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As before, Detroit has become the boogeyman in the recession obsessed American imagination. As Reagan promised, the effect trickled. First there were the Vanity Fair profiles of the fallen super rich whose mammoth East Hampton mansions were abandoned, semi-erect. Time-shares with Marquis were jettisoned and the Wall St. set had to hump it out in First Class on commercial carriers. Now the middle class, aware, seemingly for the first time, of their precarious position, are petrified of becoming the working poor. And the poor working poor have been trying to hold onto a heated room since NAFTA. And what comes after it all? Where would the proverbial bottom be? America’s Calcutta? Why, that would be Detroit. Time magazine bought a mansion in historic Indian Village for the price of a latte—front row seats to the future. On the covers of international magazines, Detroit’s become a cautionary tale. ‘If you don’t do something soon America, you could become Detroit’. Abandoned homes, empty manufacturing plants, vacant lots, 50% unemployment, pathological rappers, the Lions.

Being a native Detroiter can sometimes feel like being a graduate from the set of Slumdog Millionaire. Yes, you want to scream, shit is fucked up, but have you seen the colors? My god the colors. In the 80s, when I was a high school student and Reagan was busting unions, Detroit had a parallel, shadow economy: the billion dollar crack industry. Though not a ‘port’ city, the men (many of them teenagers) from my city embraced their latent entrepreneurial spirit. The consequences were real and high: Detroit became synonymous with murder capital and incarceration rates skyrocketed. But consumerism, the driving engine of American capitalism was alive and well. There were gators boots and german big bodies to be had in every color.

Now, not so much. The same legal gangsters, the corporate heads and the boards of the Big Three, who welcomed, even begged for Reagan’s brand of union busting/workers’ disenfranchisement, have watched their companies crumble. The hostile white suburbs, many of them, like the ones north of the city, only established during the post-riot white flight period of the early 70s, are finally realizing there is no Metro Detroit without Detroit. While local politics can be woefully local, widespread corruption isn’t to blame. Rather a racist and stubborn standoff where the white suburbs carry on a silent embargo of Detroit, ever punishing the city for being ‘too black.’ This isn’t the place to get into a lengthy diatribe on said standoff and the late, great Mayor Coleman Young (soon come with that rant), but what has become clear, at least to the media, is just how closely the near death of one of America’s oldest cities is linked to the future of the country.

-Dream Hampton

Want To Discuss This More Check Me Out On Twitter@dreamhampton

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