A friend from the UK wrote and asked me what happened to that once magnificent city of Detroit. I gave his a short response which may sound harsh to politically correct ears but I never claimed to be politically correct choosing rather to be honest and speak my mind. Here was my answer:

This was once a glorious city. My Catholic ancestors from my mother’s side immigrated to Detroit where they built businesses and thrived when Detroit was something to behold. My great great grandfather carved the oak altar rail at St. Anne’s Catholic Church, the first in Detroit and now a Minor Basilica. My grandfather owned lots of properties. I was born in Detroit and my dad worked his whole life at Ford Motor Company. We moved out before the big collapse. The popular saying was, “The last one to leave, turn off the lights.”

What happened to Detroit is easy to explain. 75% of children live without a father — there is almost a 50% illiteracy rate. The Black people who make up the majority in downtown have leaders that teach them to be victims. The welfare state replaced the need for a father. The State becomes the father with promises to provide everything.The Rev. Jesse Jackson’s and Al Sharpton’s of the world lie to their people and keep them on the modern day plantation.

Young men without dads look up to pimps and drug lords. They join gangs as “substitute families.” Girls give away sex without commitment. They have no fathers so they fall for the first man who says they love them. They have babies and get money from the government. Their babies are doomed to repeat the same cycle of poverty and despair. Abortion is rampant.

God and discipline were taken from the schools and replaced with chaos. No one can discipline unruly students who have never been taught discipline or the value of an education. They have no idea or interest in the meaning and responsibilities of a democratic republic or civic duty. They have no idea what the Declaration of Independence or Constitution are. The school dropout rate is unbelievable and the arrest rate reflects it. People are afraid to walk in the streets.

And the Black youth unemployment? Businesses are not likely to hire a young man with no education or discipline, who won’t speak understandable English and who applies for a job slouched over, wearing a hoodie, pants hanging off his butt and sporting a bad attitude. When I was running my business a decade ago more than half of the people from Detroit that applied for employment had a criminal record, could not read, or could not pass a drug test.

The city officials are gangsters and some in prison (e.g., the last major Kilpatrick), yet Blacks continue voting for the same crooks because they are Black Democrats who promise to be Santa Claus. Promised pensions were too high and are now breaking them. Trade unions got greedy and protected bad employees. Whites fled (like our family in 1960). The population dropped from about 2 million to 600,000. Taxes increased, services decreased. Neighborhoods were abandoned. Churches were closed. Businesses moved out. Except for a few areas, Detroit is now a huge burned-out slum.  
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Christian morality and the family, enterprise and hard work were replaced with single-parent families and fatherless children, with secularism and socialism, with a culture that knows nothing of work but only food stamps, welfare and government dependence. 
My heart goes out to those stuck in this culture of death and despair. 
Though there are hotspots of development, don’t expect Detroit to recover in our lifetime. 

This Post Has 12 Comments

  1. Carson Lauffer


    You have summarized the situation well. We could see this coming for many years as you have. We lament the fact that Detroit did not declare bankruptcy several years ago. I too doubt that Detroit, the once glorious city, can recover in our lifetime.

  2. Shaun C

    I recently read your article “What Happened to Detroit?” in Defenders of the Catholic Faith. While I do not disagree with the core concepts of this article, I have a couple of questions I’d like your opinion on. I used to work in corporate America, the banking industry in particular, and I can tell you that corporate executives and upper management protect bad employees every bit as the Trade Unions you reference, do. For the most part, there is no sense of God when it comes to business. I sat in on meetings hearing about how important it was to earn for the shareholders, while our raises were maybe 1 or 2%. I myself won’t be politically correct. If people are preaching Christianity, God, morals and values on lower income, and undisciplined Blacks, where is the Christianity in telling people that in working hard that they have to take a pay cut so rich shareholders can make more money?
    The investment representative at my bank told the manager getting investments for the rich customer was more important than her family. Where are Christian values and morals in that? Why aren’t you referencing the non-Christian behaviors of the business sector at the same time your referencing God being removed from the schools? If we are trying to portray ourselves as a Christian nation with values and morals, wouldn’t we want a high standard of living for everyone? Shouldn’t we be demanding Christian-like morals and values from the business world at the same time demanding it from each individual person? Businesses donate billions to campaign funds at the same time complaining they can’t afford healthcare. Do you believe that God judges business decisions different from personal?

    Thanks in advance,

  3. Jerry Wasunyk

    You are accurate with your assessment. I feel sorry for those folks who are elderly and can’t afford to move out and are trapped in a dangerous environment. I have seen beautiful neighbors turn into trash dumps within the course of a couple of years. Warrendale was once a beautiful neighborhood and now it looks like a war zone. I feel for the children of single parents who live in the city. I feel for the drop out and I feel for those who the schools have pushed thru the education system …just to push them out even though they hadn’t received a quality education. I feel for the firefighters who have been shot at.

    Will we see an improvement in our lifetime …… what do you think.

  4. Lothars Sohn

    Hello, what you describe seems to be a kind of vicious circle, so one cannot be sure it all began with fatherlesness.

    Lovely greetings from Germany.
    Liebe Grüsse aus Deutschland.

    Lothars Sohn – Lothar’s son

  5. Danisa Flowers

    Very well-written! Your assessment of the situation is accurate. In a course of couple of years, lots of things have changed for the worse. I can only hope that Detroit can go back to its glory days.

  6. Jesse Ray

    In response to Shaun,
    I understand your point that there are problems other then the ones the theme of this blog post intended to address. But I would not expect Steve to mention every sin and human ailment if he mentions one…that would end up being very tedious.

    I frequently hear people criticizing pro-lifers who pray and council near abortion clinics for not providing fully funded college savings plans for the children who are not aborted. Seriously? How dare a person criticize the good works of another for not being comprehensive enough.

    Perhaps if you have personal motivation to help expose and heal the culture of greed and corruption in the corporate world you should work through the channels God has given you to address the problem. Beware of falling into the trap of expecting others to do your work for you.

  7. Shaun

    To Jesse Ray,
    Thanks for your response. First off I would like to still extend my question for Steve to answer himself. I would like the question I posed to him, answered by him please.

    To your response Jesse you may not expect Steve to mention every sin, and nor do I, indeed it would be tedious. But a few things here: first he addressing the issue of what he think is affecting the decline of the city of Detroit. He starts to list a whole list of reasons as to why. Corporate greed and the role it plays in decline of that city is a little larger foot print than you equating those who criticize pro-lifers for not funding children’s colleges. You’re really not comparing apples to apples here.

    Secondly, I would like to respond to you and tell you that I do make good of the channels God gives me, or at least I try to do my best. This channel, the one Steve provides is one of them.

    Thirdly, your respond in essence really dodges the question. You’re giving really two main points. One it’d be too tedious for Steve to answer my slice of a slice of a problem, and the other point you make is that it’s kind of silly to even bring something up like this, its just like the pro life criticizers. Please!

    So now I redirect this question to you Jesse. Go back and re-read my question to Steve, and without going off onto much of a tangent, please respond. I get the feeling like you may either agree with corporate America, or you’d just rather turn a blind eye and a deaf ear to it.

  8. Anthony Ryan

    With all due respect, why would Steve allow a ‘Comment’ section on his blog if he is the only one who gets to answer and/or debate the comments that are posted? It seems to me Steve wants have us all join in the conversation.

    In my book, personal, one-on-one communication without interference from others is called e-mail, not an open blog Comment section.

    Just my $0.02 ….

  9. larry

    This is not a Christian article and does not in any way represent the grace, charity and love for the weakest among us. You should opine elsewhere, like Fox News.

    STEVE RAY HERE: It certainly is a Christian article and it shows charity in the sense of exposing the socialistic system that destroys the dignity of people and their city. Socialism has failed – it is not Christian. I am promoting a system that has given more dignity and freedom to people over the years than any other in history. That is the democratic, free-market system of capitalism with Christian charity to temperate. No system has brought more prosperity. The problem with the Detroit is government involvement and the lack of morality.

    And sorry, but this is a Christian evaluation of the situation.

  10. Thomas M Govern

    I grew up in Detroit, my first twelve years. I went to a local Catholic school near Harper and Vandyke. In my opinion, the basic problem, looking back, is that people who did not have means became the majority. Perhaps that was some of the poor looking for inexpensive housing. The dilemma is that Detroit had many really good jobs. Still, Detroit had expanded without infrastructure support. Too much land, too many people, not enough new development or opportunities. City leadership was weak and did not see any of the problems. When they did, they blamed it on others or did not have a solution. The suburbs offered a way out and people moved out in droves in the 60’s. Someone should do a really in depth study on urban destruction with Detroit as and example.

  11. Chris C.

    This does describe Detroit quite accurately though most trace its downfall to the 1967 riots. A once great, thriving city never recovered. It has been plagued by intense racial divisions to one degree or another ever since.

    In recent years it appears to have had a bit of a mini renaissance which hopefully will continue, assuming it is not torn apart by racial and political hatreds of the sort that our nation has lived through the past couple of months.

    Detroit, as with most of our urban areas, badly needs strong families and a strong sense of community. It is impossible for a community to thrive without strong, stable families.

    STEVE RAY HERE: Thanks Chris. Exactly correct.

  12. Steve Dunham

    I don't know about Detroit, but I agree with Shaun that some businesses reject God too. At one place where I worked for almost two decades, more than one of the managers expected people to work seven days a week if told to. One of those managers labeled me "hard to work with" because I would work no more than six days a week. Another, in a meeting, referring to the clients, said they were god. This was a capitalist, private-enterprise company, but I wouldn't say it had Christian values.

    STEVE RAY HERE: Thanks for sharing. What you experienced is not only anti-Catholic but inhumane. I never said or implied that Capitalism without morals or compassion is the ideal of Catholicism. quite the opposite. The Catechism condemns the experience that you had. Private property, free enterprise, yes.

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