The scene in the courtroom was almost as harrowing as the incident on the street. As four men were bound over for last month’s vicious beating of Steve Utash, their supporters laughed and jeered obscenely, while Utash remained hospitalized in critical condition. He had been driving through a Detroit neighborhood when his truck hit a young boy who had run into the street. When Utash stopped to help, he was attacked and would now be dead but for the intervention of Deborah Hughes, a retired nurse who has seen two of her own children die in the city. Utash is white. His attackers are black. This is the Detroit I know primarily through the eyes of my friend Charity Hicks, who talks despondently of a generation of young men so marginalized that they put little value on human life. With rates of poverty and unemployment far higher than during the Great Depression, much of Detroit has become a wasteland of alcohol, drugs and violence. And no one knows what to do.
• Build more prisons? We already have the world’s highest incarceration rate, which has more than tripled in 40 years.
• Hope they stay in the inner city, killing themselves and each other? Then, as Steve Utash showed, we’d better not go there.
• Launch a New Deal-like jobs program? We have a Congress that won’t authorize a dime for such things.
So we turn our backs, lock our communities and create a system of apartheid that is an American tragedy.
But if you go into these cities, into these neighborhoods, you see signs of hope trying to bloom, signs I'll explore in future posts.