Strategic Proposal, Concept Paper, Narrative Disrupter, Culture Hack
Time Traveling Power Analysis
Justice takes Detroit Future City
This is a very rough draft, I could have spent more time on it but had to get it out. I request the patience of the initial readers. Though I have attempted to edit mindfully and critically, I recognize some aspects of my expressions here are hung up in my privileged attempts to bring meaning to what appears meaningless and logic to what appears illogical. Emphasis on the value of lived-experience often becomes a double-edged sword when wielded by privilege.
“Anti-racist is a code word for anti-white”
Earlier this week, I received an email from the organizers of the annual White Privilege Conference. They’ve been receiving hate mail recently and included a snippet in the email. As I read the words “Anti-racist is a code word for anti-white” I reflected on my personal intentions here in Detroit. I sincerely asked myself, based upon the fact that I’m outspoken about race and class based oppression, if it were possible that I’m anti-white? I have received this push back from new privileged Detroiters who passively support the dismantling of Detroit.
One of my personal intentions for Detroit, even in the face of economic and cultural changes, is that it remain a majority black city for a good long time. I see American austerity as racism and classism coded in the language of business and finance and the current political and economic coup d’etat unfolding in Detroit as part of a long term strategy for resource extraction and redistribution of power. The same strategies are being used globally.
Reconnecting to the Ethical and the Urgent
Why does a “creative class” white male, who is raising a family want to live in a black majority city? There are many cultural reasons for this, but thinking strategically about narratives and communications, the most prevalent one I’ve come up with is both ethical and urgent. In order to remove the number of people they are talking about removing in the amount of time they are talking about, even without tacking on the historical atrocities that are well-know, we quickly approach an inhumane reality. The privileged push back around gentrification typically cites shifts in populations as a natural and uncontrollable side effects of development. I propose that if we bring in some reality-based numbers and visuals around displacement they may inspire an ethical shift or answer immediate material concerns.
Respectful Intergenerational Strategy
The reason I propose we not reference the extremely relevant historical aspect is that folks with privilege seem to perceive the passage of time differently (money tends to speed things up). Many think that the 90’s are ancient history and that issues have lost relevance over time, like trends. After a recent discussion with Andrew Newton where he shared that a number of youth were put off by Rev. Sharpton and Rev. Jackson I began to consider a commonality between this privileged perspective and feedback I am getting about movement building from intensely disenfranchised twenty-something Detroiters.
As heretical as it sounds to my ears, he shared that many consider civil rights leaders passé. While resisting the urge to shake them for not seeing the relevance of the civil rights movement I think that it may reveal an intergenerational communications strategy and one that may intersect campaigns for youth and creative class, self-identified progressives.
I’ll need to posit this more, but it may suggest parsing our messaging to include a historical narrative that is appealing and calls to the “boomers” and write a ‘why is this relevant to me?’ narrative that answers the immediate concerns that I perceive may be more appealing to youth and those who may be more motivated by material rather than philosophical concerns.
Reverse Engineering Detroit Future City
I’ve been ‘in-deep’ writing strategy and positing narratives around the EM and while this is morbid as can be, I think with collective vetting it may serve as a valuable tool for internal and external undoing. I don’t like being hierarchical, and def do not like to draw lines, but this what I perceive to be a rather ‘advanced’ discussion that refers to a potential technique that should be kept internal and if considered, only inform public strategy, not be a part of it.
I’m suggesting that we create a safe space to consider what a non-majority black/POC Detroit would look like and then reverse engineer it. The process of reverse engineering basically walks us back through time to consider the policy changes and political shifts necessary to render this fantasized white Detroit possible within a particular time frame. A big huge chunk of our work on the fantasy has been done already by Detroit Future City.
For those of you familiar with a power analysis, what I am suggesting is like going forward in time, doing a power analysis and then stepping back to the present while considering and documenting the shifts in power that had to occur to get us from the present (point a) to the future (point b).
Once reverse engineering hypothetically documents the policies and programs that it would actually take to achieve a white majority Detroit, which I perceive would be utterly damning and, given a certain level of humanity (still crossing fingers, I know), hard to accept. This process could inform a critique of the narrative that reveals the coded racism in the plans, policies and politics that people are currently embracing under the banner or progress and mantra “there is no other way”.
It’d be like building an argument that clearly states that in order to get the Detroit these folks are looking for, they will have to do this, this and this. They would need to remove X many people, in order to remove X many people they would need to institute a, b, and c. Then succinctly point out how a, b and c have been historically and globally used to extract people from their land. Maybe this reveals a personal desire to be able to say, if you support this or even passively let this happen then you are standing with the banks, supporting the expansion of corporate domination and most importantly, IMO, that they are supporting efforts to extract certain people from the city while inviting others in.
A very rough example
Experiential acknowledgement of need for research assistance
I’m doing rough math here and I’m hoping a data-abled person can check my thinking here. I’m also assuming that when population increase is factored in, we will still see evidence of a removal program. There are still assumptions abound here. I’m attempting to get at the gist of something that needs serious detail and fact checking that is beyond my ken when visioning.
If Detroit’s black and people of color population is 90% (630,000) of the city’s population (700,000) and a comfortable visual representation of race for suburban white folk (my estimates based on personal observation, inquiry and discussions with others around such concerns, I’m thinking I can find a few academic studies to back this up) is 60% black/poc folk (420,000). Note: many whites will still feel slightly threatened in this racial environment, but they’ll swallow through it, give themselves an ethical merit badge in diversity and donate more to the police officer’s foundation next year.
That means that, let’s say they even take 10 years, they are going to have to ‘lose’ 30% of the population. That’s 210,000 people that they need to “inspire” through, political, economic and cultural tactics, to move on. Even if the population increase takes this down to 15% that’s 105,000 people. 10,000 people a year being escorted out through various means. I’m sure we can connect to some studies and numbers about school to prison here.
Other Strategy Revealed?
In addition, through this deconstruction of Future City Detroit we may gain further insight into economic and political strategy they have yet to roll out, their time frame for implementation, and to develop potential strategy, not only to counter but to be preemptive in our work.