Racial tensions are growing as the perceptions and evidence of racial inequality are growing.
Many of Detroit's residents see billionaires buying up downtown buildings where new retailers open shop, selling items most of Detroit's impoverished citizens cannot afford. There's a marked divide between that prosperity in downtown and the poverty in the neighborhoods.
That divide is stark in the Cass Corridor. New residents, often white, are moving in. Rents are rising. New restaurants and boutique shops are popping up. The old residents, often black, are being pushed out.
Correction for the audio interview: 48217 is the most polluted ZIP code in Michigan (as stated), but the Delray neighborhood is in the neighboring ZIP code. It is the second most polluted.
The Flint water crisis has brought attention to a larger issue: why do we see more contamination and pollution issues in areas where poor people and, often, people of color live?
Flint’s water is just the tip of the iceberg. Flint has been an industrial city for generations, and still suffers from the lingering pollution left behind by over a century’s worth of factories. Much of the city’s housing was built using lead-based products like paint.
Earlier this year I talked about Southfield, which I think is one of the more intriguing communities in Michigan.
Southfield, which has between 70,000 and 75,000 people, basically was born, like so many other places, with the great suburban sprawl that began in the early 1950s, with the coming of the freeways and the malls.
Many people asked where Keshia Thomas is today after this post.
The BBC reported that Keshia lives in Houston now. Ryan Stanton over at the Ann Arbor News caught up with her. He reports that Thomas moved out of the area in 2002 and is working in a restaurant in Houston:
She said she still has family in the Ann Arbor area and plans to move back to Michigan before long so she can be part of the revitalization of Detroit [Thomas was born in Detroit].
Thomas said she's still trying to make a difference in the world and still trying to break down racial stereotypes through small acts of kindness.
She said disaster relief work has been a passion of hers over the years, whether that's meant going to Ground Zero after the twin towers fell or helping those in need following Hurricane Katrina and wildfires in California.
"This has just always been a passion of mine — even before the incident happened — to want to help people," she said. "And to help people see that there is hope."
Tuesday, October 29th, 2013 3:39 p.m.
A BBC article that’s making the rounds today tells the story of one Ann Arbor protest that took an unexpected turn.
Back in 1996, the Ku Klux Klan planned a rally in Ann Arbor. Hundreds showed up to the group’s rally, attempting to show the group that they had no place in the Michigan city.
Police had kept the two groups under control — that is, until an anti-KKK protester pointed to a man in a Confederate flag T-shirt, claiming he was a Klansman.
Suddenly, the atmosphere in the crowd turned, as protesters chased the man down the streets of Ann Arbor, amidst shouts of “Kill the Nazi.”
Hurley CEO Melany Gavulic said the father was informed that his request could not be granted...
Gavulic said the request was not granted and that all nurses remained available to care for his baby.
“We (Hurley) value the support of the patients who entrust us with their care and the dedication of our physicians and staff,” she said. “This includes nurse Battle and her quarter century of professionalism and dedication.”
Gavulic declined to comment or answer questions regarding the lawsuit.
The Flint Journal's Ron Fonger reports that Al Sharpton's National Action Network (NAN) will hold a rally today outside the emergency room of the Hurley Medical Center in Flint.
The Rev. Charles E. Williams II, president of the Michigan chapter of NAN, said the Hurley story is being watched across the nation.
"There is growing concern around the country about how this could be in 2013," Williams said today. "There will be growing pressure as Hurley continues to be quiet."
The group is protesting the treatment of an African-American nurse who claims she was barred from treating an infant after the father made a request that no black nurses be allowed to treat his child.
The Flint Journal reports the incident occurred last fall. The suit claims the father went to the nurse's supervisor with the request.
The father, who is not named in the suit, told the supervisor that he did not want an African American nurse taking care of his baby, the suit alleges. The father allegedly rolled up his sleeve and showed a tattoo that was believed to be a swastika while talking with the supervisor, the suit says.
According to the lawsuit, the supervisor then reassigned the infant to a different nurse.
On Nov. 1, 2012, a decision was made to grant the father's request that no African American nurses care for his child, the suit alleges.
In a statement, Hurley Medical Center says it "does not comment on past or current litigation."
When Barack Obama was elected to the White House four years ago, there was talk of a "post-racial era." With an African-American as president, some thought the racist notions of the past would be eliminated.
Race issues can be difficult to talk about. People often focus on differences, rather than what they have in common.
This weekend, The People's Institute for Survival and Beyond, is holding a two-day workshop in Ann Arbor called, “Undoing Racism.” Friday is the last day to register for the workshop, at the Ann Arbor Community Center.
Rachael Ibrahim is a volunteer community organizer and one of the event trainers. She says the workshop is open to everyone.
“Students, parents, teachers, administration, it’s an important conversation for everybody because there is no one who can escape racism. It exists everywhere, whether we see it or feel it, it exists," she said. "So this conversation is important for everybody."
As an African American women, Ibrahim says she personally sees many inequities that need to be addressed. “Whether we’re talking about health care, whether we’re talking about the rate in which people are incarcerated… if we look at education… and we see some trends, then there is something important to look at when we can see the disparities among people of color,” she said.
Several weeks ago, I was contacted by someone attempting to smear Congressman Hansen Clarke, who faces a tough primary race next month to try and keep his job.
The writer told me that he had uncovered the fact that the congressman’s father was from a different country and gave his son a different name, which he later changed. Well, not only had I known that, I had written about it.
Clarke has never made a secret of either that his father was from Pakistan. Nor was it a secret that the boy was named Molik Hashem, a name he later Anglicized.
What was once a private collection of racist memorabilia has now been expanded to a full-blown museum on the campus of Ferris State University.
When sociology professor David Pilgrim came to Ferris State, he brought with him his collection of racist artifacts and donated them to the university. For years the items sat in a small classroom on campus, but are now on display in the new Jim Crow Museum of Racist Memorabilia.
As we continue our Seeking Change series, Michigan Radio's Christina Shockley speaks with Alan Headbloom, founder of Headbloom Cross Cultural Communication. The business helps foreign workers learn the nuances of English and American culture to help them get along in the workplace. And, an offshoot of his work is helping businesses tackle racism.
Last year at this time, I was sifting through YouTube videos of Martin Luther King, Jr. and was amazed at the treasure trove out there.
For some, the man whose words are immortalized, who we celebrate with a holiday, seems untouchable - buried in the pages of history books.
But when you watch these videos, Martin Luther King, Jr. comes to life. As I mentioned last year:
We can watch video of his interviews on Meet the Press. We can see King tell a joke on a talk show. We can see what he said in a speech the night before he was killed, and we can watch Walter Cronkite tell the nation that the man who helped change our society was dead.
Here's another video I came across today. It includes excerpts of an interview King did with NBC correspondent Tom Petit. The interview aired on NBC on May 7, 1967 as part of its program "The Frank McGee Sunday Report: Martin Luther King Profile."
During the interview King explains his reasons for opposing the Vietnam War.
He says he decided to publicly oppose the war after several months of reflection - part of that reflection, he says, took place in Jamaica as he was writing a book.
"I came to the conclusion then, that I had no alternative but to take a vigorous stand against the war."
King said the Vietnam war "is doing a great deal to destroy the lives of thousands and thousands of my brothers and sisters. We are dying physically in disproportionate numbers in Vietnam, some 22 and four tenths percent, even though we are only 11 percent of the population."
The video ends with a excerpt from a speech King gave in Cleveland on April 28,1967 about his decision to oppose the "evil war" in Vietnam.
He says, "And no matter where it leads, no matter what abuses it may bring, I'm gonna tell the truth."
In October of 2010 the Kalamazoo Community Foundation declared itself an anti-racist organization. But the foundation's leaders recognized it was going to take more than just a declaration to counteract persistent racial disparities.
Sharon Anderson, the foundation's Community Investment Officer, spoke with Michigan Radio's Tamar Charney.
"We're looking at every aspect of our work to determine who is being left out. Who is not at the table, and why...so that whatever we do, we do from an informed perspective," said Anderson.
The anti-racist program at the Kalamazoo Community Foundation was designed to include youths and youth-serving organizations. The foundation provides resources for youth organizations to develop after-school programs that build academic and social skills, and teach leadership and civic engagement.
The goal is more than equality, it's equity--identifying the gaps and taking action to ensure that every group has the opportunity to be successful. For Anderson that means fighting racial disparities by educating leaders and having an informed perspective when it comes to community development initiatives.
"We struggled in the beginning--where should we start? And the lesson is, start anywhere and keep moving," Anderson said.
The election of President Obama in 2008 made some believe racism in the United States had declined. That's according to a study from the University of Michigan. It measured perceptions of racism amongst Americans before the 2008 election and again in 2010.
Nicholas Valentino is a professor with U of M. He says it’s difficult to know how perceptions about racism are formed. But he thinks it might have to do with obstacles different racial groups face:
Dozens of Latinos and Arab Americans joined faith leaders from around Michigan at the state Capitol calling on lawmakers to reject a House immigration bill similar to the controversial immigration law in Arizona.
The House Republican proposal would require police officers to question people about their immigration status if there is a suspicion that the person could be an undocumented worker.
Imam Mohammed Mardini of the American Islamic Center in Dearborn says a similar controversial law in Arizona has caused a lot of problems with how to determine who should be targeted:
"One Congressman suggested that you could tell an undocumented immigrant by their shoes. Let us face it – the police aren't going to be pulling over any suspected Canadians."
But Republican Representative Dave Agema says the intention of the bill is genuine, not racist.
"You're going after anyone who happens to be here illegally and they've already broken a law, that's why the police officer has detained them."
Agema says his proposal would save the state money in health care costs for illegal immigrants, but the protesters say it would cost the state money in additional law enforcement personnel.
Governor Rick Snyder says he wants to bring more immigrants to the state who have advanced degrees.
They say there are now more than 1,000 such groups around the country, the first time the SPLC has seen the number of "hate groups" top 1,000 since it started counting them in the 1980s.
From the SPLC press release:
Several factors fueled the growth: resentment over the changing racial demographics of the country, frustration over the lagging economy, and the mainstreaming of conspiracy theories and other demonizing propaganda aimed at minorities and the government.
A hate group is defined by the SPLC as a group that has "beliefs or practices that attack or malign an entire class of people, typically for their immutable characteristics."
The SPLC lists 35 "hate groups" in Michigan on their map.