By Deonte Osayande
We Americans like to point a finger at the world, announcing how terrible it is out there, and how much better life is here. The truth of the matter is that there is a lot of pain and sorrow abroad, but the same is true of our own home nation. I never thought I would ask how it is possible to be deserted when in the center of an oasis, to be thirsty when surrounded by water. I reside in a city on the front lines of America’s tomorrow. Here in Detroit, a war is being waged on racial and class lines. Days ago there was a protest downtown over the mass shut off of residential water in the city. Although the city is facing a bankruptcy crisis, the privatization of water, the cutting of pensions and social services shows where the disparity is coming alive. Many are left questioning how an American metropolis, especially one by the world’s largest source of fresh water, is unable to provide water services to so many of its citizens. The answer to that question is that it is a deliberate act to remove the citizens physically to force restriction on a region for profit. It is a different form of imperialism instituted by those in power on the people they are supposed to serve.
Joe Lewis Arena, where the Detroit Red Wings currently play hockey, isn’t shut off and they owe over $80,000 to the water company. Ford Field, where the Detroit Lions play football, isn’t shut off and they owe over $55,000 to the water company and golf courses across the city aren’t shut off when they owe more than $400,000 to the water company. The state of Michigan owes over $5,000,000 at the state fairgrounds within the city and they too aren’t shut off.
All of this is within weeks of the Emergency Financial Manager granting raises to city council members and a mayor that had done next to nothing for the citizens during this crisis. As of June 30th and effective July 1st pay raises of 5% were granted to these officials. It is true that Detroit has a financial crisis but it has also become clear that those in power are choosing economic gains over human beings, business interests over citizens and that is where the underlying problem comes to fruition.
Currently, I’m lucky to live in a midtown apartment, where things are always lively and vibrant. There is always something going on and as such, city services are always on call and working. I’m also one of the minorities that lives in this gradually changing pocket of town. I visit my parents on Detroit’s Westside almost daily. In these areas, where I grew up, there isn’t a strong police presence, definitely nothing like what I have seen in midtown. It takes them up to an hour to show up when called on and that is if they ever arrive at all. It has been that way for years now so it doesn’t surprise us anymore. What does surprise us is how they are suddenly so capable in areas like midtown and downtown where the people that have lived in Detroit their whole lives don’t frequent, but where suburbanites and newer residents do.
More than the city becoming a haven for business interests, it has become a location where we can plainly see American democracy has failed. Despite the people of the city of Detroit voting against the law that would provide an Emergency Financial Manager in November of 2012, in March of 2013 Kevin Orr was appointed the position after Governor Rick Snyder signed a revised version into law. Although the city had and still has a mayor and city council, this law gives Orr authority over the city’s finances and to an extent even gives him more power than the municipal authorities. The next step of questionable politics comes into play with the new mayor.