Detroit hasn’t elected a white mayor since 1970. That was Roman Gribbs, a Democrat. Gribbs served as an assistant prosecutor from 1956 to 1964 and as sheriff of Wayne County in 1968 and 1969 before deciding to run for mayor. Gribbs was mayor for one term, declining to seek re-election.
Following Gribbs was Mayor Coleman A. Young, who held the office for twenty years, until he retired, due to deteriorating health.
Coleman Young erected a virtual wall between Detroit and its suburbs, the iron curtain of southeast Michigan. It was a wall that injured all of the people of the area, but did terrible and permanent damage to the city and its citizens. Political scientist James Q. Wilson wrote that, “In Detroit, Mayor Coleman Young rejected the integrationist goal in favor of a flamboyant, black-power style that won him loyal followers, but he left the city a fiscal and social wreck.” For more about Young, see Wikipedia
There are many who say that the decline of the auto industry resulted in the decline of Detroit. If that is true, why are the Detroit suburbs – especially in Oakland County – recovering steadily? The unemployment rate in the City is 23.1% (BLS as of April, 2013). In Oakland County, it is 8.5% (in January of 2008, it was 6.5%, but I digress).
Now we have the first mayoral election in fifty years when it is likely that a white man will become mayor of Detroit. He is supported by Minister Malik Shabazz, president of the Marcus Garvey Movement/New Black Panther Nation in Detroit. Shabazz says, “In the last two national elections, African Americans have asked the nation to choose the best person for the job and not get caught up in color. And twice, Barack Obama has won,” he said. “Now, in Detroit, in 2013, the best man running is a white brother, and that’s OK.”
Now, I don’t think I would agree with Shabazz (wouldn’t you be surprised if I did?), but I DO think there has been a shift in thought in the African American community in Detroit. Yes, there are still those who support the old regime, and believe in the innocence of Kwame Kilpatrick, the mayor who was just sentenced to 28 years in prison. It is amazing to me, though, that there is a groundswell of support for a man who many believe can make positive change in Detroit, aside from the color of his skin. You see (and I see) that people, regardless of skin color, care about their community, and yearn for a leader who can find the path to positive “change”. Not change for its own sake, but change that offers a chance for their children to grow up in a city that offers them possibilities in their lives.
I am asking all of you to pray for the people of the city of Detroit, that He will lead the voters to do what is best for themselves and their children, and give them hope for their futures. It is easy to turn our back on the “city” of Detroit, but let’s encourage the people who live there to lift up what once was, and can be again, a vibrant urban community. It won’t be exactly what came before, but it can be a great place once again. And if the white candidate, Mike Duggan, is elected, let’s pray that he can lead the City through a true renaissance.
For more about the mayoral election:
More about Detroit’s decline: