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Sticking up for the Motor City

An open letter to Jeff Golden in response to his guest — on 4/23/04, Marshall Rosenberg.

Dear Jeff,

I am still outraged by your guest on Friday, in what seems — to be a limited understanding of the city in which he was born, he adds — to the misinformation so often projected by the media about Detroit. Yes, — Detroit is a very different city than little Ashland. I love Ashland, — but would not dare to compare it to the greatness of "Motown," the "Motor — City," or the "Arsenal of Democracy," as Detroit was known through World — War II.

I too was born in that great city. My father was a United — Auto-Workers organizer during the 1930s and throughout his life. As I — remember my childhood it seemed my father was always in or coming back — from jail or the hospital after suffering injuries inflicted on him by — National Guard, police, or the strike-breakers (scabs). Together my father — and people of all backgrounds, but especially Slavic-Americans, including — a very large presence of Polish Immigrants, forged a great union. The — UAW gave an opportunity to all people, the original eastern European immigrants, — the African-American and the white disenfranchised people of the south — and Appalachia. These people flowed in great numbers to this industrial — center, in what was known as "Great Migration." In Detroit the working — people took their place in the middle class. They educated their children — and sent them on to the great land-grant universities of Michigan. I lived — through all this and the experience is forever imprinted on my soul.

I could go on about the race riots, which your guest spoke — of, but that is another complicated discussion. It is one that brings — together the threads of the capitalist concept of 'divide and conquer', — with which the owners used to indoctrinate their new workers. There were — also the issues of the influx of many people from areas of the country — where segregation was still the norm, and the struggle of the union people — who had worked so hard to build a new life. All of this must be a part — of the discussion. This is not an attempt to excuse, but only a challenge — to see how complicated this issue is, and to understand the depths and — nuances of this tragic event. It's important to look deeper to see the — background upon which social change takes place.

Detroit is on hard times now. It is struggling through — the UAW to fight against out-sourcing and the problems inherent in globalization. — These challenges will demand the commitment of us all to meet the issues — of our day. I know the great city of Detroit, its unions and its people — will survive and build a new tomorrow.

Cynthia Zavatski