Saturday, July 22, 2017

The 50th year Anniversary of the Detroit rebellion


Today is the weekend of the 50th year anniversary of the rebellion of Detroit. The rebellion started on July 23, 1967.

I wasn't born during that time, but my parents were alive then. It happened during the post-World War II boom (from 1945-1973), which many middle class people had economic growth while the poorest of Americans still suffered a great deal. It was an uprising and one of the most serious uprisings in American history. The rebellion was very large and it was suppressed by the police, the State National Guard, and U.S. Army troops. It was caused by many factors.

For decades before 1967, the Great Migration caused thousands of black people from the South to come into Detroit. They wanted economic opportunities and escape from Southern tyranny (filled with lynchings, murder, violence, and discrimination). Yet, many of them found in Detroit: de facto segregation, lax educational opportunities, dilapidated housing, discrimination, and police brutality. Police brutality existed nationwide from NYC to Los Angeles. Detroit had it too. America was in a crossroads. Many young people wanted more radical action to end pernicious injustices in the world. By the early 1960's, the black middle class in Detroit grew into a great level, because more black residents joined unions and jobs with adequate benefits. The economic burden of the Vietnam War by the late 1960's started to restrict investments in poor communities. The Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Acts were passed and they were great, progressive legislation, but economic inequality wasn't truly addressed by the federal government. By the late 1960's, housing and racial discrimination were rampant in Detroit. City schools were underfunded as compared to the suburbs just before the rebellion.

That is why a diversity of black people in Detroit from integrationalists to Black Nationalists wanted real change in their lives. Incidents of racist terror continued in Detroit well into the 1960's. Danny Thomas was a black Army veteran and he was killed by a racist white gang just before the rebellion. Danny Thomas was a courageous man who tried to protect his pregnant wife from the sexual advances of the racist gang. She later lost the baby. The police refused to arrest the gang. The incident was kept out of the major newspapers until the city's Black newspaper made it a banner headline. The rebellion of July of 1967 started by the police trying to shut down a blind pig. A blind pig is an unregistered club. Many black Vietnam War veterans were in the club. Then, the crowd increased and the rebellion started. It was long spanning many days. It was bloody. The result was 43 dead, 1,189 injured, over 7,200 arrests, about 5,000 people were left homeless, and more than 2,000 buildings destroyed. Hundreds of people were wounded. Military tanks roamed the streets. Innocent people were killed. There was the Algiers Hotel incident where many innocent people were assaulted and killed by authorities. Businesses were destroyed. People were confused. Men, women, and children were displaced of their homes. Many people, who were arrested, were viciously assaulted by the police. 12th Street (in the Virginia Park area of Detroit) is a major focus point of the black community in Detroit. From Albert B. Cleage, Jr. to Malcolm X, Detroit has a long history in the black freedom movement.

The result of the rebellion was an exodus of many people from Detroit along with the acceleration of deindustralization for decades to come. For decades, Detroit's population declined and there was the bankruptcy of Detroit during the 21st century. Also, there has been many activists in Detroit fighting for a new, better Detroit to this very day. Their efforts should be acknowledged and respected. The rebellions of the 1960's represented how American capitalism was fallible (in the sense of it claiming to be for the rights of people domestically while funding reactionary foreign policy actions overseas) and the issues of class oppression and racial oppression must be addressed if we are to be in the Promised Land of justice for real. Even the Kerner report outlined that economic oppression and racism were contributing factors to the rebellion. Today, we see the growth of the middle class and the rich.

We see also the growth of the economic inequality and militarism in the world. The rebellions of the 1960's was exploited by the powers that be, so they could make militarized more of the local police, to expand the mass incarceration state (under the guise of "law and order" which reactionaries use all of the time), and to use other evil methods of suppression. The Detroit rebellion caused the increased military involvement in the lives of suppressing future rebellions. Also, Coleman Young was soon mayor of Detroit. He was the first black mayor of Detroit.

The Detroit rebellion was a reminder that hurting, oppressed people don't need scapegoating. They need adequate resources, compassion, and respect to achieve their own aspirations in life. Still, Detroit residents are resilient and they a'int backing down. They are our Brothers and our Sisters.

By Timothy

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