Earlier this month, organizers of the annual Mackinac Policy Conference announced that in the wake of racial tensions that have erupted in cities around the country, this year's event would close with a panel discussion on race and class in Detroit and Michigan. Soon after, Detroit News
columnist Nolan Finley and WDIV anchor Devin Scillian — two white men — would be hosting a discussion about racial inclusion in Detroit.
“We think this is a national discussion,” conference chairman Mark Davidoff explained of the decision
. “If we don’t talk about it, it might get ahead of us, and we can’t afford that.”
But as Aaron Foley points out in a critique over at Bridge
, "Sometime between 1967 and now would’ve been a good time to address race."
He adds: "Why name two middle-aged white men, both residents of suburbs, neither with school-aged children in the city to talk about how residents of color are faring in Detroit? Was there not a single person of color available to host this discussion?"
According to Finley
, the Mackinac Policy Conference last addressed race in a major way in 2004 with a conversation focused on closing the region's racial divide.
The futility of fully discussing Detroit's race and class issues in a panel hosted by two white men in an opulent hotel located far away from the city is not lost on Foley.
His advice: "It can’t be said enough that trying to discuss complex issues of race and equity must be done at home, instead of somewhere disconnected from it all," he writes. "You can’t talk about things like the need for public transit on an island that doesn’t allow motorized vehicles. And you can’t be too comfortable when having these conversations. It’s too late to move the discussion back to Detroit, but the Detroit Regional Chamber should, in the future, remember the name of its organization."
's Ryan Felton attended last year's Mackniac Policy Conference. Revisit his coverage here