Detroit bankruptcy simply disappeared from the media radar screens, more interested in Kim Kardashian and Kayne West and their baby than a city of 700,000. When we speak of Detroit, we must speak of Nagakasaki, of Hiroshima, of Berlin, Hamburg, Dresden, Coventry, Cologne and other Japanese and European cities destroyed by the allies during WWII, and wonder why their cities are thriving and our are dying?
What happened in Detroit is an insulting indictment of political Washington, state and local governments, urban planners, industrialists, business and banking, community leaders and here I mean Blacks at the national and local levels. Such things do not happen just for the hell of it. It is absolute failure at all levels. What happened to Detroit is wake up call for all cities and towns to look to Europe for solutions to America’s decaying cities and not to American urban planners.
It is hard to believe the city that brought Europe to its knees during WWII is now a run down abandoned city. It is more disgusting to think of the role played by the automotive executives and their crooked allies on Wall Street to bring down Detroit, its people and all the hundreds of thousands of autoworkers and their families who made Detroit the Motor Town of the world.
Detroit brought us such great cars as the Corvettes, the Mustangs, Pontiac GTO, Camaro, TransAm, 57 Chevy, and the good old 59 Cady. The American bailout of the automotive industry was nothing more than redistribution of wealth shifting the benefits of bailout from pensioners with billions vested, to executives and stockholders who in the first place should be held responsible for bad incompetent management. Pensioners and taxpayers should never bail out stockholders who entrusted their money to reckless incompetent management. Stockholders risk their investment not pensioners and tax payers.
With the arrival of Roger B. Smith as GM CEO in the 1980, and later Rick Wagoner, the corporate decisions on production, quality and financial management shifted from the production floors and executive suites to Wall Streets and firms like Goldman Sachs and its ambitious young ruthless “ security analysts” were making or breaking companies by their quarterly reports. Detroit executives spent more time courting Wall Streets than they did managing the shops making sure there are quality products rolling off the floor.
Detroit for the most of the 80’s and 90’s even part of the 70’s with some few exception did not produce quality cars to compete with the emerging Japanese auto industry and keeping pace with the energetic and high quality engineering coming out of Stuttgart and Wolfsburg.
Wall Street did not stop at controlling corporate decisions through quarterly reports it began to loot what is there to loot. Kohlberg Kravis Roberts, Goldman Sachs, Capital Five Miles Capital purchased GMAC for $8 billions worth tens of billions in cash. In 2006 Cerberus Capital Management (Steve Feinberg) bought 51% of GMAC for $14 billions over 3 years period. Could you imagine that someone who could not spell potatoes former VP Dan Quale in 1999 became chairman of the company Global Investment Division.
GM was not the only automotive company to experience such mighty fall. Ford hired Jacques Nasser as its chief executive and he wasted $5 billions of hard earned money on his new schemes of setting up Ford owns dealership forgetting that dealerships and its owners have powerful allies in state capitals and he was out. What saved Ford is its focus on its automobiles, unlike GM and Chrysler. Of course we all remember Mr. Iacocca the man who brought us the Ford Mustang when at Ford and later saved Chrysler.
However the Black leadership and community should take ownership of what happened to Detroit. Of course there is deep rooted racism in America that federal and state legislation could never address or get rid of, however there is serious issues and problems within the Black community. I know this statement and opinion will make many angry but it has to be said. What happened to Detroit is a wake up call for all Blacks.
Couple of weeks ago, Aljazeera English anchor Don Harris aired a special report on his own city of Baltimore addressing issues facing young Black kids. While the issues are complex, so far the Black national and local leadership simply did not take the lead to solve the problems facing the Black community once and for all. They made it, they moved out, leaving millions behinds in need of a leadership committed to make a difference not fill its bank accounts.
Don Harris main focus was on education and I do agree that education must be the central focus point in taking the first step in solving chronic long-term issues facing the Black community. No one can convince me that issues facing Blacks are insolvable. Time to end slavery now.
Through educations the Jewish and Asian community moved from an immigrant community with almost nothing to thriving community with many of its children top graduate of the best schools in America in fields such a medicine, science and technology, engineering, law among others. The Hispanic, Arab and Muslim communities followed suites learning from the experience of the Jewish and Asian community that education is the corner stone of success and stable community. I simply do not understand why the Black community has to be at the bottom all these years?
So far, the Black community did not take the call of education as the surest way to fix what ails such community, from single motherhood, to drugs, alcohol, unemployment, violence and murder, prisons to dependence on welfare.
Consider these shocking statistics. Black women more likely to be single moms, stay on welfare longer (7 years) than White (4 years) and Hispanic. 38% of the Black on welfare though Blacks represent 12-13% of US populations, they make up 40.1 % of the prison population with young Black men having a 29% chance of going to jail at one time or another. According to US Justice Department 2003 statistics 193,000 college age men where in prison compared to 533,000 in college and with one fifth of Black college age men in their 30’s have prison records.
In terms of education, the statistics are even more disturbing. Blacks represent 2% of the total 4% of US engineering graduate with very few going for science, math and engineering degrees with 89 Blacks out of 5,048 receiving their PhD degrees in the sciences and technology.
Though racism in the judicial system, in the work place is an issue that could never be overlooked, the Black national and local leadership should step forward and take responsibility for their own community rather than leaving it the failing welfare system and single moms on welfare to take and address these issues and take care of kids heading to jails or the morgues.
For the most part once these Blacks make it in life whether in sport, in media, show business, they move out to affluent White neighborhoods with little contacts with the inner cities unless they are looking for votes. It is time for these successful Blacks to come back to the “hood” and take charge and make a difference and provide the leadership badly needed.
The ambition of young Black is to make it big in show business, become successful rappers, or join national sport team. Very few dreams of becoming engineers, mathematicians, scientist and technology executives. That takes hard work, long hours of studies and a house and neighborhood that supports education. For the most part Black schools are run down just like the neighborhood. I could never understand why education is not a right guaranteed by state and federal governments? And why funding is not from general taxes instead from local property taxes with poor neighborhood with little tax base ill afford good schools and good teachers thus perpetuating poverty, unemployment, crimes and jail time.
It is time for the Black leadership to take its rightful place and help solve the Black issues once and for all. Black people like all citizens deserve to take their place in the sun and in the work place and make “Welfare Queen” a thing of the past.
Every one who was and is in power in Detroit all conspired to loot Detroit and its key industries and divisions. Do not know why many of the federal programs directed toward poor Blacks are badly run, mismanaged even looted.
Detroit is not the first certainly will not be the last city to file bankruptcy. Other counties and cities preceded Detroit such as Boise County, Stockton, Mammoth Lake, San Bernardino, Jefferson County, Decatur, Harrisburg and Colonial Fall. Cities like corporations do not file for bankruptcy because of great and successful management. There are also major socioeconomic issues that contribute to and are key to the cancer that afflicts major American cities.
I should know. I immigrated to Gary, Indiana an Mid-Western industrial town that saw some great times and now run down infected with crimes, unemployment, drugs, murder and loss of industrial and tax base due to flight of people from the city.
When I arrived in Gary back in 1962, it was a thriving city with vibrant down town with major stores such a Sears, JCPenny, Goldblats, cinemas, and beautiful homes close to mansions on the West Side, with excellent schools such as Horace Mann High (my high school). I graduated from high school went to DC to work for National Airlines and then was drafted into the US Army. Horace Mann within couple of years went from a top ranking schools in the state to a high school that graduate students at 9th grade reading level. My brothers had to take remedial course upon graduation.
When I was honorably discharged I returned to Gary and all that changed. Richard Hatcher was elected as one of the first Black mayors together with Carl Stokes of Cleveland and within couple of years, most of the Whites fled the city and one block after another became run down. When my parents decided to retire to Palestine to take care of my ill grandmother, we had a tough time selling the house and we sold it at a great loss. My brothers and sisters we all left not only Gary but also the state. Drugs and murder became the landmark instead of steel productions. Gary never recovered and never found solutions for its decay. Gary’s casino did not help revive the city and nor will the $440 million Detroit hockey stadium revive a dying city.
When we talk of Detroit we must also talk of the Back community, people and leadership and their contribution to the failing of Detroit. As if looting the automotive industry by executives and Wall Street was not enough, Black leadership also helped itself to looting the city and some of its key departments and institutions. What a shame!
In closing I have to share this very interesting experience. Few years back my wife and I were invited to a Christmas party held by Black executive and his wife. The executive was a former high-ranking official in the Bush I, administration and upon leaving the administration set up a company to manage Medicaid to poor Blacks and those on welfare.
The parry was held in a multimillion dollar home, with butlers almost equal to guests costing perhaps a hundred thousands, thanks to the many poor Blacks who made such party possible.
Ps. Back in the mid 90’s I secured a US patent to record and track maintenance and service of “machines” on a smart card. I put up a million dollars of my own money and raised anther $1.5 millions. My invention and application (AutoSmartCard) made the front page of “Automotive News” The AutoSmartCard allowed car owners to keep track of all of the warranty service and other service on the car on the smart card with easy access at home (internet application) and also in dealership and garages. Hired top automotive executives to run the company with the hope to sell the idea to the industry. None of the major car manufactures were interested in empowering the consumer to have easy access to their service records. Within few years I had no choice but to shut down the company and write off the loss. Neither car dealers nor the industry was interested in empowering the consumer to take charge of the service records of their cars, saving thousands of unwarranted repairs.
Sami, a Palestinian-American and a US Army Veteran (66-68), recipient of the “soldier of the month award and leadership award from the 6th Army NCO Academy, is an international legal and business consultant with over 40 years of international experience, in construction, hospitality services, conservation, and defense, in the Middle East, Europe, and North Africa. Sami is a holder of BA, MPA in Public and Environmental Affairs, Jurist Doctor from Indiana University. While at IU he was elected class president, student government president and chairman of the Indiana Students Association,
Active in peace movement as a co-author of the pre-amble for the One State for All of its people and voluntary service program SalamNation. A frequent contributor on national and international affairs. He resides in the United States.