Crain's Detroit Business: Marick Masters on the economic inequality in Detroit
Detroit boiled over this week as protesters took to the streets for mostly nonviolent demonstrations against police brutality. But the cries of racism extend long past policing policies in a city where recent health crises and economic recovery then fallout have been uneven. Experts worry the now amplified racial inequities in the economy will only worsen in the coronavirus recession as black Detroiters continue to toil for economic equity. "Most Detroiters have been disjointed from the regional economy for decades," said Peter Hammer, professor of law and director at the Damon J. Keith Center for Civil Rights at Wayne State University. "The notion that you've been abandoned, the notion that the American dream doesn't apply to you, that's not new news. Structural racism is our generation's civil rights challenge. The data is here that things are not getting better." But despite dozens of labor training programs, new business investments and fixes to the city's broken education system, the jobs weren't coming fast enough. "This is the biggest problem Detroit faces and (is) why it hasn't been revitalized beyond downtown and Midtown," Marick Masters, former director of Wayne State University's labor studies program, Labor@Wayne, told Crain's in 2015. "All the other problems devolve from this: the inability to have good schools, to have adequate lighting, the lack of infrastructure, housing, etc." "We hear a lot about institutional racism, but haven't heard from the people on the news on how to define it," said Khari Brown, an associate professor of sociology at WSU focused on race, religion and politics. "The black poor in Detroit and around the country are unique. They are poor because they don't have the economic resources, such as jobs, like other communities. They tend to live in less diverse neighborhoods with people like themselves. Not only do they live without the basic necessities, they don't know anyone that has those either."