Keith Ellison represents Minnesota’s Fifth District in Congress. He proudly identifies himself first and foremost as the co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. With a little help from Karen Hunter (as he notes in the Acknowledgements), he has now written the memoir cum manifesto My Country, ‘Tis of Thee: My Faith, My Family, Our Future. Ellison was born and raised in Detroit. He was witness to a part of the city’s death spiral, but he has nothing useful to say about it. Ellison writes in chapter 5 (“My Damascus Moment”):
During my freshman year at Wayne State in 1981, Coleman Young won his third consecutive term as the first black mayor of Detroit. He’d go on to serve five terms in all. In 1973, the year he was first elected, I was too young to fully appreciate what a victory this represented for the community, but I imagine the elation was similar to the way African Americans felt when Barack Obama was elected in 2008.
Young was a legendary trade unionist before I was born. The police had an anticrime program called Stop the Robberies, Enjoy Safe Streets (STRESS), but it seemed to many to be a license for police to target black people. Coleman Young came in and disbanded it. He was a man from the streets who rose up to lead. And folks were plenty proud.
He was one of them.
An oft-told story illustrates how “down” Mayor Young was…
We’ll skip the story and pick up the Detroit thread in chapter 8 (“Minnesota Nice”). Detroit is now the scene of vast impersonal forces leading to its decline. Enter left-wing shibboleths; exit Coleman Young:
There is a reason why Detroit has always seemed on edge. Detroit, like many other cities, had suffered deep job losses due to offshoring and the increased automation of American manufacturing, leaving millions without work or low-paying jobs. Economic hardship causes social stress and undermines family life and communal stability. Over time, people fell into survival mode, and that carried over into tension on the streets.