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Detroit-Rebellion-12th-St.-Clairmount-0723671the Great Rebellion of 1967 was a turning point in the city of Detroit.  after years of attacks by the police, and being relegated to the most grueling, lowest paying jobs with no chance of promotion, black and poor white folks revolted, shaking the foundations of the ruling establishment in Detroit.  both before and after the rebellion there were a number of important organizations which were key in cultivating the means and spirit of revolt, such as the Revolutionary Union Movements (RUMs) along with the League of Revolutionary Black Workers, and the Republic of New Afrika.  but the organizational weaknesses of these groups coupled with the relentless onslaught by the city elite left the people of Detroit open to a new wave of attack that resulted from the collapse of the Black Power movement.  the city, afterwards, would not be the same.

all the wealth that black and white workers had created was looted from the city by the capitalists, and moved out to the suburbs or down to the southern United States.  along with that went the tax base of the city, and forty years later the city is falling apart due to an emaciated infrastructure.  this story is shared by other cities where brown and black folks rose up to take their city back.  Gary, Indiana and Newark, New Jersey are only two more examples.  i’ve heard Detroit described by visitors as resembling a war zone — well that’s what it is; it’s the American Third World.

growing up in Detroit you learn to appreciate the hidden beauty of a city gutted by white supremacy and capitalism.  the resilience of the people there, despite all we’ve endured, is one testament to black civilization and oppressed peoples everywhere.  i have friends from the east coast who say that Detroit and much of the Midwest has its own unique form of scathing charm that is normally attributed to the tough personality types of New York.  to survive in a war zone you gotta be tough.  the working classes of New York live in a city which some of the most brutal capitalists in the world call their home, and everyday they go head-to-head with these capitalists. in Detroit it’s a little different. we were left for dead.  and despite that, and all the odds stacked against us, we remind the bosses, the crackers and the cops that we’re still here.


one of the things i’ve always loved about the city is how green it can get during the spring and summer.  again, because the city can’t afford to keep the trees up, and because families living in a city with a 33% unemployment rate have more important things to worry about than how high the lawn or the bushes get, wild vegetation has started to take back some of the city.

the photography of James D. Griffioen captures this in a very profound way.  his work evokes a sense of sadness, serenity, and rage all at the same time.  the scope of his work explores the many details of life in Detroit giving us a wider view of the devastation.  he shows us entire neighborhood blocks that don’t have a single house on it, book depositories with brand new text books that are going to waste, and miles of unused factories and store fronts that have been eviscerated and left to rot.

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WhitePeopleAreCrazya friend of mine shared this article from the American Prospect on the growth of exurbs in America.  it’s sardonically entitled “refugees of diversity”.

the role of white supremacy is a familiar theme when discussing both the suburbs and exurbs.  i don’t have the numbers, names and dates on hand, but i’m pretty sure the white supremacist relationship between the suburbs and city/urban centers began during the era of Black Revolts in the 60s & 70s; a phenomenon known as white flight.  as black workers and other people of color began demanding higher wages, better working conditions, and in some cases control over the work place, they also began confronting the cops and the other strong arms of white, capitalist society, and as a result white society retreated.

red-lining, then, took on an added dimension.  whereas when traditional Jim Crow ordinances were the standard, the banks could keep black folks and other people of color from getting housing in white neighborhoods.  the destruction of Jim Crow by the Civil Rights movement and Black Power left those crackers with really only local police forces to harass, bully and attack people of color who left the cities and ventured into the suburbs.  at least this is what i remember growing up in Detroit.

again, from what i remember in Detroit, the growth of the exurbs really took off in the mid 90s.  the white supremacist attack on inner-city infrastructure, particularly schools left people of color families with really the only option of moving to the suburbs if they wanted their kids to get a decent education.  this was, of course, the other part of white flight: not only did white people leave, but they took with them all the wealth and capital that gave inner-cities their dynamism.  so now those crackers moved out of the suburbs to the exurbs, initiating another wave of white flight.

this conversation is important for thinking about how white supremacy contributes to ecological destruction by increasing the antagonistic relationship between the city and the country.  in light of the working class character of the Black Revolts, it also raises the centrality of working class, anti-capitalist struggle to the ecology movement.  after this era of revolt, capitalist society was able to restructure itself and continue its attacks on people of color, and environmental destruction.  as the saying goes, it’s either socialism or barbarism.

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