Monday, July 23, 2007

40 years after the civil unrest in Detroit

National attention has been on Detroit in the past week due to the 40th anniversary of the civil unrest, which 43 people lost their lives and hundreds were injured and arrested.

My father, who lived in the area of the civil unrest, was home for summer break from college. Based upon my conversations with him and others who lived in that area, they feel that the mainstream media is deemphasing some important aspects that led to the civil unrest.

1) The incident at the "Blind Pig" was primarily based upon the neighborhood blacks feeling like the police was an occupying force within the community, not peace officers. The purported reason of economic disparities between blacks and whites being a trigger was not the main issue at all. Black males, including my father, were routinely harassed, robbed and brutalized by the police. A squad called the "Big 4," which came before the infamous "STRESS" were known for this criminal behavior. Prior to the "Blind Pig" incident, 3 black males were killed by the police in the Algiers Hotel because they were with white women in a hotel room. Like Malcolm X said, "The Klu Klux Klan traded in their sheets for police badges." The "Blind Pig" incident was just the straw that broke the camels back.

2) The civil unrest cannot be simplified as "black uprising" against whites. Blacks were the fatalities during in July 1967. Blacks were not going around killing white folks in the "hood" as some would lead the public to believe. Whites still lived in the "hood" during the unrest and were helping themselves to store merchandise when the looting was taking place with their fellow black Detroiters.

The looting and violence that took place during the civil unrest was defintely wrong and illegal. Even more repugnant was the oppression, injustice and social conditions that set the enviroment for the 5 days of madness during that "hot summer."

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