You start with the burned out buildings. You have to start here, because at one time the homes were apart of what made Detroit great. You stand in the middle of Woodward Avenue, surrounded by what used to be, not knowing what to say or how to feel. You try to catalog your feelings, try to capture the sight and emotions in words. Yet it’s hard. After all, Detroit is home.
No matter where I go or where I have been on this earth the past 27 years since I left home, I am proud to say: “I’m from Detroit.”
So when I see what’s going on with former Mayor of Detroit Kwame Kilpatrick and the kind of attention his transgressions has brought to a city already in trouble, I can’t help but look at the television set, read the blogs and shake my head in disgust.
I know it’s hard to believe, but at one time the city was living proof of American success. At one time it was the most prosperous manufacturing city in the nation. At one time it was the fourth largest city, now 18th and tumbling. Unfortunately, the city has become a beacon of disaster. The school system is in disarray, the murder rate is out of control. And unemployment is at an all-time high. Needless to say – I just want to cry.
Given the current climate and Kilpatrick’s inability to just go away, many would love to blame Detroit’s demise on the former mayor. But Detroit’s decline started well before he took office.
It was the two-decade rule of former Mayor Coleman young, who became Detroit’s first Black mayor in 1973, who ruined the city. Young governed more by grandiloquence, than by action. Under his watch, the city took on a life of its own. The school system began to deteriorate. And jobs disappeared. This was not Kilpatrick’s fault.
If Kilpatrick is guilty of anything, it’s arrogance and lack of common sense. Yet for some reason, I still don’t get the feeling that he gets it. And while he is still loved in Detroit, as throngs of former classmates, called and demanded I write a positive story about him.
You see, the consensus is that he was brought down for cheating on his wife; therefor it’s none of our business. No gang, Kwame was brought down for lying under oath. He broke the law. And that is our business. It’s just that simple.
“It’s not because he lied,” said Chanae Forte via Facebook. “He should have been a grown ass man and said “yeah I did it but that is between me and my wife y’all stay the out of it!!!”
I have to agree with her. And while I would love to believe that Kilpatrick has some regrets, which I think he does. He
continues to amaze me. First there was the lavish lifestyle the first time he got of prison. He had to know he would be watched. Didn’t he? And now there’s the $2,000 gift from a Chicago pastor before Christmas, cashing out the wire transfer at a Chesterfield Township Walmart. He counted the money in front of the cameras. Unbelievable!
Facts aren’t distorted in his book, Surrendered, The Rise, Fall and Revelation of Kwame Kilpatrick, they’re simply missing. He never talks about how he is paying for his lawyers and publicity aides. Keep in mind, he doesn’t have a job? And how did he manage to live such a lavish lifestyle in Texas when he owed $1 million in restitution?
His cleaned-up version of his affair with Christine Beatty is for his wife to forgive. Ultimately, what goes on between a man and his wife is their business, but Kilpatrick still refuses to acknowledge his role in Detroit’s fall — even if it is the image drubbing the city took as a result of him.
I do believe Detroit will make a comeback. It’s just too special of city not to. But for too long we have looked the other way in the midst of chaos when it comes to the city’s politicians. At some point the madness has got to stop.
As much as I want to give Kilpatrick the benefit of the doubt, because even today I am proud of him, because I understand we all make mistakes. But sadly, he will go away.