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Don't call him a Detroiter

Interesting exchange today on the "Detroit Yes" forum. The top-notch discussion on one thread centers around a letter to the editor published in the Livingston Daily's online newspaper.

Time and again, this blog and others have debated what it means to be a Detroiter. Some say you have to live and work in the city. Others believe if you are of the metropolitan area, you can call yourself a Detroiter. (I personally believe the latter).

Robert Lagana of Howell has his own opinion -- but he definitely does not want to be a Detroiter.

His comments are related to a story that ran Nov. 11 in the Daily Press. The article focused on comments from George W. Jackson Jr., head of the Detroit Economic Growth Corp. He spoke last week at the Good Morning Livingston program at Cleary University's Johnson Center in Genoa Township.

Here's Jackson's take on it:

"In a sense, we're all Detroiters, and we all should be ambassadors for the city of Detroit. Whether you like it or not, we're all in this together," Jackson said, addressing the chamber audience.

One memorable quote from Lagana's letter:

Detroit has provided the seeds for its own demise over the past 40 years with anti-business policies, corruption, socialism and Detroit's own form of separatism, all enacted during a time of increased globalism and diversification of economies. Mayor Dave Bing will have a Herculean task to move the city away from being a Third World socialist economy towards becoming a relevant economic center.

Read the whole thing here.

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  • 1

    that was a good article. I agree that I would not want to be called a Detroiter, I don't live in the city and I'm not very proud of the city either, I'm not even proud of the whole state at the moment to tell the truth.

    The people of Detroit need something to be proud of besides the image others have of Detroit being a cesspool of corruption and crime. Only when the economic doors are opened both ways, and we all put aside our differences will we be able to embrace the city that once was Detroit.

  • 2

    Having grown up with a Detroiter who constantly reminds me of how Detroit is not what it used to be, and how this or that needs to be done (or in most cases, is not being done) in order for it to "return" to being a city with a positive, nationally recognized image, while at the same time seeing all the unique local efforts (some that I've never seen as a resident of other cities) to build positive micro-communities over my lifetime time and time again, I often wonder if "returning" to anything is the best focus.

    In other words, maybe Detroit will never again be comparable to its supposed peers or the city "that once was" -- but that's not the end of the story. I'm not saying that things don't need to drastically change on many levels, but maybe they need to change to achieve a different outcome -- to achieve goals in a local context as opposed to those that might be nationally recognized/tauted.

    I think this is happening right now and those that are doing the work in and around Detroit (as opposed to writing about it like myself) aren't so much worried about being compared to another city as much as improving what is for those who more directly participate in their communities. With shifts from "global" to "local" happening in many places, maybe Detroit is a pioneer in this context and meant to travel its own path, for better and for worse.

    • 2.1

      Joel, you're right. I've only been in Detroit for 3 years, and MI for 9. I hear a lot about what "Detroit used to be" or about "bringing people back"...but I have no personal experience with it so for me the Detroit I see is the Detroit I get. I don't think any city can (or wants to be) the same place twice. I think Detroit has a unique opportunity to reinvent itself, and not a lot of places can say that.

      I don't really care if some guy from Howell doesn't want to be called a Detroiter. In my bias opinion, he's not cool enough to be called one anyway. The only thing I know about Howell is that there's an outlet mall there. Um, no thanks. That being said, it doesn't matter how you label people, everybody in Michigan is in the same boat at this point. And believe it or not, Detroit is still the biggest city in the state.

  • 3

    I agree with much of what Lagana says, such as sowing the seeds of it's own demise, and missing out on globalization and diversification. But one big common misconception, that he obviously believes, is that Detroit's policies are somehow more "anti-business" than other larger cities. Most of the studies I've read, show that this is not the case. Many much more economically successful cities are more "anti-business" than Detroit is. And many states are more "anti-business" than Michigan is.

    The problems are so much larger than the city or state business policies. Almost everyone, from our corporate and business leaders, down to many of the mostly hard working individuals failed to plan for a future that was even marginally different from the past. The game plan was always to, "get it while the getting's good." Hardly a strategy for the future.

    Unfortunately, the will was not there to make the necessary changes until far too late. Hard work, a change in collective mentality, and, perhaps, a change in expectations are all needed for Detroit, and the state to do much more than just survive.

    • 4.1

      They pretty much have already torn it down. And then were unable to build it back up.

      Despite trillions of dollars of government assistance. If any other group had been given as much assistance, there would be a paradise on earth.

      But instead in Detroit there was corruption, welfare, and waste. Go figure. And lots of self-pity.

    • 4.2

      Troll. Your comments provide no value and the website you're linking to (which I've seen you do here before) is offensive at best. Advertise your blog elsewhere.

  • 5

    ..Number 4,...You're a Crap-Hole!! Every past dis0investment in Detroit was followed up by an equal or larger INvestment in one of the A) Inner Ring Suburbs(Sfld. Warren, Ster. Hts.), B) Another Round of DIS-Investment, Next Ring of NEWER 'burbs INvestment(Troy, Roch. Hills, etc.,) C) Howell, Ann Arbor-Plymouth_Cantion, etc.,.).AND NOT ALL these businesses were LOSING MONEY!--D'twn. Hudsons' was Still WORLD's Largest Dept. store when sold to Dayton -Hudson(now Target)/. When ,Then Kresge's bailed and moved to Troy, that area took advantage to LURe MORE Bus.' out there! It seems in Hindsight, that many Churches', synagogues', and Golf Clubs' members conspired to line THEIR Pockets at Detroit's' citizens and THEIR Neighborhoods' expense! Add the Rampant BlockBusting and Sensationalization of the NEWS(...CKLW 20/20 News!...). Lou Gordons" of the world..What did you expect!?!...Eventually drugs and Violent Crime forced the Last Wave of white0-(AND BLACK!) Flight!! ALL THE STOREs and NEW shopping Centers(Mr. Taubmam, et al.?) STARTED to LEAD people out further , still. THOSE special interests finally forced out the last of the Large Middle Class, due to Politically Motivated " New CarpetBaggers"...There YOU GO!....

    • 5.1

      My my..isn't davebailey an angry person??!!

      Dave - There are two approaches to addressing and creating/structuring solutions to problems:

      (1) Develop - or wish to develop - a paradigm that is based upon how you think that people/society/businesses SHOULD behave or act... or
      (2) Develop - or wish to develop - a paradigm that is based upon how you think that people/society/businesses DO behave or act...

      When you or we expect others to make choices, investments, or personal decisions based upon what is 'good' or 'best' for Detroit - you/will end up with... - well, what we now have and what you are railing against. If however, it is DETROIT that adapts itself - politically and expenditure priority-wise to (a) Replicate the success factors that are still present and (b) Attract investment by offering reasonable services at affordable investment (tax) expenditures.

      The people and businesses you decry for having 'abandoned' Detroit were in fact 'let down' by Detroit - the City just failed to live up to its promises (stated or implied), and forgot that like Love, a successful relationship requires equal inputs from all involved.

      You know davebailey, the same 'greed' that you imply caused businesses to flee would have been the very same reason for them to stay - had the City done its job.

      having said such, please know that nostalgia, wishful thinking, railing and blaming, or myopia (you know, we'll save the city by destroying the city - and all become urban farmers...) will not have positive results overall - what is needed is a priortization of needs and investments in the basic factors that will attract and keep the population and economic base that make a healthy city.

      Read more:

  • 6

    Yawn..SOS from venues like Howell never impress me...

  • 7

    People were scared to be in the city of Detroit after the riots. You can't blame people for moving out. Or the investors who took advantage of this to build stores, shopping centers, etc out in the suburbs.

  • 8

    What's so wrong with being in Birmingham or Pontiac or Rochester and repping it?
    Why aren't folks not living in Detroit interested in saying that they're from "Metro Royal Oak", rather than being accurate and precise about where their address is? This seems to be the untalked about yet equally valid point with a lot of this "Detroiter" or Detroit-identifier type stuff.

  • 9

    The people who were scared of city after the riots were the same ones who created a nasty racist posture which fostered the riot....I am so tired of excuses for those who fled the city and now enjoyed bashing it....

    Weak people always make excuses and scapegoat others old tired bit really at end of the day..

    • 9.1

      There's nothing racist about being afraid to live in Detroit after the riots. It's called self-preservation. It seemed dangerous to live somewhere that was being burned down. Don't take it so personally, no matter who had done the burning, those who could, would have moved.

      It's not scapegoating if the blame is put on the people who actually rioted. If those people who stayed had tried to make Detroit a better place, instead of burning through government money and programs, they would have been just fine. Blame the leaders, such as Coleman Young and Kwame. They were the problem, not the people who left. The people who left, left you alone. So then it was up to those who stayed to make it work.

      The blacks seemed to do everything possible to get whites to leave the city. Like burning down neighborhoods. Duh.

    • 9.2


      The problem with your point of view is that it starts at the riots. People started leaving Detroit in the 50s and yes, racism was a part of this. Practices such as red-lining kept minorities from going with them. This happened in every major city in America, but happened worse here.

      Does this justify riots? No. Have certain government programs made the problem worse? Yes. The problem with what you're presenting, though, is that you put this out as the whole puzzle instead of part of the puzzle. The people who came in at Detroit's boom didn't care about the city the way they did in New York or Chicago. Real investment was taken out of the city. And by the way, when I say investment, I mean real investment, not welfare. The lack of real, business investment has been part of the problem. There's been no focus to it and apathy by the greater metro area has kept things from moving forward in a significant way. It takes a hugee amount of energy to bring a city back up again and that has not been applied until recent years.

      The point is that the people who were best equipped to make Detroit a better place had been abandoning it a long time before the riots happened. I don't give people like Young or Kilpatrick a pass, but while it might feel better to put it on them alone, the history shows something different.

      As I've said before, for the first time in a long time, we have people with a real drive to lift the city up and for the first time, because of people like Roger Penske, we may have the means to do it. Not being in a severe recession would help, of course. But we've got to do what we can with the tools we have today.

    • 9.3

      How could anyone even want to compose a serious reply to gthrasher??!!

      I mean, playing the 'race card' or the 'blame whitey' card is indicative only of a lack of a substantative arguement or bereft of anything approaching knowledge or wisdom......

      Come on g - put some intellectual heft behind your mouthstream...!

  • 10

    The greatest number of whites left directly after the riots. It was a direct cause and effect.

    From what you are saying, the city had to depend upon whites to make it strong, which seems racist as to the ability of blacks to succeed.

    Detroit had enormous resources from the government to help it rebuild. The people of Detroit put their trust in Mayor Coleman Young to rebuild the city. They also had their own resources.

    If they failed to do this, it is the fault of the people who lived in Detroit, not the people who left.

    They had the choice between success and crime, and between achievement and failure. Many chose the crime and failure route. They cannot blame anyone but themselves for that. Many others in this world have succeeded with much less in the way of resources.

    • 10.1

      The riots hurried up what was already happening. Detroit was already in decline by 1967. And the sorry reality is that white people have held most of the wealth in urban communities, especially back when this was all happening. Socially, black people hadn't been allowed to get up to that level yet. That's not racist.

      And could you please tell me what these enormous recources from the government were? Also, how were they implemented?

      Riots happened in most major cities in the country in this period, but it didn't lead to a flight from the city across the board like it did here. Why? People with resources stuck by their cities in other places and the people here did not. This is not even a controversial viewpoint. I'm not skipping blame away from the people who were in Detroit after that, but what I mentioned is the thing that happened here that didn't happen elsewhere.

      You seem to want to be able to point the finger at people, who aren't you, and be able to safely say, "you did it all." It would be great if things were that simple. It would be easier to feel superior to them, which seems to be something you're interested in. But in doing that, you willfully ignore things that made this situation and this city unique.

  • 11


    We are ALL very aware of your position. You find away to call the people of Detroit, as a whole, stupid and lazy in every thread.

    We get it.

    Now, if you have something else to say, please, do it.

    Although I'm fairly certain you just use this comment as a way to reiterate the same point over and over and...

  • 12


    We are ALL very aware of your position. You find a way to call the people of Detroit, as a whole, stupid and lazy in every thread.

    We get it.

    Now, if you have something else to say, please, do it.

    Although I'm fairly certain you just use this comment as a way to reiterate the same point over and over and...

  • 13


    Please stop with the fiction and revisionist history...Your comment' Blacks seem to do everything to get whites to leave the city" this mindset has been in our nation since the original illegal aliens ( puritians and pilgrims) blamed the savages for thier manifest destiny..

  • 14

    This discussion of the City and the Suburbs in Detroit goes on and on endlessly. I'm so tired of it. A different perspective is needed. The riots of '67 were tragic but I didn't know the Detroit before '67 or the immediate years afterward. My contact with the city began in the late '70s so my defining moment for Detroit would be the Poletown plant.

    The Poletown plant took up so much land and so much neighborhood and produced so few jobs that it was in-your-face obvious manufacturing would never ever again revive Detroit. It was at this time that the reinvention of Detroit, if not the region, should have been pushed to forefront. Unfortunately, all the city could do over the years was to attract Mr. Illitch and friends along with the casinos which is hardly enough to support a major American city.

    • 14.1

      Agreed and I hope my earlier responses didn't create some sense that I'm into the City vs Suburbs war. Especially since I live in the suburbs.

      The only way we'll do well is to start behaving like a region. I think the younger people here don't have as much invested in the old conflicts and that's one of the keys to revival.

      There will always be limits to how many chances a city gets to bounce back, but that one window isn't the one window we ever had or will have. The pain of how we've done business has finally hit throughout the region and the "adapt or die" future we're facing could be the catalyst for something new.

  • 15

    Just to finish. The question shouldn't be this blame game of who destroyed Detroit, but who has failed to reinvent Detroit, so this tired City/Suburb/Black/White division can be put to blame for keeping the city and region from moving on.

  • 16

    It is not about city v suburbs nor generational it is and remains a RACE issue....The reason for the legacy and continuance this disconect it all revolves around RACE...

    It has staying power because the majority i.e. Whites have deemed it so...This issue could never have the shelf life it has except for this raw and ugly truth...

    I have civil rights fatigue in part becuase racism has no ending point or generational finality it extends beyond every barrier, statute of limitations .....At every moment of any minorities life here on this soil in the womb and out of the womb one must encounter some form or derivative of RACE and its properties ..

    It is the ugly and negative cultural DNA of White America it has wounded and destroyed so many for so long from the creation of angry Black folks to Black apologists to Black folks who have just surrendered and given up to those like Mike Jackson who have colored thier skin to happy negroes like Obama always seeking to appease, pander and validate themselves at the altar of white folks...

    Bigots from Howell to patronizing white liberals living in downtown Detroit to slugs who come to the city to explore and visit the savages for amusement ..The beat goes on..

  • 17

    "....Bigots from Howell to patronizing white liberals living in downtown Detroit to slugs who come to the city to explore and visit the savages for amusement ..." ??? Some quote there, g

    What I'M hearing you say is "Damn Whites - Can't live without em', Don't wanna live with em'.....

    Wow g... you really have a dilema!!

  • 18


    Your words not mine " What I'M hearing you say is Damn Whites....."

    Please refrain from putting your ignorant words into my posts and prose..Unlike you I express my own views and opinions..Unlike you I do not have any dilemas or confusion or revisonist history to speculate about..I lived in the city before and after the riot of 67..

    Unlike you I am a Black man..Unlike you I do not post for you for that I am very happy..BTW I do not play cards nor as a Black man did I invent the "race card" that was a white folks invention... I do not need to blame "whitey"( your word not mine)..The legacy and record of racism, white supremacy and white privledge is well documented ..

    So if you seek to engaged me either step up or step away or get stepped on...I do not tolerate fools lightly...

  • 19

    The only racial poison here is yours ..Your denial and need to attack me with your underdeveloped thinking is what is at play on this thread..

    Do me a favor leave your me out of your cowardly values and inability to deal with the racial legacy and reality of our culture and nation..

    It is folks like you who make the racial divide continue to flourish and exist..

    • 19.1

      G -

      Intersting that you would use the term 'ATTACK you'! You seem just a bit sensative to people 'backing you down' or disagreeing with your invective - maybe even a wee bit of paranoia at work here as well?

      Your attitude and inability/refusal to consider or look at Real Issues, i.e. other than Race, may or may not be part of The Problem - I can't really say...but what I am able to state with certainty is that you and those like you are just not part of the solution!

  • 20

    Race is a red herring. At core it isn't about race and never has been. It's about money. The area's pattern has always been one of money moving away from the city's core. It was that way before so many blacks migrated up here and became a substantial presence and it continues today as monied blacks are also now leaving the city.
    As has been noted the city's population started declining in the 1950s. During the decades of the 1950s and the 1960s the city experienced population decline in excess of 9% each decade. The peak rate of loss was In the 1970s and has slowed since then. Surprisingly, the lowest rate of population loss per decade between 1950 and 2000 was the 1990s.

  • 21

    Also to be considered:

    Was the peak population of 1,900,000 +/- really just an abnormality or articicial and rapid swelling induced by WWII defense work? That the 'normal and 'organic' growth - sans WWII - might have been much 'slower and lower'? And that when the 'Tide went out' suddenly after the war, many 'whales were left beached'?

    I don't know any of this to be the case, but it seems to be at least a credible point for consideration/analysis...

    • 21.1

      Excellent question and one that hasn't been asked yet in anything I've seen. It may not be the whole answer, but it's a factor I haven't seen put into the equation yet.

    • 21.2

      There was an uptick during the war years but it was slight compared to the rise of the auto industry. The real population boom occurred between 1900 and 1930. During those 30 years the city's population increased by 1.28 million people, from 285,704 on the 1900 census to 1,568,622 on the 1930 census, which figures to a 449% growth. By comparison, the Depression decade 1930-1940, saw a scant 3.5% growth and the war years, 1940-1950, a 13.9% growth.

      I did a quick plot of City of Detroit population numbers per US Census values -

      Note that these numbers are for the city only, not the entire Metro Detroit area.
      A year or two ago there was a 'Shrinking Cities' exhibit at MOCAD which indicated that while Detroit proper has been shrinking the metro region as a whole was not. It's sprawling.

  • 22

    Race has never been a red herring in our nation, explain the falsehood and dismissal to those in our nation who have suffered from the racism of white america...Explain that excuse to the families of MLK, Till, Parks, and countless others who have been wounded, killed and scared for life by white racism on this soil..

    The introduction of the industrial and demographic analysis is at end of the day yet another excuse and dodge offered up by apologists who seek to deflect and dodge the raw truth about racism in our nation..

    During the migration of Black folks into the industrial era of this part of the country, Detroit suffered a ugly race riot of 1947 of course this truth is not commented on by revisonist like anounce of action and cheerleaders like kioti..

    Fact is people like kioti and anounceofaction offer a underdeveloped analysis and thier denial of the pathology of racism only makes the battle to defeat it more difficult..Of course folks like me exist to bring truth to the fiction of shallow thinkers like kioti and company

    • 22.1

      Yep.... that seems to validate and confirm what I could only suspect before.... gthrasher, my friend, you are indeed part of the problem!!

    • 22.2

      So, wise one, what is your solution to the problem ? You seem incredibly angry and hateful and bent on revenge, not progress. What is it exactly that you would like to see happen? What lesson is it that you want everyone to learn? You claim you are "very happy" (#18..."Unlike you I do not post for you for that I am very happy"..) but IMO that is certainly not what your posts convey.
      I think one can either try to find the good in people and strive to make the city a better place (actions you might call "shallow"), or one can forever wallow in anger, hatred, and resentment. You choose.

    • 22.3

      Sorry, g, but you're the one stuck with an underdeveloped notion. If it's all purely about race why did your black brothers sell you out of Africa and into slavery? Why did and do wars occur when skin color is the same?
      It's not about race, gender, sexual orientation, language, or any other easy identifier - those are just tools to manipulate ignorant fools. It's about assets and power. Not everyone aspires to the heights that blatantly use those tools for an advantage - very few do - but those are the ones we need to be on guard against.

  • 23

    @ detroitrice,

    I am not responsible for your opinion of me nor do I have to accept your choices of how to address racism in this region..

    It must be a white privledge position to assume what is best for Black folks or to dictate how Black folks should deal with racism etc..

    I post to provide statements, opinions, declarations on issues .In the chatter class it always amazes me how folks like to define you from,lol,lol when it is racial thread white folks with thier white privledge attitudes really love to engage in this,lol,lol

    • 23.1

      Some people talk in a whisper,
      And some people talk in a drawl;
      And some people talk-and-talk-and-talk-
      And never say anything at all.

      "Thoughts on Talkers" The Collected Poems
      Walter R. Brooks, 1953

  • 24


    My comments reflect the state of race relations here in America...I know you cannot compete or debate me with any sucess so please stop from ging around the world for excuses and counterpoints..Just stick to the issue at hand in our country if you can...

    As I noted earlier I am not compelled to accept your flawed paradigms and references..From my vantage point it has never been about Power & Assets(your words) when the issue is about race even rich powerful Black folks encounter racism often and many still get called nigger of course in this context..

    Again my premise remains paramount on this thread our nation has been damaged by the legacy and continued reality of white supremacy and privledge even today 2009 from manifest destiny to slavery, ethic cleansing of indians, segregation, jim crow, separate but equal, disparate treament, digital divide, all manner of contempt from whites who have been the stewarts of our nation..

    The pathology of white underdevelopment still wounds and remains a barrier for many in our nation

  • 25

    ..Hmmm...ZZZzzzzzz.. Oh, Hey Coyote(out in Howell, and all!)..I just calls it the way I sees it!.. Most people were not afraid of Detroit after Riot. Most of our families actually tried to live up to Dr. JKing's Promise! But the Money-Grubbibg slugs (many who've been found guilty of crime( T'MAn, Davidson(?) Pistons)..And who 've donate many millions to U of M, BUT NOT anything-One inside of City Got to US GOVT. money -trough before Joe-Blow, and orchestrated the HUD Fiasco and sit (sat) on Corporate boards of Banks and Insurance cos., that deFacto , if not Actually, promoted Red-Lining for their own benefits! ..Paradigm!?...The only pair-o-Dimes I knows about is for paying ta'-shine-ma-shoes!!....'...

  • 26

    [...] Don’t call  him a Detroiter [...]

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    [...] since we all love our haters, I want all my fellow NFL Lions fans to check out detroit.blogs.time and tell me what you think about[...]

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    […] By the numbers, here’s just some of the native “Detroiters“: […]

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    Hotels Rooms With Hot Tubs

    Don’t call him a Detroiter - The Detroit Blog -

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