That’s a picture of me sitting on the front porch of our very modest house on the west side of Detroit in 1964. This was a typical working class neighborhood of story and a half houses- autoworkers, policemen, construction workers, mechanics- a classic Detroit blue collar neighborhood. This was a vibrant time for Detroit. The auto companies were booming and Motown was at its peak. The streets were filled with kids playing baseball, riding bikes, playing tag and laughter. I loved our neighborhood. There was always something fun going on. It was a safe place and I had a lot of friends.
All of this was disrupted by the riots that occurred in 1967 in Detroit. I was six years old and I remember the fear that swept through our neighborhood. Even though the majority of the unrest was in other sections of Detroit, my parents were concerned about letting us out of the house. The following year, the Detroit Tigers won the World Series and I remember the uneasiness in the car during a trip downtown to celebrate the victory. We took security for granted and my parents were not prepared to deal with this uncertainty.
Shortly after the riots, my father made the decision to move out of the City. After a search for a new home, we moved about 25 miles north of Detroit into the suburbs. This decision was not an easy one. We loved our neighborhood and the area where we lived. We were close to much of our family. We were close to shopping and parks and all the things that we liked. But the area did not feel safe anymore.
So my family joined in the exodus to the suburbs along with countless other families and businesses. After the riots, the political leadership shifted more progressive and what followed was a series of administrations characterized by corruption and mismanagement. The exodus of people and businesses and poor leadership destroyed the City that I remember. Detroit is now a shell of what it once was. Over a hundred years of success and wealth left the City, mostly to the suburbs. Detroit was once a beacon of prosperity and the fourth largest city in the country.
I worry about the effects of the current unrest, political division and the anarchist groups in our country. There are already reports in real estate publications of an exodus to the suburbs in New York City fueled by the current unrest and the COVID situation. If given the choice, security is something most families will not compromise. When people and businesses leave, the tax base erodes and this starts a financial spiral downward that is nearly impossible to stop. Additionally, in today’s business environment, most folks are no longer forced to live or work in a particular area. We are now extremely mobile. We can pick up and move. For many of us, we have found that as long as we have an internet signal, we can work. There are no concrete reasons requiring that you stay in the city.
This also has ramifications nationally. If the country takes a turn towards socialism and the central government balloons in both size and control (along with taxes), we may see another exodus. This will be an exodus out of the United States. This shift would be a result of a lack of financial security and a loss of the personal liberties that have been the trademarks and success story of the U.S. We have seen this occur in our hemisphere with Cuba and Venezuela as they shifted to communism and socialism. During these changes, countless businesses and families left their homes for security in the U.S. There are also plenty of U.S. ex-pats all over the world that have made the move to other countries for various reasons, so this option has been proven to be realistic. In today’s world and global economy, The U.S. is now competing with other countries for the residency of our U.S. citizens and businesses. Security is not something to mess with. Families and businesses will not tolerate conditions that are either unsafe or insecure.
So what happens after the riots? The exodus. You can’t expect people to tolerate insecure environments when they can find peace and prosperity somewhere else. Let’s hope and pray that the current unrest and uncertainty ends so we can avoid the downward spiral that has historically followed these events.
One response to “This is what happens after the riots”
Amazing insight, Joe! So unfortunate what happened to Detroit. Wish I could have seen it when you were young!