Racism — April 20, 2014 at 10:47 am

UPDATED: Crain’s Detroit Business editor uses slave plantation imagery: “Maybe Detroit needs a permanent overseer”


Dude, are you for real?

Keith Crain, editor-in-chief of Crain’s Detroit Business, has an op-ed out this morning titled “Maybe we need a permanent overseer”. The “we” in this case is the city of Detroit.

This is not to cast aspersions on our current politicians. But we don’t know how long they will be in office and who will replace them. Certain members of the Detroit City Council have already proved to require oversight for their personal conduct. We don’t have any idea about financial conduct.

It is time to consider a permanent, independent executive who permanently oversees city finances and operations. Perhaps a federal judge, someone who would be objective and save our elected officials from their own worst enemies — themselves. […]

It simply makes very good sense for everyone — except those being supervised.

It’s truly astonishing that, in this day and age, a white publisher of Detroit’s major business publication needs to be schooled on why it’s entirely inappropriate to use slave plantation imagery when referring to a city that is almost 83% African American, particularly in the context of a piece that essentially says, “These people are too stupid to run the city.”

Just so we are all on the same page, this is a typical description of an “overseer”:

An overseer’s job was to ensure that the slaves were doing as much work as they should be and that everything was being done to improve the crop yield. Overseers were generally hired seasonally and a planter would generally try and find a new one for the next season. For this reason overseers worked especially hard to prove themselves to their employer. They needed to show that they possessed the right qualities to push the slaves just enough to produce more without overworking him. Overseers were mostly young men who were looking for experience to some day own their own land.

It’s an unbelievably tone-deaf piece that also continues to perpetuate the myth that Detroit’s current financial crisis is entirely the fault of incompetent city leaders who mismanaged the city’s finances. Anyone who knows even a small amount of the history of Detroit from the 1950s through yesterday knows that this is unfair, untrue, and entirely racist.

Keith Crain owes the city of Detroit an apology.

UPDATE: Crain’s Detroit Business has now changed the title of the op-ed to “Detroit needs independent finance exec”.

While I didn’t think to grab a screen shot of the original title, I do have the Google Alert that tipped me off to it which contains the original title:

You can also see that the url still has the original title: www.crainsdetroit.com/article/20140420/NEWS/304209985/keith-crain-maybe-we-need-a-permanent-overseer.

  • Thomas C. Pedroni

    The people who need an “overseer” are most of the very people that Crain’s represents. They are the ones who destroyed our economy through predatory lending and the global financial crisis, and then went begging to the public sector (us) to bail out their arses. They are “too big to fail” yet have no allegiance to our country or society– they will move overseas the moment they find a cheaper, more exploitable work force, and nonexistent environmental protections. Those buzzards are the “oversears.”

  • What a clueless asstard.

  • Sandy Lusk

    Wow. I just read Solomon Northrup’s book “12 years a slave”. Here’s his description of an overseer: ” The requisite qualifications in an overseer are utter heartlessness, brutality and cruelty. It is his business to produce large crops, and if that is accomplished, no matter what amount of suffering it may have cost. ” Detroit Business needs to fire Crain immediately.

    • bgittebardot

      Not going to happen since Keith Crain owns Crain’s Detroit’s Business.

  • Rick Snyder PR

    Hey now, let’s not be too hasty. Maybe this “overseer” can “crack the whip” on our elected leaders, eh? Perhaps we should focus on cash crops like cotton in our urban farming initiatives.

  • Patti

    It’s not tone-deaf on this guy’s part. It’s racist and we all know it.

  • Gary Schwartz

    Keith Crain is the head of the Board of the College for Creative Studies. Corporate thugs the whole lot of them.

  • Lorne

    What a load of nonsense. In England, Overseers of the Poor administered poor relief such as money, food and clothing as part of the Poor Law system. The position was created by the Act for the Relief of the Poor of 1597.

    Overseers of the Poor were often reluctant appointees who were unpaid, working under the supervision of a Justice of the Peace. The law required two Overseers to be elected every Easter.

    Thus, the timeliness of his editorial.

    • Rick Snyder PR

      I totally agree! Also in England, a cigarette is a Fag! Guess it’s time to put that back into parlance as well.

    • Quick reminder: we’re not in England and if you don’t know the American history of the “overseer”, you’re either intentionally ignoring history or not paying attention.

  • 71LesPaul

    Keith Crain leaves the dog whistle in his vest pocket and pulls out a vuvuzela to make sure everyone can hear him.

  • Greg Thrasher

    Not surprised at all in fact another Crain publication apologized for not having any Black Business leaders on their annual article polling companies for 2014 forecasts..Pitiful


  • Linnaeus

    Democracy is just too inconvenient for some, it seems.

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  • Adaj Parr

    It has been know for years Wayne County is the overseer of Detroit. Detroit has always been considered a plantation in the eyes of the North Republicans.

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