Well, hope you have been partying away in preparation for the millennium moment that really matters. Yessiree, Bob, or Betty, depending on your gender standpoint, we are on the cusp of the first fiscal year of the new epoch!
Thats right. The common herd may celebrate its millennium New Years Eve, at least until the Y2K bug zaps the lights. Professors, purists and other sour types may insist on waiting to party till 2001, though by then the Y2K survivors will no longer give a damn.
Yet this very week July 1 ushers in Fiscal 2000. No doubt, as a typical, seven-figure portfolio Metro Times reader, high finance is far more important to you than getting high. But later this weekend, after youve wheeled the spare Beemer into your Harbor Beach condo and settled down to watch "Wall Street Week," you might consider that your city of cities (Motown, remember?) has another big milestone ahead.
Thats right. Detroits 300th birthday. According to old MT clips, French imperialist Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac crawled out of his canoe on July 24, 1701 and began making life difficult for the locals, who soon established a custom by energetically killing each other.
Lots has happened since. Two years from now, the city will throw itself a huge party designed to make the nation take notice. Nearly every media outlet in town will likely recite factlets of local history all year, long after weve been bored to death. The better efforts are apt to give no worse a distorted picture of our past than, say, Saving Private Ryan or any other Hollywood movie did for World War II.
Naturally, this column is not only way ahead of the game, but, as always, can be counted on for nothing other than the real truth and true facts, remembering always that few things are ever as bad or as good as they seem. So in the interest of public service, before the spin doctors of all stripes get rolling, here are some things to keep in mind.
Detroit Myth No. 1: Popular myth to the contrary, this is a fairly young city. Detroits population, the mayors last-ditch efforts to find every hobo to the contrary, is likely to be something like 950,000. True, slipping below a million will be a loss of face, one nobody could have imagined in 1950, when we topped out at 1,893,000.
But had Detroiters in 1900 been told their city would have nearly a million people in a century, theyd have been overjoyed. Everything is relative. True, the town has been here a long while, though for most of that while, it was mainly a wide spot in the road. Founded in 1701, the city had barely 295,000 people by its 200th birthday. Then Hank the First figured out how to make a whole lotta cars fast and cheap, and the place took off. Till then, Detroit was not a true city, just a largish town where they made stoves.
Detroit Myth No. 2: Everything would be fine now if it hadnt been for the riot of 67. This caused many whites to leave, and as a result Coleman Young was elected mayor, after which he told the rest of the palefaces to scram.
Virtually every melanin-impaired person in the area believes some version of this. Trouble is, it aint so. The biggest decade of flight was the 1950s, when blacks were far less than a third of the population and no one imagined they would ever be a majority. Hundreds of thousands of Detroiters left for the suburbs, largely because they wanted more space. Far fewer left in the 1960s. And what Young actually said in his famous speech was that any criminals, whether wearing gray flannel or Superfly outfits, better hit "Eight Mile Road" and get out of Dodge. Somehow memory transformed that into an anti-white speech, which may say more about local whites than the late mayor.
Detroit Myth No. 3: Twin myths, actually: While they wont say so in any but the most private settings, most whites believe Detroit has been ruined by its black majority. The black version is that whites have ruined the city by plotting to deny Detroit capital and jobs. The truth is that Detroits inability to annex the suburbs, or even get some fair share of revenue from those who live there, is the real problem. Whatever the Bloomies pretend, the suburbs would be cornfields if not for the city.
Detroit Myth No. 4: Detroit is over. Finished. The future is in Livingston County or Holly Township or some other landfill area. Thats what they have been saying since the place burned down for the first time in ... 1805.
Granted, the city never will be what it was. We should thank the gods for that. The glory days included Jim Crow and tenements so filthy and rickety they had rat flight.
So what will Detroits future hold? That, comrades, is up to all of us.
Footnote: Whoever said Republicans werent wildly imaginative? Consider: Every national GOP ticket after 1972 has had either a Bush or Dole on it as presidential or vice-presidential nominee. The most likely ticket next year, as of now? Son of Bush (SOB) for President and Wife of Dole (WOD) for vice president. Bet youre turned on already.