By now, you’ve probably heard these words, spoken in a famous, raspy voice, during Chrysler’s commercial during half time of the Super Bowl.
“This isn’t a game. The people of Detroit know a little something about this. They almost lost everything. But we all pulled together. Now, the Motor City is fighting again.”
But did Clint Eastwood refer to the city of Detroit — or Detroit, the auto industry? Did he mean the actual residents of Detroit, or everything involved in the imaginary Motor City, which sweeps from Detroit, down through Louisville and on to Dallas?
As a city fights for survival, and car companies fight for revival, it’s very easy for images, metaphors and symbolism about Detroit to become mixed up in a big pot of mythical gumbo. (Not to mention a bubbling political controversy.)
We’ve been trying to discern the different flavors at our public media project, Changing Gears, and it just isn’t easy.
The city of Detroit. Once, it was the industrial Midwest’s version of a gold rush town. From the 1920s to the 1950s, new residents were pouring in every hour, people of every race, ethnic origin, wealth and education level. By 1950, Detroit had 2 million people, making it the size of Houston today.
In that Detroit, one of every two adults worked in a manufacturing job, according to Kevin Boyle, a native Detroiter and historian at Ohio State University. Images of that Detroit are embossed in the American consciousness, the idea of a sprawling city, with prosperous blue and white collar residents, and Motown music rollicking from every transistor radio.
But that Detroit is long gone. The Detroit of today has barely 720,000 people, or less than half the size at its peak. Only 20,000 of those residents, or about 2.7 percent of the people who live there, hold jobs in factories, Boyle calculates. Classic Motown lives on mainly in PBS specials and on satellite radio.
Wealth has been depleted and homes abandoned, schools struggle. Far from being self-sufficient, Detroit could still almost lose everything, writes Dustin Dwyer at Changing Gears. If it can’t fix its finances, it could soon fall under the control of a state appointed emergency manager, the kind that already runs the city’s schools.
Detroit, the auto industry. Now that General Motors and Chrysler are back on their feet, and Ford is successful, the industry seems like a point of national pride. But we didn’t all “pull together” to save it, as Eastwood suggests. Republicans in the U.S. Senate blocked efforts at a Congressional bailout in the waning days of the Bush administration.
Click HERE to read the full article on Forbes!