With Detroit suffering from a slumping economy, challenging issues have thrust the city under a microscope, open to all for judgment, speculation and ridicule. Among its current problems, there have been scandals involving corrupt politicians, some of whom are suspected of politicking at the expense of taxpayers. The Detroit Public School District has been victimized by drastic budget cuts that will cause 29 schools to close at the end of this school year. Unemployment rates have skyrocketed. But what I find to be one of the most interesting causes of Detroit’s economic instability is the phenomenon called “white flight.”
When Detroit was a booming industrial city in the early- and mid-1900s, its revenue came from the white upper and middle classes. In the mid-1900s, white flight — during which the city’s white population drastically decreased due to the arrival of blacks in predominantly white areas — changed this booming industrial city. Consequently, the city’s revenue became largely dependent on the black middle class. Now that Detroit’s black middle class is moving out, the city’s revenue base is suffering. When a city’s population decreases, the tax base shrinks. Yet, despite the decreased income, it still attempted to maintain the same level of operation instead of adjusting its budget to reflect the loss of revenue.
To solve some of Detroit’s problems, local and state policymakers must have honest conversations. Though many may disagree, I think it’s in Detroit policymakers’ best interest to involve the state in the regentrification process of this city. If Detroit sees that one strategy doesn’t work, changes must be made so that strong, resourceful alliances can be sought.
To make the improvements the city needs, old ideas must be replaced with new ideas. The city must find optimistic leaders with fresh ideas and the capacity to restore Detroit’s potential, maintain an informed citizenship and call for educational reform that will enable Detroit’s youth. Through this education reform, Detroit will be investing in the promise of its youth to create a better tomorrow for their city. Educating the youth of Detroit will lead to a more stable future. In addition, Detroit must create a promising industry to attract the brightest and best leadership to stay, live and thrive in this city.
The million dollar question, of course, is if Detroit will bounce back and stabilize its economy by providing its citizens with job security and attract interest to repopulate the city or continue to struggle.
Brittany Smith is an LSA sophomore