From Black Voices — At his 1974 inauguration, newly elected Detroit Mayor Coleman Young shouted a warning to criminals: “Hit Eight Mile,” he said, promising his new constituents that he would free them from the grips of crime that had persisted under the two previous stewards of the city.
Two things resulted: 1) White suburbanites shrieked in terror, ignorantly interpreting Young’s words to mean that he was sending black thugs after them; and 2) the only ones who “hit Eight Mile” were the city’s core population.
Demographers say they didn’t expect the census count to go as low as 713,000, but it’s an exodus from the Motor City that has been taking place since at least the 1950s. Some people believe that black people actually enjoy living in bullet-riddled neighborhoods. That notion, though, is as shortsighted as it is stupid. Most of the quarter-million people who have fled Detroit over the past 10 years are African American.
What this tells us is not that black people feel most comfortable surrounded by gunfire. Despite a failure to notice on the part of politicians and pundits, this tells us that black folks hate living in squalor as much as everyone else does.
While Young has changed both the police department and city hall to better reflect the city’s new black majority, poor city services, the faltering educational system and higher property taxes have pushed white and black Detroiters out.
Many people reporting this story think black people just picked up and left for the suburbs between 2000 and 2010, but they are wrong.