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.