This week’s Heartlanders are the twenty-five African Americans killed in race riots 70 years ago this week. 1943. Not 1967, or 1968. Or the 1970s, or the Crack Wars.
There is no question at all that there was a time when Detroit was a beautiful city. Like all cities, even at its height, there were problems. It was never a Utopia. Utopia by definition does not exist.
Not having grown up in Michigan, I view Detroit through an outsider’s lens. Having spent a number of years living in Michigan, I have seen through the eyes of people who were born and raised there, and who’s parents and grandparents were born and raised there, a different view.
Likely neither view is perfect. Likely is a place worth something, more than the cultural eyesore many would dismiss as no one’s business and concern outside the city limits. Nor is a cultural icon that will come roaring back any minute, if someone somewhere just makes the right move.
So Heartlanders for their sacrifice, Heartlanders for the memory of the flawed and troubled reality of our country’s history. The cracked uneven road we have traveled, the likely pitfalls in front of us. The times we have failed ourselves and the dreams of those who came before us. A reminder to never stop questioning, to never accept beauty at its face value and to keep minds and eyes open for something better.