April 26, 2018 rss
header twitter link facebook link home link
View Resource Guide and Job Postings

Jack Lessenberry

Jack Lessenberry

Stop the Madness

January 4, 2013

CHARLEVOIX, MI. — Over the holidays, a retired couple who had a home next to where we were staying had us over for a little holiday cheer, in this small northern Michigan town.

They smiled warmly. “We knew right away you weren’t from here,” they told us. Why was that?

“You lock your doors when you go out.”

They weren’t kidding, and they weren’t surprised to learn we were from the Detroit area. To us, this seemed like something out of rural Kansas in 1920. My guess is that virtually no one in any metropolitan area today would leave their doors unlocked any more than they would run to the grocery store naked.

The next morning, I went to a convenience store to buy the Detroit newspapers. “You from there?” the man said. Yes, I admitted, adding that I had an office in Detroit itself. “Aren’t you scared?” he asked, waving at a story about the soaring murder rate.

Not in the slightest, I told him, adding that I often am there late in the evening. “Do you carry a weapon?” he asked. Not unless my two-inch-long penknife counts, I said.

He looked at me as if I’d said I was a tightrope walker who refused to use a net. Welcome to how outstate Michigan and the rest of the world see Detroit. Not that any of this is new. Back in the late 1980s, I was riding an exercise bicycle at a gym in Memphis, TN.

“You’re not from here,” a man riding next to me said. “Where are you from?” I told him Detroit. His eyes shone in wonder.

“Hey, I’m not going to disrespect you,” he said. “You must be baaad!” He was only half kidding. In fact, he had muscles roughly the size of my waist at the time, and could have squashed me like a bug. But the very word Detroit changes things.

Last week, Detroit was finally in the news for something other than the craziness of its city council, the failure of its public schools, the criminal activities of a former mayor, or the constant threat that the city is about to go bankrupt, be taken over by the state, or both.

But the news wasn’t good. Detroit was getting attention because Michigan’s largest city is, once again, Murder City USA, running just behind New Orleans. Final figures won’t be in for the next few days, but it appears that there was at least one homicide in Detroit last year for every 2,000 residents.

That’s ten times the rate in New York City.

There are two common ways to think about what that means, both partly right and mostly wrong. One view, common in some circles, is that Detroit is a festering hellhole inhabited by murderous psychopaths, nearly all of them black.

That’s what you heard whispered last July, when two suburban white teenagers disappeared after they went for a drive in Detroit. They were wearing expensive tennis shoes, and driving a car with an expensive sound system. Eventually their bullet-riddled shoeless bodies were found in a deserted field. The crime hasn’t been solved.

The other theory, more common among those who care about the city — but don’t live there — is that while there are a lot of murders, most are gang-or-drug related, or domestic killings, those in which family members murder each other.

Statistically, there’s far more truth in this line of thinking, one this columnist finds personally appealing. I have worked in various places in the heart of Detroit for the last 20 years.

Back in 1991, I had a car stolen. Years later, my car window was smashed one night, and someone grabbed an old trench coat and briefcase holding a mass of unreadable papers.

Otherwise, I’ve never felt threatened in the least.

Yet the real truth is something felt and known only by people who live there. Chester Logan is not a household name in the city yet. He’s been serving as interim Detroit police chief for the last three months, since his predecessor was forced out over a sex scandal.

Two weeks ago, Logan gave a little-noted speech to the friends and family members of those who have lost loved ones through violence. The chief knew what he was talking about.

His wife’s nephew was shot to death in October; his brother, in 1968. Logan joined the force the next year.

And he told the crowd the problem was this: black-on-black violence. “Since I have been a Detroit police officer, more black men have been killed at the hands of other black men than have been killed in every conflict this country’s been involved in.”

“And that’s just in the city of Detroit.” He estimated the death toll in his time on the force was nearly 15,000.

The chief noted that a popular black entertainer had said that gay marriage should be the next civil rights movement, something he said made him angry. “I have nothing against gay marriage, but … why don’t we make the next civil rights movement the reduction of black-on-black violence in our major cities? That should be almost our singular focus, to stop this madness that is going on.”

Whether Logan’s appointment will be permanent isn’t clear. Nor do I know if he has any answers. But he has his finger on a problem that has to be solved, if Detroit is ever going to be a place where middle-class families willingly live again.

Veteran journalist and national Emmy Award winner Jack Lessenberry teaches at Wayne State University, serves as Michigan Radio’s senior political analyst and writes regularly for several publications. He also serves as The Toledo Blade’s writing coach and ombudsman and is host of the weekly television show Deadline Now on WGTE-TV in Toledo.

January 3, 2013 · Filed under Jack Lessenberry

28 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Anagnorisis // Jan 4, 2013 at 8:56 am

    Having lived in the Detroit to Pontiac corridor for 20 years I know of what this article bespeaks. The answer is nonetheless elusive. Anomie or deracination lies at base extending back 500 years acknowledging that attempts at repatriation such as Liberia and Sierra Leone have not solved any problems. When once separated the ends seem not to connect again, the neurological system is irreparable. The difficult truth to accept comes to self-rehabilitation as all contrite criminals come to know. The legal system moreover does little or nothing to assist and often extends the animosity through bitterness accrued. Police patrol cannot resolve this problem, in actuality only exacerbate it. Added hint: Even in northern Michigan communities such as Charlevoix doors are often locked due to drug-seeking young peolpe who will lift anything not locked down to trade for a fix. This too I know.

  • 2 Greg Thrasher // Jan 4, 2013 at 10:45 am

    As usual pundits like Lessenberry continue to promote ignorance about the scope and nature of crime as being a ‘racial’ issue.

    Never does the media discuss ‘white on white crime’ or the reality of how our country’s racial legacy and corrupt criminal justice system are as lethal and obstructive to creating viable solutions to crime issues.

    Fact is most people will never be a victim of a crime even in urban venues like Detroit, Flint, etc. Most victims of crimes know their assailant . Violent crimes across the nation have tended down and the more cops you have the more crime will be reported. Stranger danger is a myth.

    The template for addressing crime in the post industrial era is to eliminate poverty, advance the reality of justice in our judicial systems and end the specter of disinformation and contempt for those living in urban venues.

    We have too many police departments , too many laws , too many prisons . Our nation needs a complete moral reset where life has value again.

    Ancedotal tales mean nothing to solving the crime problem nor does on playing the ‘race card’ invite any sound solutions.

  • 3 play slot machines online // Mar 10, 2014 at 12:23 pm

    340191 300559You ought to take part in a contest for among the finest blogs on the internet. I will recommend this web site! 865153

  • 4 moving companies in washington dc area // Mar 10, 2014 at 12:29 pm

    89828 164860The the next time I just read a blog, I really hope that this doesnt disappoint me approximately brussels. Get real, Yes, it was my option to read, but I really thought youd have some thing intriguing to say. All I hear is usually a couple of whining about something that you could fix when you werent too busy searching for attention. 523188

  • 5 map of the dc metro // Mar 10, 2014 at 12:47 pm

    571965 630526I just added this blog to my rss reader, excellent stuff. I like your writing style. 839789

  • 6 Vipre or AVG // Mar 11, 2014 at 1:22 pm

    What normally a nice write-up about broadband basic safety ! I continuously attempted with bacterias then Trojans before I on track with the use of ones own helpful hints . Since that I’m utilising VIPRE Antivirus Applications , having said that , I under no circumstances experience all computer viruses .

  • 7 Water Damage Chicago // Mar 11, 2014 at 11:38 pm

    627848 60290Spot on with this write-up, I really assume this website wants way more consideration. I

  • 8 scam busters // Mar 12, 2014 at 8:43 am

    The moment your self choose into a romantic relationship in opposition to a actuality of energy by yourself will understand that women of all ages always consist of the upper hand no matter what. Females comprise this electricity of long-term questioning.

  • 9 turbulence training workout plan // Mar 12, 2014 at 8:53 am

    287903 510221Hello! Excellent stuff, please maintain us posted when you post once more something like that! 285650

  • 10 facebook review // Mar 12, 2014 at 4:28 pm

    in direction of be picked.

  • 11 photographer in az // Mar 12, 2014 at 7:03 pm

    856868 107319Its outstanding as your other posts : D, regards for posting . 659785

  • 12 find more // Mar 13, 2014 at 8:42 am

    Write more, thats all I have to say. Literally, it seems as though you relied on the video to make your point. You definitely know what youre talking about, why waste your intelligence on just posting videos to your blog when you could be giving us something informative to read?

  • 13 lamda print // Mar 13, 2014 at 7:46 pm

    831636 105460I like this site really significantly so significantly superb details. 398753

  • 14 linticular printing // Mar 13, 2014 at 9:15 pm

    10565 775614Inexpensive Gucci Handbags Is generally blogengine a lot much better than wp for reasons unknown? Ought to be which is turning out to be popluar today. 330246

  • 15 how to build your own website // Mar 13, 2014 at 11:56 pm

    39024 719554I enjoy this website, will certainly arrive back. Make sure you carry on writing high quality posts. 889130

  • 16 how to create my own website // Mar 14, 2014 at 12:57 am

    380676 561871It

  • 17 Clicking Here // Mar 14, 2014 at 11:59 am

    I together with my guys have been following the great guidelines on your web page while the sudden I got an awful suspicion I never thanked you for those tips. My boys are actually as a result excited to read them and have in effect extremely been taking advantage of them. Appreciate your genuinely so helpful and for picking out varieties of notable subject areas most people are really eager to understand about. My honest regret for not expressing gratitude to earlier.



© 2007-2011 DomeMagazine.com. All rights reserved. Site design by Kimberly Hopkins, khopdesign, llc.