Letter: Racism examples are questionable
Steve Friess, I read your December article in The Ann concerning racism in Ann Arbor. I agree that some Ann Arborites are very smug and racism — not just concerning African Americans — still exists. However, I question how you presented some of the examples you cited.
I am assuming that Ms. Alfreda Howard, since she did a “walk-in,” was observed by the Kensington Court staff to be African American. The article did not make her race or her appearance clear.
I do recall the Martin Luther King Day issue. But most have forgotten that it was not made a public holiday until 1984 and there were issues of finance and precedent — not necessarily race — that were compelling.
I confess to being fairly ignorant about the example of the brawl after the local football game which you cited as the quintessential example. I am well aware of the history of the justice system being discriminatory. Your example, however, is a Washtenaw County public servant, not an official of the city of Ann Arbor.
As for the housing issue, I think it is not racist per se. It is financial. It is very expensive to live in Ann Arbor, especially close to downtown. Prices are high and taxes (thanks to U-M gobbling up the area) are even higher. I could live a block off the Magnificent Mile in Chicago for considerably less than I spend living in downtown Ann Arbor.
Of course, that opens the question of why so many African Americans cannot afford those prices. Is it really, as you say, the “legacy of segregated housing”? We need to remember that it was the mayor and City Council of Ann Arbor who saved the predominantly black residential area between Kerrytown and Depot Street from destruction, and it was the city of Ann Arbor that passed the first fair housing law in Michigan.
But the most significant thing I question is the article’s assumption that only African Americans can fairly represent African Americans; therefore, according to the article, racism must exist, since the Ann Arbor City Council is all white. If that is true, then are white children in jeopardy in a school with an African American principal? Will they be discriminated against? The whole question borders on the ludicrous.
Dr. King provided all of us with the remedy for prejudice in his “I Have a Dream” speech, which he gave in Washington, D.C. He said that the goal should be a world in which each person would be judged by the content of his character, not the color of his skin. Good advice, don’t you think?