Apr 14, 2014
A black 16-year-old Detroiter was the fifth person so far charged in the beating of a white suburban man, Steven Utash. Detroit police say the 16-year-old threw the first punch of what became a mob assault, after Utash’s truck hit a 10-year-old child who had dashed into the street in front of Utash. Utash stopped after hitting the child, whose leg was broken.
The 16-year-old Detroiter was charged with assault and ethnic intimidation, a so-called “hate crime.”
Was it hateful what happened to Utash? Without a doubt. No one deserves to be beaten down to the ground by 10 or so men, then kicked repeatedly in the head. Utash remains in the hospital, seriously injured, not at all out of danger, with doctors unable to say what the long-term consequences of the beating will be. By all accounts, it was a savage beating.
But calling it a “hate-crime” blurs the issue. And so does all the talk in the media about “good Detroiters,” and “bad ones” – which sounds eerily reminiscent of the phrases used not so long ago by racists referring to so-called “good niggers” and “bad ones.”
If it were only a simple question of a few “bad men,” there would be few problems.
The fact is, Detroit is a pressure cooker, and it should come as no surprise that sometimes the lid blows off. It’s no surprise that there are explosions. And people would be foolish to believe that it’s only the “bad ones” who explode.
Detroit is plagued with unemployment – it has long provided the big companies with casual labor when they needed more workers, and suffered the greatest unemployment when the companies cut back.
It is a city that was raped by some of the biggest companies in the world, which made off with enormous amounts of Detroiters’ tax money. It is a city today being taken over by “developers” who want more of that tax money and by well-off suburban “pioneers” who want to re-colonize the city – or parts of the city.
For the Detroiters who have always been here, there is no money for streetlights, no money to prevent sinkholes in the streets, no money for its schools, no money for its parks.
This Detroit is a city where young 16-year-olds already can see their whole future laid out in front of them – no decent schools, no jobs, no prospects.
To believe because whites and blacks mingled in a black church in the middle of Detroit in a vigil for Steven Utash and his family that the “hate” will go away is the most asinine form of ignorance.
The hate will go away when people have prospects. And in this day and age, the only thing that will give prospects back to all the people deprived of them will be a struggle to take back the wealth from those who have drained it out of Detroit and places like Detroit.
It’s obvious that Steven Utash is not the problem – at most, he was a symbol for the gang that beat him. It’s equally obvious that the men who made up that temporary gang did not alleviate the problems they face.
The anger dumped on Utash in a flashpoint has to be channeled and aimed at those who have turned Detroit into this pressure cooker. And not just Detroit. By all accounts, Steven Utash, and how many more white workers like him who live in the near suburbs, also have lives that are a daily grind, giving up their labor for a pittance.
No one should have to live this way! But if we want another way, we, all of us, workers, black and white, will have to create it. We will have to drive out the ones who steal our lives, the capitalists, take back the wealth our labor created and use it for ourselves.