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Democracy & Detroit, 2012


Detroit is the largest of the internal colonies of Michigan. It is followed by Benton Harbor, Flint, Muskegon Heights, Pontiac and Highland Park. The aforementioned cities have been occupied by “Emergency Managers” for the past several years.

In 2009 Democratic governor Jennifer Granholm, the first woman governor of Michigan, appointed Robert Bobb over Detroit Public Schools. Two years later, after Snyder was elected (Republican) governor of Michgan, he appointed former GM executive and MGM casino magnate Roy Roberts to the position of Emergency Manager.

Each of these two have caused Detroit Public Schools to go into exponentially greater debt than before the “emergency” was created by the governor and his mouthpiece corporate media. The people of Michigan (82% in Detroit) repealed the Emergency Manager law 52% to 48% when it became clear that the law was nothing more than a license to loot and terminate collective bargaining agreements and sell off public goods to private interests, who do not have to bid or say who they are or where
they got their money.

We passed a bond to rebuild our schools in Detroit, only to have them seized by a new separate and unequal school district called “Educational Achievement Authority.” It is a Jim Crow district with no transparency and no public accountability except to shareholders and “non profits” and foundations.

The role of the philanthropic interests is one that requires a deeper investigation than this simple review of 2012 in Detroit can achieve, but one worth pursuing in depth. It is an example of what happens when government is replaced by corporations.

Detroit is the epicenter of the racialized privatization battle going on in Michigan, but it is only one part of the story. The Emergency Manager remains in charge of Detroit Public Schools despite the repeal of the law. Everything the State could do to subvert the vote was done, and when the vote came in at against the Emergency Manager law, the governor ignored the vote and kept the EMs in charge.

There is utter contempt for the people in this lawless corrupt state.

It does not matter if we vote because the results are ignored. It does not matter if we go to court; the judges simply postpone the proceedings.

There is no voice of moral authority in Michigan; there are looters from top to bottom stealing the public treasury and the future of our youth. Schools are so severely underfunded that Teach for America teachers are in front of classrooms of 40 and more students all by themselves.

Millions of dollars have gone missing from the Detroit Public Schools’ classrooms, to the joy of charter operators and new shadow governments in the form of “self-governing schools” and “review boards.”

The Emergency Manager is surrounded by security guards at all times because he and his minions are so despised by the people they rob. It is a good time for a few, but not a sustainable plan.

When the colleges and universities catch on that their future students cannot score high enough on ACT or SATs, they will have to let in only the white students from the suburbs. Then there will be a movement for equity and access and we can start all over again.

Elena Herrada is a Detroit community activist leader, longtime organizer, and member of the Detroit Public Schools board. She can be reached at

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