No matter which 10 stories I pick, it’s already a given that this list will either not include 1 to 10 stories that at least one of you thought should be on the list, or 1 to 10 of the 10 stories I picked somebody somewhere will be shaking their head in amazement that I could have possibly considered any of these things a big deal.
Now that’s we’ve got that out of the way, I’m moving on. Because 2015 is almost done and I gotta get this written before the ball drops. I most definitely do not plan to be sitting here after deadline, still madly typing away, while everyone else is off somewhere sipping champagne (or something more potent) and blowing party horns.
Actually, I don’t expect to be doing any of that as 2015 winds down (well, except for the champagne and a sizable quantity of the ‘something more potent’), but it’s just the principle of the thing. So, without further ado, here’s my list of the (more or less) Top 10 Stories (kinda, and in no particular order, because I’m tired) that happened in 2015.
See you on the other side…
There are those of us of a certain age who remember a world before hashtags. Truth be told, we remember a world before personal computers. But these days, anyone who claims to know how to make something pop and sizzle on the internet can’t be considered serious if they don’t know how to properly use a hashtag. And in 2015, #BlackLivesMatter has truly become the hashtag that roared. Originally begun in 2012 after the murder of Trayvon Martin, it has now become the sort of social juggernaut of a movement that Occupy Wall Street tried to be but wasn’t quite as successful. Admittedly there have been a few stumbles here and there, but what other hashtag has managed to insert itself as a ‘must discuss topic’ in a presidential campaign? Movement politics will be alive in 2016, and the continually growing strength of #BlackLivesMatter has quite a bit to do with that.
#2. Flint water crisis
Thanks in large part to a steadfastly determined group of Flint residents who refused to be played for stupid when their elected representatives tried to convince them that the dramatically off-colored water spewing forth from their faucets was actually safe and drinkable, the entire nation has now been made aware of one of the most horrifically disturbing stories to come out of Michigan in quite awhile. Because a number of Flint’s children – and many adults as well – have become the victims of lead poisoning, and had their futures irreparably damaged, due to the willful ignorance of those who were elected to represent their best interests. The details of the story and who knew what when are rather twisted and complex, and many of those involved are still busy pointing the finger down the road to ‘that other guy’. But thanks to some extremely in-depth reporting by ACLU investigative reporter Curt Guyette, it has become increasingly difficult for the guilty parties to duck and dodge. This is truly one of those instances where apologies just aren’t enough.
#3. Donald Trump
In the beginning, very few took him seriously. There was the comical hairdo, the hot airbag bluster, and the multiplicity of outrageous comments stacked high one, on top of the other. No way could this guy get elected was what everyone seemed to be saying not even that many months ago. But today, the most gleefully racist, bigoted, and ignorant presidential candidate to have ever lasted this long in modern memory, remains the leading Republican candidate – and not by just a hair. In 2008, we witnessed the election of the nation’s first African American president. In 2012 he was elected again by an even larger majority.
#4. Ben Carson
Widely – and deservedly – revered as a brilliant neurosurgeon, born and raised in Detroit, Dr. Ben Carson began his career as a man who exemplified the heights of the American dream. But then he decided to run for president. The fact that he decided to run on the Republican ticket wasn’t the problem, because that is certainly his right. Although more than 90 percent of African Americans identify as Democrats, there is certainly no law that says such loyal party affiliation is mandatory. No, what rubbed so many the wrong way was how aggressively Dr. Carson appeared to effectively – and aggressively – set fire to his own legacy by identifying with all the worst, far right elements and aspects of his party. In fact, Dr. Carson has in some cases aligned himself with the same near-Nazi elements that blindly follow Trump, and who would no doubt drag him into a dark alley and stomp him underfoot as readily as they did that young black man who dared to protest at a recent Trump rally. Self-hatred is such an ugly thing to behold.
#5. University of Missouri football team goes on strike
Refusing to turn a blind eye to the blatant racism rearing its head on their campus, the black players on the ‘Mizzou’ powerhouse football team flexed an entirely different set of muscles when they issued an ultimatum: either the University’s president would step down (he had been identified as a primary source of black student complaints) or they wouldn’t play. At all. Recognizing their monetary value as essentially ‘product’, Mizzou’s black football players made the decision to hit the university where it hurt.
The president stepped down. Black student activism is alive and well.
#6. The Walking Man
In February of this year, the Detroit Free Press broke the story of James Robertson, a man who had walked 21 miles to his job in Rochester Hills – each way – for 10 years. Soon dubbed ‘The Walking Man’, Robertson’s story became a nationwide phenomenon. So much so that he was showered with enough money to move out of his apartment – and out of Detroit. Plus he bought himself a car. Many who were understandably inspired by this story pointed to Robertson as the true meaning of a good employee, dutifully appreciative of his good job and willing to brave all evils to get there. The true story, of course, is that if metro Detroit had a modern transportation system like other big cities, maybe Robertson wouldn’t have had to do all that walking. Just a thought.
#7. We lost Grace Lee Boggs and Ron Scott
Two of the most committed, dedicated, celebrated, and renowned community activists/revolutionaries/human beings (in the truest and most expansive meaning of the term) left this time and space in 2015. Both were Detroiters, also in the best possible and most expansive meaning of the word. Both exemplified everything there was to exemplify about the meaning of being a Detroiter. It is often said that certain folks who pass away can never be replaced. Sometimes that is true, sometimes it’s not. In the case of Grace Lee Boggs and Ron Scott, it is most certainly true.
#8. Those Detroit demolitions…
My guess is that Fox reporter Charlie LeDuff probably didn’t get a gift from Mayor Mike Duggan this year unless it was ticking. It was LeDuff, of course, who made it his business to scream ‘foul’ about the way in which Duggan was handling Detroit demolitions. LeDuff claimed the mayor was both overcharging and selectively choosing certain hand-picked bidders. Since that initial report, the News, Free Press, and other Detroit media have begun to pursue the story and now it seems there is small likelihood it will crawl away in a corner and die as Duggan no doubt wishes that it would. Duggan vehemently denies any wrongdoing and steadfastly maintains he has been working overtime to rid the city of the blight that has been plaguing Detroit for decades. More to come on this one for sure…
#9. Teach the children
Until the adults in charge begin to act their age and act like the children actually matter as much as they continue to insist they do, this will remain a Top 10 story. The DPS is failing the children. The EAA is failing the children. The charters are failing the children. The children deserve better. And don’t blame the teachers.
Guess how many incidents of domestic terrorism are committed by Muslims? Guess how many domestic terrorists are dark-skinned folk with really long beards? Now guess how many aren’t? If you don’t know the answer to these questions, but persist in blaming the Muslims for being terrorists simply because they are Muslims, you really do need to be quiet.
Happy New Year everyone.