The Detroit protest rebellion of 1967 had the impact of crystallizing or aggravating a capital boycott that had then been developing for 15 or 20 years, a divestment by the bourgeoisie - big capital - something like that economic blockade or embargo on Cuba. This agreement for a capital boycott was not done by law, instead it was private agreements which were most responsible for the disassembly of Detroit as a labor giant. The relationship of business to Detroit as a result is something like the relationship of world capitalism to Haiti since the revolution there a couple of centuries ago.
With the corporate flight from Detroit, a capital boycott was inflicted on a former concentration point of capital investment, by suburbanization of factories, plant closings, runaway shops to the South, and globalization of production.
There was the bullet and then the ballot. The rebellion, a mass protest or demonstration, guerilla theatre against white supremacist unemployment, poverty and police brutality. Then the 1973 election of Coleman Young as a Black mayor extraordinaire. For these exercises of Black power and really for now being 85 percent majority Black population, Detroit is still under economic blockade punishment by the powers that be.
"The news magazines called Detroit a model city. They marveled at its
strong chin and gushed over the heroic benevolence of Mayor Cavanagh,
who had become the gallant knight of the War on Poverty by spearing
forty-two million federal dollars for the city's poor people. Cavanagh
was widely portrayed as a sort of Great White Sympathizer, and the
fact is, he worked hard at maintaining a symbiotic rapport with Black
leaders. In that spirit, he had established an amicable relationship
that let observers to think of Detroit as being immunized against the
outbreak of inner-city rioting that had torn apart Watts in 1965,
bloodied Chicago and Philadelphia, and in 1967 was sweeping the
country at a rate that would produce 164 incidents, among them major
revolts in Cleveland and Newark." (Young, 170)
The federal government's Kerner Commission report essentially agreed that the "riot" protests in the dozens of majority Negro ghettoes around the country had legitimate gripes. Detroit's 1967 mass spontaneous protests were the culmination of a socioeconomic historical shift which was marked by segregating of residence based on race through white flight to the suburbs especially beginning in the 1950s, escaping the move toward integration represented in open housing law. It was also part of a relative scattering of some main points of industrial production from a concentration in the city of Detroit ( and neighboring Dearborn) to the surrounding suburbs. It was a breaking up of the World War II era Arsenal of Democracy.
In a way, there seems to have been a shifting of the location of basic production from the Midwest to the South, from the U.S. to other countries, in what gets termed post-industrialism, post-Fordism, restructuring. The concentrated proletarian powerhouse was busted up and racially resegregated, on the typical American model: Black vs. white.
The bourgeoisie cannot really undo what they have done. They are hoisted on their own petard. Detroit is a pariah society in the national media still, as the latest Time article shows. White masses are shy to move back into Detroit; although in 2014, there has been some white popular migration into Detroit.
The bourgeoisie will not invest in the people of an African town like this, with so few white people to benefit. They are trying to move more white people in so that they can feel better about investing. They, the bourgeoisie, had to economically blockade us like Cuba, or Haiti have been for decades and scores of decades. Like the great heavyweight boxing champion of the world, Jack Johnson, Detroit is unforgivably Black and Proud.
Charles Brown is a political activist in Detroit, Michigan. He has degrees in anthropology and is a member of the bar. He teaches anthropology at Community College. His favorite slogan is "What’s good for the goose is good for the gander.”
Special thanks to N.C. Cai for editing and alignment.