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I would have preferred to be more deliberate about the next entry in my new Detroit series, but sometimes events just force one's hand.

In this week's (1/27/14) issue of the New Yorker, an article by Paige Williams entitled "Drop Dead, Detroit!" [behind firewall, sorry] has lit a firestorm of controversy about her subject, L. Brooks Patterson, who is the former Oakland County Prosecutor and current Oakland County Executive, and his trash talk about Detroit. Among the choicest--and most representative--quotes from Patterson:

When I [Williams] asked him how Detroit might fix its financial problems, he [Patterson] said, "I made a prediction a long time ago, and it's come to pass. I said, 'What we're gonna do is turn Detroit into an Indian reservation, where we herd all the Indians into the city, build a fence around it, and throw in the blankets and corn'."
This quote is indeed something he said a long time ago, and something that was captured in print. Bill McGraw, a fine, long-time Detroit journalist who is now with Deadline Detroit, retrieved this bon mot by Patterson from Ze'ev Chafetz' 1990 book on Detroit, Devil's Night and Other True Tales of Detroit. [I don't recommend Chafetz' book, which is largely a hatchet job.]
In 1989, when Chafets asked about the quality of life for Detroiters, "Patterson looked at me as I were simpleminded," Chafets wrote.

"It's like the Indians on the reservation," he said. "Those who can will leave Detroit. Those who can't will get blankets and food from the government men in the city."

For that matter, when Jack Lessenberry, a local Detroit pundit, profiled Patterson's last opponent for the Oakland County Executive's position in 2012, Lessenberry made a point of noting that he had come across that same statement from Patterson--in 1975.

Not surprisingly, there has been a fair amount of mainstream media coverage of Patterson's latest. Please feel free to look for them; I've tried to cover a good sample below, but there are more than I can hope to include. Some of them, for example the Detroit Free Press editorial, aren't worth reading or linking. But YMMV.

According to a Patterson spokesman, Bill Mullan, whose statement was quoted by the Detroit Free Press and excerpted here:

“It is clear Paige Williams had an agenda when she interviewed county executive Patterson. She cast him in a false light in order to fit her preconceived and outdated notions about the region."
It's notable, however, as Deadline Detroit observes, that Mullan does not claim that Patterson was misquoted.

Williams, an award-winning reporter who "teaches narrative nonfiction and edits the narrative journalism website Nieman Storyboard, at Harvard's Nieman Foundation for Journalism," per the New Yorker's Contributors page, appears to have no particular axe to grind, contrary to the assertion made by Patterson's spokesman. Nor, for that matter, does she appear to have any real experience with the city or region. But apparently Patterson was willing enough to speak as freely with her as he would be with one of his white constituents, and so his record and his attitudes are again up for review.

My own assessment of Williams' piece is that she likely did look for the juiciest quotes, but that she probably had plenty to choose from. Overall, her background on Patterson and on the county, generally speaking, is adequate for a quick story. She makes some odd statements, she glosses over Patterson's life-long association with racist programs, and she does not look below the surface of Oakland County's prosperity at all--but these are criticisms I could develop in the comments. She does look to some good sources for commentary, including Bill McGraw (whose contribution in Williams' profile was noted in an earlier Deadline Detroit article):

Patterson had a platform, and he used it to denigrate Detroit and Detroiters, and to give voice to people who have moved out of the city and resent what the city has become--even though their departures contributed to it. Instead of being a leader who says, "We're gonna work with Detroit," he's been perceived as an enemy of Detroit, because he's acted like an enemy. (emphasis in original)
Rochelle Riley, a popular and insightful Detroit Free Press columnist, observes today in the second paragraph of her column about the brouhaha that Patterson's reputation is well-known:
L. Brooks Patterson has been spewing filth on and off for decades — inappropriate, sexist, hurtful and hateful, mostly about Detroit, ugly comments that a lesser man couldn’t get away with.
Trouble is, as Riley is implying, Patterson has used racism as his stock-in-trade since the very beginning of his career, when he represented the anti-busing forces in Oakland County who succeeded in blocking cross-district busing, the only effective way to have integrated metro Detroit public schools. Opponents of school busing relied heavily on racist rhetoric, themes, and actions to block the integration of schools, with protests (including the burning of ten--fortunately empty--school buses) peaking in 1971; Patterson rode that notoriety to election the first time as Oakland County Prosecutor in 1972. Please visit this photo essay by the Detroit News published when Irene McCabe, the public leader of the anti-bussing forces, died in 1997. She and Patterson are pictured together in the 9th photo.

[Somewhat OT: This is an Oakland Press profile of the widow of the Pontiac superintendent of schools back in 1971, Esther Whitmer. In the widow Whitmer's recollection, integration in Pontiac could have succeeded if the opponents (including active KKK involvement) hadn't been as relentless. If the last name sounds familiar, it's because her granddaughter is Gretchen Whitmer, currently the Democratic Senate Leader in Michigan. A connection I didn't know--fascinating!]

Now, I know that there are Kossacks who aren't as opposed as I am to Patterson's long tenure, and who don't think, as I do, that he has long passed his sell-by date. Not by virtue of age, but of recidivism. He may have at times behaved in a more conciliatory manner, but this article makes his underlying attitudes very clear.

Having him serve as Oakland County's most prominent politician, when he is so unrepentant with his racist views, continues to feed long-standing mistrust in the region between the city and its suburbs. Patterson and those who hold attitudes like his have presented barriers to intra-region cooperation for decades. Under his watch, Eight Mile Road is supposed to be part of those fences holding the riff-raff inside. If now isn't a good time for his positions to be repudiated, I don't know what would be--or what such a refusal might bode for the prospects of SE Michigan as a whole.

Originally posted to peregrine kate on Tue Jan 21, 2014 at 05:49 PM PST.

Also republished by Motor City Kossacks, Michigan, My Michigan, Barriers and Bridges, and Community Spotlight.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Brooks' time is...or at least should be...past (20+ / 0-)

    I just wish the voters had agreed in 2012. Or, heck, at any of the 4-year intervals prior to that. He's a petty, vindictive, arrogant man, along with all his other charming qualities highlighted in your diary and in the various articles and editorials about this latest in a too-long string of garbage that he tends to spew when he opens his mouth.

  •  I've read about Patterson for years in both the (11+ / 0-)

    Detroit Free Press and Detroit News. Even the News has a hard time spinning his BS.

  •  Wow. Excellent commentary and so well written (13+ / 0-)

    Thanks, pk.

    I was emailed a link to the Crooks & Liars report on this which I facebooked. DaNang65 put your link under my post. Your post is much better than the C&L report.

    Thanks again.

  •  Well Kate, (3+ / 0-)

    Brooks is a period piece and compared to the rest of the GOP, those he calls brown shirts, he's a flaming liberal.  He doesn't dance to DeVos or the Kochs money.    He is a huge cheerleader for Oakland, and he protects our interests.   He's earned the county its AAA bond rating, and the resulting success our county enjoys.  He bailed out Cobo when he didn't have to, and he is working with Macomb to protect water customers, including Detroit residents,  from Kevin Orr and the disaster that is Detroit Water and Sewer by turning it into a utility so rate increases can be capped.    Orr and his equity pal creditors intend to use the regional water system to extort cash out of its suburban customers to satisfy their phony and concocted debt.   According to Hackle, Orr said water rates will triple or quadruple; and the users, 85% surburban, who didn't fuck it up can pay their money to a private investor or to some sort of a regional and public water board.  

    Besides using old quotes and not identifying them as such, the Economist said Brooks stole Detroit's residents and businesses.  That's a crock.  It was Coleman Young who took office and told "whitey" to hit 8 Mile.   Nobody put a gun to my parents head to move my adolescent body away from Davison and Jos Campau.  We moved happily, and I can't tell you how nice is was to no longer be one of three "crackers" on the playground being bullied because I was white.  And if Detroit is so damned safe, why all fuss about needing more cops?    Brooks didn't make up the car jackings out of gas stations in Detroit.

    Brooks is no angel, and yes, he can be inappropriate.   But he is competent,  helpful and looks out for Oakland County taxpayers.   If anyone thinks he's going to sacrifice Oakland for Detroit, Wayne, Macomb, or Snyder, they need to think again.  He speaks truth to power, even when it pisses them off; and  I elect my county exec based on job performance - not who he is sleeping with, what he said when he was in college, or a whine ginned up by partisan Democrats and a MDP that is useless against the GOP.  

    I think Detroit needs to look in a mirror, quit attacking the people they want help from, and focus on their real enemy - Kevin Orr and Rick Snyder.  Whatever image problems Detroit has won't change because of anything Brooks said, and his actions towards Detroit should speak louder than any hit piece published by the Economist.  

    You have your opinion, and I have mine.   Guess we'll just have to agree to disagree, but I couldn't leave without presenting the other side of Brooks.  


    What we need is a Democrat in the White House.

    by dkmich on Wed Jan 22, 2014 at 04:57:13 AM PST

    •  I'm not going to have time to respond in detail (6+ / 0-)

      to your comment until late this afternoon, given the appointments that I have all day. But I did want to let you know here that I have read it and will be mulling it over.
      When I do respond, I don't expect to change your mind, but I hope to be able to provide some context and some other references that might be of interest. Thanks for weighing in.

      Support Small Business: Shop Kos Katalogue If you'd like to join the Motor City Kossacks, send me a Kosmail.

      by peregrine kate on Wed Jan 22, 2014 at 06:04:25 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Tipped for interesting POV (4+ / 0-)

      I don't know nearly anything about the situation there, so the opinions of those 'on the ground' are of great interest and value to me.

       I could be wrong, but you seem to be arguing somewhat that the ends justify the means.

      I don't roll that way, but I can see why others do.

      Good luck!  Detroit certainly needs some serious help.

      The Fail will continue until actual torches and pitchforks are set in motion. -

      by No one gets out alive on Wed Jan 22, 2014 at 06:16:49 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  No, I'm saying that Brooks is not all good or (2+ / 0-)

        all bad.   He understands perfectly well how the suburbs will benefit from a strong and healthy Detroit.   He wants that, most Michiganders want it, and he is willing to support that goal with Oakland County tax dollars as long as he gets a "fair" deal for his constituents.   Oakland County is seen as the Daddy Warbucks of Michigan, and Brooks won't be taken advantage of.   Oakland is a huge county with rich and poor cities filled with rich and poor people of all color who need and expect tax funded services from their County.  

        What we need is a Democrat in the White House.

        by dkmich on Wed Jan 22, 2014 at 04:26:12 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  Privilege is best protected (4+ / 0-)

      by the notion that no one need give up anything they'll truly regret in order to realize equality.  And if an equitable society is as worth a  social good as we here on DK apparently believe, then why should we expect citizens to sacrifice to achieve it?  At one point Americans have compelled their neighbors' children to risk their lives in her defense.  Many more socially correct countries still embrace conscription.  So why should we tolerate self-segregation born out of fear of economic inconvenience or racial strife?

      •  No way. (0+ / 0-)

        There are plenty of non-coercive ways to increase racial integration. Ban redlining of residential districts, focus on mutual tolerance. Compelling our neighbors' children to fight in the national defense is one thing; but risking their lives and educational achievement in the service of coerced integration is quite another.

    •  I know very little about Brooks (4+ / 0-)

      and nothing from personal experience.

      However, re: your post, I have a few comments. First, you brought up something about an article you consider unfairly biased in the Economist. It may or not have been. I didn't read it either and you didn't link. However, I don't see that article  referenced or linked to in this diary. Was it in an earlier version? Regardless, even if that piece had been linked and did use older quotes, we can see from what is referenced above in this diary that some of Brooks' more noxious attitudes (and quotes) have remained essentially unchanged for approximately 40 years. There is nothing actually unethical in referencing old quotes unless the person in question has since disavowed the sentiments expressed. It's not as if expressions of a person's  worldview have an automatic expiration date.

      Also, and I really don't mean to be argumentative here, aren't your words "Brooks is a period piece and compared to the rest of the GOP, those he calls brown shirts, he's a flaming liberal.  [...] Brooks is no angel, and yes, he can be inappropriate.   But he is competent,  helpful and looks out for Oakland County taxpayers" pretty much functionally equivalent to saying, "Well, he may be a little racist, but..."? I cannot see how it is possible to trust a Republican who is, at best, "inappropriate" to look out for all Oakland residents.

      My country, right or wrong; if right, to be kept right; and if wrong, to be set right.
      --Carl Schurz, remarks in the Senate, February 29, 1872

      by leftist vegetarian patriot on Wed Jan 22, 2014 at 09:10:47 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  I assume Kate linked to it in her diary, since it (0+ / 0-)

        was her topic.   Here is the article.   There is something unethical in using quotes that are 40 years old and not identifying them as such.  

        If you are suggesting he's a racist, I really don't know.  I've never heard his make overtly racists comments, but then, I'm white and Kos says I'm not entitled to an opinion on what's racist.   If  telling your daughter to stay out of gas stations in high crime areas is racist, then I guess he's a racist.    What are the odds of her being one of those statistics?   I haven't a clue.  My grandson jumped out of a plane.  How likely is he to die?  I don't know, and I don't care.  I don't want him to do it.  

        What we need is a Democrat in the White House.

        by dkmich on Wed Jan 22, 2014 at 04:39:49 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  The only 40 year old (well, almost) quote (4+ / 0-)

          in this diary was from 1975, and it was specifically called out as such, because he had repeated it at least twice in the intervening years--once in 1989 and once this year. It was given as an example of how his attitudes had remained frozen.

          My country, right or wrong; if right, to be kept right; and if wrong, to be set right.
          --Carl Schurz, remarks in the Senate, February 29, 1872

          by leftist vegetarian patriot on Wed Jan 22, 2014 at 05:00:17 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

        •  Some points need clarifying here, to start. (5+ / 0-)

          The article that spawned all this controversy was published in the New Yorker. It wasn't in the Economist, and I'm not sure where that notion came from. I didn't link to a full version, since it's behind a paywall, but there's a comment downthread that provides a link to the full article regardless.

          The author of that New Yorker profile, Paige Williams, interviewed Patterson in September of 2013 IIRC. At that time, Patterson uttered the words to Williams that are quoted in the first block quote I use in the diary. I think the language there is pretty clear, but just in case: this is a relatively recent statement by Patterson, in which he congratulates himself for making a prediction that he thinks has now come (or soon will come) true.

          In other words: Patterson made this blatant racist statement a while ago, and now he feels proud because he thinks he was prescient. Is that not the gist of his comment?

          He is not disavowing or repudiating that statement, with all the racism (in multiple directions no less) that it includes. Not at all--instead, he's doubling down.

          I don't think there's anything unethical going on vis-a-vis the reporter Williams. Nor do I think that McGraw was unethical to look for, and find, an earlier iteration of that statement by Patterson, recorded by Chafetz in 1989. Lessenberry's statement is a little closer to anecdote, but I cite his commentary, too, so that anyone can check that out if they're so inclined.

          I think I'll address the substance of the rest of your comment in another reply.

          Support Small Business: Shop Kos Katalogue If you'd like to join the Motor City Kossacks, send me a Kosmail.

          by peregrine kate on Wed Jan 22, 2014 at 05:03:58 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

    •  Ghetto pathology? (0+ / 0-)

      Hmm.  I guess that's in the monochromatic lexicon of the affluent communities.

      "Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety." --Benjamin Franklin

      by politicalceci on Wed Jan 22, 2014 at 11:38:49 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  I have to disagree here (6+ / 0-)

      Coleman Young didn't tell "whitey" to hit 8 mile - that's a crock of bullshit.

      I grew up in the city and was called names for being white - but that in no way compares to what was faced by young blacks from the brutal STRESS police unit that Coleman Young dismantled.

      The city of Detroit began losing population in the 1950s as a result of the highway system, automotive culture, suburban sprawl, and RACISM - in every single major city in the United States, white people sold their property and fled at the first sign of a black person buying property in their neighborhood. Respectable, hard-working, well-to-do blacks, doctors and lawyers trying to house their families in nice neighborhoods. That's a damn fact. Ignorant people like to point to the Detroit Riots as the cause of Detroit's downfall, but the decline began almost 20 years prior, and the "riots" were a rebellion - a rebellion stoked by years of discrimination, harassment, and unequal treatment in all areas of society due to this country's inability to cleanse itself of xenophobia.

      It doesn't seem like Detroit is attacking anyone here - only that one of its long-time antagonists, whose fiefdom wouldn't have a tenth of the wealth it does now without it being adjacent to, and the beneficiary of, decades of resource and population movement from the city, let down his guard and showed who he really is.

    •  Between scrolling back and organizing my thoughts (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Paul Ferguson, politicalceci, Sylv

      this might take me a while.

      It is a blessing, perhaps in disguise, that Patterson is not part of the Grand Rapids plutocrats. I suppose it could be worse, then, you are right, if he were beholden to them.

      I agree that he is a huge booster for Oakland County--but it would seem to me that only part of the county qualifies for his interest and devotion. The wealthy, white parts. What about Pontiac and Royal Oak Township? Both of these areas are predominantly black communities (for lots of reasons, going back a ways) and both have been suffering for years. Southfield is one of the few suburbs that seems to be doing pretty well as a racially-integrated community, but it too has had its troubles. What support has he and the Oakland County bureaucracy been offering to them? This is a sincere question; I don't know the answer.

      My point, however, is that the County is NOT identical to its component communities, and the relationship among them is complex. For a County Executive to be so proud of his anti-black rhetoric is disturbing under all circumstances, even if he had a lily-white population. It seems worse, somehow, since the population is in fact currently and increasingly diverse.

      I don't know what the details are about Cobo, but I'm glad he realized there's some self-interest to be furthered in supporting the major convention center for the whole metropolitan area.

      As for the Water/Sewer system--ironically enough, now that manufacturing in Detroit is down so much, I'm betting that the major sources of industrial and agricultural waste come from Macomb and Oakland County. So it only seems fair for them to pick up some of the tab. From the little I know, it appears that the metro area has exceptionally low rates for its water, which is in pretty good condition when it gets distributed, aging infrastructure notwithstanding. Of course, privatization would raise consumer costs substantially, so I can see why he and Hackel would join forces to try to keep it in the city's hands after all. It's politics.

      No, I think you are misremembering the Coleman Young directive. It was crooks he urged to hit Eight Mile Road. Here's the passage, from his inaugural address:

      I issue a warning to all those pushers, to all rip-off artists, to all muggers: It’s time to leave Detroit; hit Eight Mile Road! And I don’t give a damn if they are black or white, or if they wear Superfly suits or blue uniforms with silver badges. Hit the road.
      I lived in a neighborhood that was plagued, in one particular area (the intersection of Woodward and Eight Mile, as a matter of fact), by prostitution. For years, residents campaigned against the hookers and the johns. One of the neighborhood crime-fighting tactics was to record the license plate numbers of the cars that picked up the women working the streets. Those cars were, for the most part, NOT registered to Detroiters. That's only one of the types of low-lifes that we did not want to have hanging around. And I assume you know why he'd make specific reference to crooks in uniforms with badges.

      I have to say that I am disappointed that you are falling for that anti-Young propaganda. He did work his language, but this one is something you cannot pin on him.

      I recall from our exchange in an earlier diary that you had a really hard time with being bullied when you were young. I am very sorry that happened to you. It was wrong, and I will not attempt to justify it. No justification possible.

      But as I also mentioned in that other thread, my ex (a black man now in his late 60s) was also bullied in his teens by other black kids when he was living on the west side of Detroit. Doesn't mean they were right, either. Doesn't mean he wound up being afraid of black people, probably because he had plenty of other, more positive experiences to counter the bad ones.

      He had awful encounters with the old white nuns at his parochial school. Should he end up mistrusting all old white women as a consequence?

      Or consider the experiences of my younger daughter, who was harassed all through 4th and 5th grade by young white boys. My interventions were not helpful, and now she says I might have made things worse (by trying to do something at all). I wish I could have changed environments for her, but we were (and are) living in a very affluent city with many opportunities, many good people--and a few total jerks. I'm hoping that she doesn't hate all young white males as a result; so far she seems to be doing reasonably well with not assuming the worst. Not perfectly, I will admit.

      I do wish you hadn't taken the brunt of all that misplaced hostility. During my own twenty years of living and working in Detroit, I don't think I was bothered once on the basis of being white. Nor do I think either of my girls were either. But times were different by then, and in any case what happened to me doesn't undo what happened to you. I'm just observing that you had a hard go which may or may not have been commonplace.

      I totally agree with you that Orr and Snyder are true enemies of Detroit. The trouble is, as I see it, that Patterson has never really presented himself as an ally to Detroit, except when it suits his county. That sort of limited vision is going to take us all down, frankly. And in the past (and likely now, too) that kind of attitude has hurt his county, and the rest of us as well, that AAA rating notwithstanding. But dealing with the implications of that bond rating is another diary altogether, one probably outside my ken.

      Thanks for your commitment to continuing this kind of dialogue.

      Oh, I wanted to recommend a book that I think does a great job of describing the hard times that Detroit has faced since WWII, from factors that are still relevant: Thomas Sugrue, The Origins of the Urban Crisis. It is a very fine history, a bit dry but rewarding in the end.

      Support Small Business: Shop Kos Katalogue If you'd like to join the Motor City Kossacks, send me a Kosmail.

      by peregrine kate on Wed Jan 22, 2014 at 05:45:44 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  It's not just Patterson......... (8+ / 0-)

    Unfortunately, this sort of racism is the rule in the Detroit suburbs.  Exploited shamelessly by the right, it is the major reason that thugs like Dick DeVos (Amway), the late Ted Doan (Dow Chemical, napalm, and the Mackinaw Institute), and our current governor Dick, Mr. Nice Guy (not!), Snyder and their legislative allies have been able to undermine democracy, destroy the labor movement, attack reproductive rights, and generally wreck the once proud home of millions of MIDDLE CLASS working folks.

    The last remnants of unionism in Michigan, the teachers,  the construction crafts, the SIU and the UAW are fighting for their lives.  Unfortunately, way too many of them vote against their own best interests by buying into the Republican lie that the reason their taxes are so high is because welfare queens in Detroit are driving Cadillacs.  In fact, if one is lucky enough to have a good paying union job, one's taxes are too high.  However, the real reason is taxes are too low on rich people.

    Meanwhile, DeVos continues to get rich exploiting housewives with his Amway pyramid marketing fraud, Dow Chemical has moved its dangerous chemical manufacture to poor countries where they can bribe officials to look the other way when it comes to enforcing worker and environmental safety, etc., etc.....

    Wake up Michigan!  One of these days I hope folks will realize that all of us -- African, Asian, Native American, Hispanic, and "white" -- are in this together, and that the Republicans are running a racket worse than the Mafia..

    Labor was the first price paid for all things. It was not by money, but by labour, that all wealth of the world was originally purchased. - Adam Smith

    by boatwright on Wed Jan 22, 2014 at 06:05:38 AM PST

    •  Wow, well said! And not just in Michigan! (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      politicalceci, peregrine kate, Sylv
      Wake up Michigan!  One of these days I hope folks will realize that all of us -- African, Asian, Native American, Hispanic, and "white" -- are in this together, and that the Republicans are running a racket worse than the Mafia..
      Judging by what I see all over the nation, the Republicans are running the same playbook in every state they control, and are screwing up the works in every OTHER state, until they can gerrymander their way into control, and THEN screw it up more.

      They need to be gone, STAT!

      America's LAST HOPE: vote the GOP OUT in 2014 elections. MAKE them LOSE the House Majority and reduce their numbers in the Senate. Democrats move America forward - Republicans take us backward and are KILLING OUR NATION!

      by dagnome on Wed Jan 22, 2014 at 10:46:45 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  "Exploited shamelessly by the right." How true, (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      to our great detriment.
      Amway should have been shut down years ago. What a lost opportunity.

      Support Small Business: Shop Kos Katalogue If you'd like to join the Motor City Kossacks, send me a Kosmail.

      by peregrine kate on Wed Jan 22, 2014 at 08:39:38 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Like any good capitalist (5+ / 0-)

    Snyder sees great opportunity in bankruptcy. It allows the looting to proceed under cover of existing law, and with the approval of a federal judge.

    "A lie is not the other side of a story; it's just a lie."

    by happy camper on Wed Jan 22, 2014 at 06:24:47 AM PST

  •  I grew up in Oakland County (0+ / 0-)

    and am generally pretty damn liberal. But I remember quite clearly my parents' opposition to busing. And looking back on it, my parents were right.

    Patterson is a racist douche; that's obvious. But being opposed to busing doesn't make you a racist or a douche.

    Busing is a stupid bloody idea. Taking kids across town just to satisfy some dumb pipe dream of racial integration is a bad idea for education. It's treating the wrong problem, and it needlessly pisses people off.

    The real problem is that school districts are better or worse based on the affluence of their residents. This is wrong, and unequal, and because historical racism has made black folks a lot generally poorer than whites, and also because poor parents are in general less invested in their kids' education, partially because they're too busy trying to make ends meet, it leads to unequal outcomes.

    So don't treat the symptoms by sending the children of affluent parents who care about their kids' education to shitty schools in places where the parents can't afford to or don't want to invest in their kids' education. Treat the problem by equally funding all districts—and by addressing the larger social factors that lead to income and wealth disparities.

    You'll still have better outcomes in affluent districts because there will be more parents who have the time and energy to do extracurricular activities. But if you start addressing the root causes of income and wealth inequality (and not by going on about "reparations"), you'll start to see better outcomes for poorer/blacker kids—and, still more importantly, you'll appeal to people's sense of fairness instead of acting like thugs.

    My parents participated in the protests against busing, though they swear up and down there was no arson involved. And you know what? I'm not nearly the racist they are, and I'd join the protests, too. You'll send my kid across town to some crappy school full of ghetto pathology over my dead body—and I say this knowing full well that ghetto pathology is caused by systemic racism.

    •  I wouldn't call it a pipe dream (4+ / 0-)

      I'd call it a social obligation, both on your parents and...yes...even on your younger self.  The notion that deconstructing privilege leaves isn't painful is naive, granted, but it's also necessary in order to ensure the future vitality of underserved and underprivileged communities.

      Ultimately, it's not about us as individuals.  That's not to say we can't complain, but we need to swallow those gripes when they get in the way of broader progress for the greater good.

      •  asdf (0+ / 0-)

        I guess what I should have said was "a pipe dream of coerced integration." That is, it's a pipe dream to think that both centuries of racism as a political tool and the natural human inclination to prefer their own kind, and to be mentally lazy and sort people by something dumb like skin color instead of values, is going to be overcome by forcing you to let the government take your kid across town to a crappy school where she'll absorb cultural values you reject.

        Yes, it's undeniably a social obligation to overcome the centuries of racism as a political tool. And also to recognize that sorting by skin color is lazy. But it's not a social obligation to send your kid to a crappy school to satisfy that. Imagine you're a middle-class white adult with a bright but not physically all that robust seven-year-old child. Which is likelier to make you get out and protest?

        a) "Basic fairness dictates that school districts receive equal funding"
        b) "We're going to make you send your kid to a crappy school far away"

        I reject your premise that it's not about us as individuals, and I reject even more strongly the idea that busing is anything like the way to make broader progress for the greater good.

        •  And conscription is coerced service (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          peregrine kate

          Doesn't mean that there aren't enormous societal benefits to a draft.  Come to think of it, we have any number of obligations foisted upon us coercively by the state, from abiding by zoning laws to business and health regulations to paying taxes.  The question is whether those obligations serve some greater good.  

          On this subject people are understandably sensitive; our predominant culture embraces the primacy of the parent to an almost disturbing degree.  But those same parental prerogatives also bear responsibility for the inequity in community life and education today.  If I had had kids, I might not have liked sending them to underprivileged school, which is precisely why we need government to step in and make sure our families pay their equitable share.

        •  That statement you make about "natural (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Sylv, politicalceci, Paul Ferguson

          human inclination to prefer their own kind" is one that is highly contested, and rightly so. What does "own kind" really mean? So many ways to define groups, it staggers the imagination. Or at least it should.

          But perhaps more importantly, the historical record shows innumerable examples of people of any race or group enjoying, tolerating, or coping with cross-race interactions. Enjoying, in fact, was a real and common circumstance in the early colonial days, and part of the fierce reaction against that casual mixing was the creation and enforcement of strict laws to counter that "natural" human inclination toward curiosity.

          As far as cultural values.... Based on your comments here, I suspect I don't have many cultural values in common with you, no matter what the similarities between our ethnic heritages might be.

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          by peregrine kate on Wed Jan 22, 2014 at 02:32:22 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

    •  I'm not sure where to start. First, busing is not (4+ / 0-)

      all that unusual, no matter what. Lots of kids ride the bus in my very affluent district, largely because the district is a big one, too, and the schools are not generally as far-flung. I am sure that's not exceptional in this region. Even more common to have big-time busing in rural areas.

      Second, I am not sure where you were when there was an effort (inadequate, to be sure) to equalize funding for MI schools by ending the property tax as a primary mechanism for local school support--to an extent, that is, with many wealthy districts grandfathered out, and with some poor districts guaranteed some extra help. But it was done in an attempt to even it out somewhat across the state. Hard to tell now, from my relatively ignorant POV, how much it helped. Part of the problem is that the affluent districts also tended to be newer districts, with newer school buildings, having newer equipment and amenities and generally needing less maintenance. In other words, the poorer districts were behind in infrastructure, and the funding equalization did not address that.

      Third, I think it's a gross exaggeration if not an outright distortion that "poor parents are in general less invested in their kids' education." It depends on the parents, the schools, and the districts; wealth or the lack of it is only one factor. There has long been a parent advocacy group in Detroit, a true grassroots effort, seeking accountability from the School Board; that group is mainly comprised of (relatively) poor parents. Helen Moore, of Black Parents for Quality Education, has been on the front lines of the efforts to make DPS better for a long time. Her position is not to slam the parents, but to seek to empower them and their children so they can be their own best advocates.

      [As a side note: this is not to say that DPS has been a wonderful institution. My own step-daughter and older daughter received solid educations at Detroit public schools; the older one graduated Phi Beta Kappa from a fine private college and is now a successful teacher, while the younger one recently graduated from U-MI Law and is now a happily employed attorney. But the system has been a bureaucratic disaster for decades. See an excellent book by Jeffrey Mirel, The Rise and Fall of an Urban School System, Detroit 1907-81, for some fine background on the long-standing problems there.]

      Fourth, I am not sure where your side comment about "reparations" comes from, but I infer from it that you think such a program would be bogus. Logistically, it might be difficult to implement--but ethically it would be a breakthrough toward real racial healing. Most American whites have no idea how much they STILL benefit from the racism that was enshrined with slavery, whether their ancestors came here in 1620 or in 1910. Centuries of stolen wages and stolen families are still relevant.

      Fifth--no arson? I'm not going to dig for evidence now. But those ten school buses in Pontiac didn't accidentally catch on fire. As I recall, several leaders of the KKK were arrested, tried, and convicted for that crime. Given when and where it happened, I am sure the symbolic import was not lost on anyone.

      Sixth--ghetto pathology? Really? I don't have a quick reply for that, only a long one, and I don't think you would like to hear it.

      Somehow this struck a chord with you. Not sure why you came in so defensive, but it might be worth considering.

      Support Small Business: Shop Kos Katalogue If you'd like to join the Motor City Kossacks, send me a Kosmail.

      by peregrine kate on Wed Jan 22, 2014 at 02:26:45 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  I'll be looking for that article: my New Yorker (6+ / 0-)

    comes on Wednesdays, so I'll get it this afternoon though I'm tempted to just go on line (have to be a subscriber to do that) and read the article.

    What a nasty racist this man is, but it's par for the course in Oakland County. I'm sure he feels the same way about Pontiac.

    Pope Francis: the Thumb of Christ in the eyes of the Pharisees.

    by commonmass on Wed Jan 22, 2014 at 07:25:01 AM PST

  •  Article is now available online... (5+ / 0-)

    Thanks to Eclectablog you can read the article online here: "New Yorker Profiles Brooks Patterson."

    The man of great wealth owes a particular obligation to the State because he derives special advantages from the mere existence of government. -T. Roosevelt

    by rudeboy on Wed Jan 22, 2014 at 08:08:40 AM PST

  •  I lived in Michigan 25 years ago (6+ / 0-)

    (I was in East Lansing for grad school.)  Even then I remember how hostile everyone out state was to Detroit.  I think that what happened to Detroit is the libertarian dream of drowning a government in a bath tub, materially aided by racism.

    Reporting from Tea Bagger occupied America

    by DrJohnB on Wed Jan 22, 2014 at 10:08:01 AM PST

  •  Still have more obligations today, so it'll be (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Sylv, LakeSuperior, Yoshimi, politicalceci

    a while longer before I can rejoin the conversation. Sorry!

    Thanks to the Rescue Rangers for allowing this diary to have a second life. I appreciate the boost.

    Support Small Business: Shop Kos Katalogue If you'd like to join the Motor City Kossacks, send me a Kosmail.

    by peregrine kate on Wed Jan 22, 2014 at 12:44:47 PM PST

  •  L Brooks Patterson is one of the people to be (5+ / 0-)

    blamed for SE Michigan's long and continuing delayed development of a regional mass transit and light rail system.

  •  Thanks for posting this! (4+ / 0-)

    I missed this yesterday.

    One thing needs to be clarified: Brooks claimed yesterday on the radio that the indian reservation quote was old BUT he actually chose to resurrect it during his interview with the New Yorker as an example of himself being right about Detroit.

    Anyway, it seems ironic but the residents of Oakland County seem very cynical about the region and the folks of Detroit seem very optimistic. Not what you would expect.

    As a former Detroiter who has now lived in many large cities (NY, LA, CH), I see the attitude of Patterson and those like him as a hindrance to the Detroit Metro Area becoming a world class city. I experience so many small minded people in Oakland County when I am there and wonder if it is the lack of leadership that negatively influences the potential of the area.

    Ironic statement two: the best thing for Oakland County is to replace Patterson with someone with optimism and vision. A big thinker.  


    •  Right. I thought my block quote was clear. (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Yoshimi, Paul Ferguson, Sylv

      Thus in effect he's doubling down, not rejecting his former views.
      I agree with you about the mood difference. Worth exploring at another time.
      Well, there are plenty of other people who seem to recognize the potential for Detroit and environs. It remains to be seen whether they're interested in sharing any of the benefits of future development with the people who have been hanging in there, and working to keep the fires burning.
      You're welcome; thanks for the tip!

      Support Small Business: Shop Kos Katalogue If you'd like to join the Motor City Kossacks, send me a Kosmail.

      by peregrine kate on Wed Jan 22, 2014 at 05:51:41 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  This has been a wonderful diary (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    peregrine kate, politicalceci, Sylv

    Thank you Kate. I remember when the buses were burnt. Someone was arrested. Patterson always ran against Coleman Young no matter who he opponent was. His entire political career has been based on racism. I am cheering the city on from high in the mountains of the northern Sonoran desert. I am always happy to tell people that I am from Detroit. Makes for lively conversation some times.

    •  Many thanks, P F. I appreciate your kind (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      words here but even more your willingness to engage with people elsewhere about Detroit.
      And yes, Patterson ran against Young no matter what or when. The man has been dead for over 15 years now, but he's still the bogeyman in the shadows for Patterson, or so it seems.

      Support Small Business: Shop Kos Katalogue If you'd like to join the Motor City Kossacks, send me a Kosmail.

      by peregrine kate on Wed Jan 22, 2014 at 08:54:42 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

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