Monday, October 11, 2004

African Town: Will it Work?

Seven members of Detroit's city council and an author named Claud Andersen have stirred up quite a commotion in the city during the last 24 hours. The uproar was not another verbal fight amongst council members but, instead, centers around a plan that many people fear could undermine Detroit's aggressive revitalization efforts of the past few years.

The council's plan, which has been termed "African Town" by various sources, revolves around the creation of a special business district that would consist solely of black business owners and would largely cater to the needs and wants of black citizens. The idea, conceived by Detroit native and author Claud Andersen, would be designed to assist and empower black business owners, a group Andersen says receives little support from the city. By having their own business district, Andersen believes that black business owners would thrive - they would be supported by black citizens, who would buy their goods and services from them. The author drew similarities to Detroit's Mexican town and Greektown areas, and explained that an Africantown could have the same results.

Although the idea of assisting black business owners in succeeding is a good one, Andersen's plan will not work. Largely, this is due to the premise that Andersen and the City Council members in favor of the idea are relying on taxpayers' dollars to partially fund the project. As this would promote one race over others, this would be considered racial discrimination. For the city council members not aware of this, racial discrimination has been an illegal practice in Michigan, as well as the other 49 states in the U.S., since the Civil Rights Act was passed in 1964.

Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick vetoed the Council's proposal for an African Town back in July of this year, but the Council overrode his veto during the last week of September. According to a press release from the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative, African Town will never come to fruition because the plan is racially discriminatory.