy their products or shop at their stores.She is trying to stir up the next riot,her talk of guns.For a long time it was illegal for a black person to own a gun.In this age of the internet all you gotta do is look it up!

    Sherm on May 25, 2013 at 7:56 am

      I used to live in the Detroit area. I now live in Ohio. Won’t go back.

      There are gas stations in Detroit but you risk getting carjacked if you stop at one. Why is that?

      You don’t have grocery stores in Detroit anymore because they’ve been robbed and looted. It’s foolishness for any business owner to try to open a business in Detroit! And it’s because of typical black behavior.

      If your “bruthas” would learn to behave themselves and act civilized, Detroit would actually be a nice place to live again.

      (Not holding my breath on that one.)

      Alexandra on February 5, 2014 at 2:17 pm

Debbie, I just want to thank you for writing an excellent piece about Detroit. I agree with everything you pointed out, the people of Detroit need to face the fact that they had a decade to fix Detroit before it came to this. But all I read in the paper is corruption from the highest levels. Well, you reap what you soe. I think an Emergency Manager is what Detroit needs and that’s just to get it pointing in the right direction. To some of the other comments about your ignorance on Detroit, get your head out of your ass people…

David Shore on March 30, 2012 at 12:59 pm

Detroit is a classic example of what happens when the animals take over the zoo.

Peter Tait on July 25, 2013 at 10:44 am

I was born & raised in D till i was 21
grade & high school & graduated from Wayne
state-all Detroit. my roots were Detroit
The lst vinyl I bought was MOtown. Continue
to support D food products & buy Ford.
This my bio without negative bias.
that was then..this is now
Dead is dead!
from 1970 to 2011, 12,000 people murdered
2013 murders are abound
corrupt city gov history
disabled school system
burned out neigborhoods
extremely dangerous living &travel conditions
drive by shootings
car jacking
highest rate of unsolved homicides
bankrupt city coffers
population decline headed to 500,000
increase in hit & run incidents

I saw the city at a greatness point..
the theatre district
Hudsons
cunnungham woolworth & sanders
glowing neighborhoods with famiies
Olympia
incredible motown stars
walking down the alley shortcuts safely
always having my own spending money I earned
unheard of gunplay
near full employment
try to tell me D can ever get back to its past..not even close!

djdave on August 22, 2013 at 9:30 pm

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