Detroit, don’t drop dead

Southfield Mayor: Detroit, don’t drop dead

I’m very saddened by the statements of Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson in the New Yorker magazine, in which he runs down Detroit and stokes stereotypes and hatred that we’ve worked for generations to overcome. I know Mr. Patterson and while I don’t think he’s a bad man I do think what he’s said is not just bad but venal, harmful and deplorable.

The article is entitled “Detroit: Drop dead,” and it’s dead wrong.

I’m the mayor of Southfield but we’re all proud of what Detroit has meant to America. With Detroit going through tough times we’re all Detroiters. We’re all tied to the city one way or another. And those of us who have spent our lives here know that the Motor City will have a future as storied and prosperous as its past. Detroit is a city that is too tough, too proud and too resilient to fully fail.

As a Detroit native I’ve spent my lifetime working to crush racial stereotypes, build our community and help those who need a hand. As the first African-American woman elected mayor of Southfield I’ve made it my mission to help create jobs, prove a budget can be balanced without hurting the least among us, and cut crime because no one should ever fear walking at night.

I’ve watched thousands of kind, decent, honorable people work hard, struggle, succeed and set an example while living in Detroit. As our friend Aretha Franklin says it’s all about R-E-S-P-E-C-T and not only Mr. Patterson but also anyone stuck in a time warp of racial inequality, stereotypes and let’s just say it — bigotry — needs to understand what Aretha was singing.

This isn’t about white or black or Democrat or Republican, it’s about right and wrong. And running down a city that is fighting to come back is just wrong. Of course Mr. Patterson should fully apologize. Mr. Patterson’s office released a statement claiming the writer “cast Mr. Patterson in a bad light in order to fit her preconceived and outdated notions about the region.” Exactly, statements and articles such as the New Yorker piece feed the flames of a racist past our nation is slowly working through and I’m happy to say making progress.

I won’t try to explain the concrete virtues of Detroit to people who claim there are not even movie theaters in the city. There are. Also museums, concert halls, opera house, historic sites and a beautiful RiverWalk. Detroit’s music moved the world. Detroit’s cars moved generations throughout their lives. And the good people of Detroit, the memories of my youth and millions of lives that have been spent in Detroit for decades move me to simply say shame. When Detroit is attacked in the national press that makes it tougher to recruit jobs and build for the future.


Here is my promise. I’m running to represent the 14th Congressional District in Congress. When elected I’ll represent part of Detroit and I will go to bat for the city every day in every way. I’ll set a good example for our children by demanding accountability and expecting success rather than the bad example of Mr. Patterson’s comments. In Southfield I have led efforts to attract new business and to strengthen neighborhoods.

Once Mr. Patterson begs for Detroit’s forgiveness, he has a few additional folks to request a second chance, and that includes anyone progressive and caring. Anyone who worships on Sunday and knows hateful statements are wrong. Anyone who realizes that America is best off color blind and that all men are created equal. And I might add that means women too.

And finally after he said Detroit should be treated like Indians who had blankets and corn thrown over fences to them he should call the leader of the largest tribe in America, Cherokee Principal Chief Bill John Baker and work his way down the ladder begging forgiveness from the first Americans — Native Americans.

We learn from our parents and on Sundays about forgiveness and my constituents in Southfield are some of the finest people in Michigan. We forgive Mr. Patterson. Now he must begin the process of asking the same from so many others.

Brenda Lawrence is mayor of Southfield and opposed Patterson in the 2008 Oakland County executive race.

From The Detroit News: