Thursday, August 05, 2010

SYSTEM OF SURVIVAL

The City of Detroit is still embroiled in a public debate on whether to dissolve the currently existing Detroit Public Schools system and reform it under mayoral control-- in this case, current mayor Dave Bing. Most members of Detroit City Council have publicly opposed mayoral control. A ballot initiative was presented to council last month, but council routinely waffled on voting on whether to allow for a ballot initiative to be given to Detroiters this fall that would give citizens the chance to vote on the proposal.
City Council meetings have turned into depressing gripe-fests, with those opposed to mayoral control being the loudest commenters. One commenter compared the idea of mayoral control reverting Detroit Public Schools to almost a slavery-era state of being. Most polarizing is the suggestion that mayoral control would, by default, rob Detroit citizens of voting rights on the composition of a school administration.
I stop short of assuming that the worst-case scenario will happen if Detroit's public school system falls under mayoral control. I have a problem with people who say they 'hate' the current board/system (and the behavior of board members) but mayoral control is automatically a non-starter for them. You either want change or you don't. People act as if DPS didn't have grave problems until emergency financial manager Robert Bobb was appointed by governor Jennifer Granholm.
And let's address the elephant in the room: I also have a problem with the way some local activists and officials have latched on to the existing structure of DPS (as well as Cobo Hall, the Water Department., etc.) as a "black owned business" by cultural default, and so any existing proposition for reform, especially radical reform, is categorized as a power-grab by quasi-anonymous Caucasian power-brokers in Lansing or the Metro suburbs. I hear "They want to" (as in, "they want to take over fill-in-the-blank) so much you would think that "T.H.E.Y., Inc." was a corporation based out of Bloomfield or somewhere. I'm dead sick of it.
Black political leadership has been at the helm of Detroit local government for nearly 40 years now. And here is where we are. Doesn't mean that local leadership is corrupt or inept by default, or that everything that has gone on here is all the fault of Detroit leadership. But Detroit leadership of the past and present must bear some culpability as well for not having the vision to address the things that Detroit faces now.
Too many folks here have come to embrace a certain myopic form of Afrocentrism that automatically assumes the worst of all other ethnic/racial groups while overly romanticizing our own, uncritical to a fault in many cases. Look at all the folks who still see former mayor Kwame Kilpatrick as a blameless victim of a (white) plot against a "powerful black man". Same goes for jailed political consultant Sam Riddle.
I'm weary of the political schizophrenia here. To me, it speaks ill of my fellow urban Detroiters when this reflexive nativism that exists just beneath the surface here comes up on every important local issue. Look at the recall campaign already against Bing. Let's say it goes through and Bing is recalled by November 2010-- then what? another go-round of special elections throughout 2011?

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