In the summer of 1967 in Detroit, Michigan, a “blind-pig” raid took place and this raid turned out to be the straw that broke the camel’s back. Due to this raid, racial tension, and the overall treatment of African Americans in the area, a riot that is still ranked as one of the worst in American history broke out. The riot lasted from July 23rd to July 27th. It was so crucial that it captured headlines of papers across the country.
People, especially those in the northern United States, like to think of the north always being the “good guys” and that somehow all the racial tension only existed in the South, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. Jim Crow laws and racism were more de jure in the South, but Michigan still had its struggle. This Detroit race riot claimed the lives of 43 people. Thousands of others were arrested or injured. This was paired along with the Federal National Guard coming into Detroit to join the Detroit Police Department, Michigan State Police, and the Michigan National Guard. There were tanks in the streets, buildings burning, bullets flying both ways, cars on fire, and tension that is hard to even describe.
In the video we watched for class, “Eyes on the Prize: Two Societies (1965-1968)”, a Detroiter describes how before the race riot police would racially profile African Americans, especially men. The police would randomly come up to African American men asking for identification, where they are going, and search their person. This reminded me of “stop and frisk” which was happening in New York City not too long ago. This constant “pushing around” is part of the problem that built up the racial tension to the point of a massive, multi-day riot.
Severity varies by location and time, but for a lot of American history African Americans have been pushed around, disadvantaged, underprivileged, violated, and therefore oppressed. I do not think any sound person thinks rioting and looting is helping, but I also think it is important to see the struggle that was ignored or worsened before the headlines telling of riots came. Martin Luther King Jr. once said “…riots are socially destructive and self-defeating” but he went on in the same speech to tell about the struggle behind it by saying “…riots do not develop out of thin air, certain conditions continue to exist in our society which must be condemned as vigorously as we condemn riots… a riot is the language of the unheard.” This was Detroit acting out in a bad way, but it was also Detroit being heard.
-IMAGE: Detroit Free Press. “DETROIT JULY ’67. THE WEEK THAT WAS.” 24 July 1967. Motor City Radio Flashbacks. Detroit Free Press. November 2017.
-Eye on the Prize: Two Societies 1965-1968. By Shelia Curran Bernard and Steve Fayer. Dirs. Shelia Curran Bernard and Samuel Polland D. PBS. PBS, 1990. Video. 2017. .
– Grimm, Joe. Michigan Voices: Our State’s History in the Words of the People Who Lived It. Ed. Joe Grimm. Detroit: Detroit Free Press; Wayne State University Press, 1987. Book. 2017.
– Motor City Radio Flashbacks. DETROIT, JULY 23, 1967: THE WEEK THAT WAS. ‘HOT 100’. 25 July 2017. Webpage. November 2017. .
-Rubenstein A, Bruce and Lawrence Ziewacz E. Michigan: A History of the Great Lakes State. 5th. Wiley Blackwell, 2014. Book. 2017.
– The Other America. By Martin Luther King Jr. Perf. Martin Luther King Jr. Standford University, Stanford, CA. 14 April 1967. Speech. 2017. .