The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

City of Hamtramck finally admits racist “urban removal”

Jun 2, 2008

In Michigan, the City of Hamtramck and Wayne County finally started construction of a housing development, as part of a settlement with former residents who sued the city forty years ago. Many of those residents are now dead.

In the mid-sixties, Hamtramck officials forced out residents from three areas of the city, all three of which were predominantly black, refusing to maintain streets and sewers and later shutting off water to the homes. City officials even pushed the Michigan state highway department to change its planned route for the Chrysler Freeway, when the highway department said that the plans wouldn’t require tearing down any homes. The city also harassed residents who stayed, regularly overcharging them for water and property taxes.

As a result of the settlement, pushed-out residents and their children or grandchildren could receive up to $30,000 toward the purchase of one of the homes under construction – which average $140,000 in price. Others are receiving subsidized rent on rental homes in the area.

It’s not much. As the saying goes, “Justice delayed is justice denied.” But the settlement itself at least recognizes the reality of what many black people have long said: “Urban renewal is black removal.”

What happened in Hamtramck has happened in many cities. Besides the underlying racism that is obvious in the Hamtramck case, “urban removal” is also carried out to benefit the wealthy at the expense of the working population, including in cities like Detroit, headed by a black mayor.

Cities across the country have been swept by “gentrification” – a fancy name for handing over large chunks of inner city land to the wealthy.