Detroit Essay

Topics: Racism, Real estate, African American Pages: 8 (3215 words) Published: April 20, 2008
Detroit, once the New York City of its time, nick named the “Motor City” as it contained one of the leading car manufacturing centers of the automobile industry. As a metropolis for the first half of the twentieth century, Post World War II, Detroit became an economic fortress and focal point in American History. Detroit’s economic stronghold placed the city in a position that was once beneficial. From the surging employment opportunities perpetuated by the booming automotive market to the development, and implementation of substandard housing and the casual labor market, Detroit became the land of opportunity that loomed with an air of new beginnings. Today, however, Detroit continues to reap the aftermath of contradictory political and economic delegation of the post WWII era. As America continues to relish in the economic rewards of this era the inverse effects of inadequate political decision making continues to resonate amongst the urban streets of Detroit today. Thomas Sugrue’s, The Origins of the Urban Crisis: Race and inequality in postwar Detroit, views Detroit as a dialectical city with history as it synthesis. The political and economic history of the United States prior to and post WWII had a substantial impact on the social development in Detroit, this is antithesis of the dialectic. The incongruent government policy enforced on behalf of the “New Deal Coalition” presented between 1930 and 1960 offered the notion of change with promises to protect the economic welfare of U.S. citizens. However, the New Deal Coalition did the exact opposite while further cementing racial segregation throughout the U.S., more specifically in Detroit. The imprecise content of the New Deal did not set parameters, which in return opened opportunity for inappropriate government decisions to be enforced. The decisions made under the Roosevelt administration through the New Deal lead to the destruction of a city as well as a race of people. It began with promises that gave black Southerners hopes of equality and betterment through “symbolic capital”. Most triumphant cities thrive on symbolic capital, however, it lead to the decay of the evolving economy of Detroit, a great city that deteriorated before its time. Symbolic Capital, a term used in sociology to define those things that are available to an individual that represent prestige ( Its value is predetermined based on the society in which it exists. Sugrue looks at the symbolic capital associated with home ownership to the Southern black’s that migrated to Detroit. This is one of the more potent components of Sugrue’s argument as most economies success is based on Symbolic capital, as it’s the driving factor of consumption. The U.S. economy is definitely one that fits into that category. Individuals even more so today strive for those material items that symbolize social status. American’s are always looking for the biggest, fastest, and newest top of the line product, which ultimately says I am successful. This is an imperative facet of the urban crisis in Detroit as the desire for success ignited the migration of Southern blacks to Detroit. Black southerners were lured with the idea of property ownership and economic prosperity. The U.S. government promoted affluence with the notion of equal employment and housing. For Black southerners, Detroit was the escape from the Jim Crow jurisdiction of the South. However, to the contrary, Sugrue outlines then delves into the history of substandard housing and the unjust housing policies enforced by the Federal Housing Administration (FHA). Sugrue also examines real estate agencies, labor unions and the casual labor market, all having made significant contributions to the urban crisis Detroit faces today. All of the former laid the groundwork to the “systematic discrimination”, from which emerges the urban crisis in Detroit. Throughout the text Sugrue identifies racial bias and its...
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