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Detroit, by the book

I really enjoyed your cover story article "Storefront Salvation" (Metro Times, Jan. 11, 2006), both the article and the photos. Camilo José Vergara has been mining the beauty of urban spaces for decades, examining a structure over the course of years to study a building's initial grandeur, neglect, abandonment and rehabilitation or demolition. I know he received a lot of flak for his audacious idea of turning Detroit's downtown skyscraper graveyard into an architectural theme park.

Vergara's other two books, New American Ghetto (1997, Rutgers University Press) and American Ruins (1999, Monacelli) can be seen as the antithesis to Robert Shariff and William Zbaren's American City: Detroit Architecture 1845-2005 (2005, Painted Turtle Books) that was recently reviewed in your paper ("Still Standing," Metro Times, Nov. 30, 2005).

How The Other Half Worships also has much in common with Bill Harris' full-color book Talking Shops: Detroit Commercial Folk (2004, Great Lakes Books) which examines the street art found on inner city buildings. It would be fun to look at these two books side by side.

And I appreciate that you included the URL for Vergara's Invincible Cities Web site at the end of the article. That's a fun site to navigate. I hope he includes Detroit soon.

Thanks, again. I enjoy reading anything about Detroit. —Allen Salyer, Royal Oak

 

Where we're coming from

This letter is to praise Jack Lessenberry for stating one of the most important facts that residents of southeast Michigan need to learn: No one "beyond Toledo makes a distinction between Livonia or Canton or Sterling Heights and Detroit" ("Support Kwame, fight for schools," Metro Times, Jan 11, 2006).

I come from Columbus, Ohio. When I arrived in Ann Arbor to go to college, I met people in the dorm from the Detroit area. I'd ask them where they are from; one would say Farmington Hills, one Livonia, one Royal Oak. I would then ask, where is that? Only then would they refer to the area as a suburb of Detroit. This went on for years. It confused me why people would refer to their suburb and not Detroit when stating their origin.

Now, of course, after living in the area for 15 years, I understand why people were ashamed to admit they were from the Detroit area.

And they did live in Detroit, if only the Detroit area. When they went to the zoo, they went to the Detroit Zoo; for art, the DIA; when rooting for their home team, it was the Lions or Tigers or Pistons.

I have friends who live in Silver Spring, Md. Do they tell new acquaintances that they live in Silver Spring? No, they say Washington, D.C. Before that, they lived in Somerville, Mass., but they told people they were in Boston. Sure, when they met other locals, they'd say Somerville. But to anybody but locals, they were Bostonians. Until the people of this area can admit that they are from Detroit, and be proud of this fact, there is a long way to go for this area. Until we can see ourselves as one, cohesive population all working for the good of southeast Michigan and Detroit, we will never be able to take pride in our city and people. —Chris Palmer, Ann Arbor

 

What's a minority?

I read with much interest Mr. Lessenberry's column, "A Very Difficult Year" (Jan. 4, 2006). Though I normally agree with (or at least respect) his opinion and take on many matters, I'm going to disagree with his assertions about the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative. I plan to vote for it utterly and completely come the next ballot initiative.

Before you drag my name over to the "white racist" column, however, let me share why I'm voting against affirmative action. The reason why may surprise you. (Surprise! Not all whites are racist — amazing but true.)

One of the purest definitions of "minority" comes from Webster's: "A part of a population differing from others in some characteristics and often subjected to differential treatment." More often than not, in political circles, "minority" also means a smaller group or race that's often been discriminated against. And as such, affirmative action was designed to give an edge to previously wronged groups.

OK, so let's run with that.

Per the 2004 census, Hispanics are the largest minority at about 40 million. African-Americans are right behind at almost 35 million. Native Americans fall way behind that at about 4 million. Even father behind fall Arab-Americans (1.2 million). Asian-Americans are somewhere in the middle.

Yet a quick call to almost any major university reveals that African-Americans — the second largest minority group — receive the most benefits from affirmative action, followed closely by Hispanics — the highest ranking minority — and coming in a distant third, Native American students.

Yet Arab and Asian students — well below the census numbers of Hispanics and Africans — are left out in the virtual cold. Why? If the point of affirmative action is to give preferential treatment to minority groups who in the past have been discriminated against, then why include one group but not another? —Jonathon Kecskes, Saint Clair Shores

 

Child abuse?

Re: "Wham BAMN" (Metro Times, Jan. 11, 2006), I found your article to be fair and balanced. I must add, however, that BAMN is destructive to the democratic process and lies to gain credibility for its wild claims. What should one expect from a group that goes by the name, "by any means necessary?" They are totally close-minded, abuse innocent children and distort the views of their opponents. I consider them to be despicable. —Ward Connerly, American Civil Rights Coalition, Sacramento, Calif.

 

Leave Kwame alone

I suppose it is kindergarten-like to say, "Nya-nya-nya-nya-nya."

But is it really any less immature to finger-point, blame and accuse over and over and over and over like you guys do? Since when has sarcasm been the sign of a mature adult? If anything, you just proved Kwame's point, that you're out to get him. You proved it by wasting ink on this story trying to paint him as immature, which in turn is rather immature in and of itself. This small piece in your magazine reeks of a playground scene, little kids bickering back and forth.

If you guys really want to help the city of Detroit, you'll leave the mayor alone. The people who cared enough to vote chose him, and if you attack him, you're attacking them. People in the city are suspicious of publications like your own because of how much you attack the mayor. Maybe one day you'll learn. —A. Grande Baliad, Detroit

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