Inadequacy of proper housing in the city of Detroit

Reflective learning summary of Chapter 2

In this chapter, Surgue (2014) illustrates the inadequacy of proper housing in the city of Detroit, especially after the war’s veterans returned. Thus, the majority of the Black Americans were stuck in the ghettos of run-down homes that had multiple families “…Detroit blacks were entrapped in the city’s worst housing stock, half of it substandard, most of it overcrowded.” (Surgue, 2014: 33). Therefore, from this chapter, I have learned that the lamentation of the continued and growing success of the class divisions started long before the start of the civil war. As Surgue (2014) describes, African American residents such as Ethel Johnson regularly sent letters to the authorities, illustrating their difficulties in finding conducive rental houses for their families. Besides, I have learned that racial segregation is the only primary justification that promotes reinforced patterns of racial inequality.

From the book, the white enjoyed the lavish housing lifestyle that was provided by the white authorities. Also, the whites were rich as the government offered more job opportunities and tax leverages. On the other hand, the blacks were poor due to scarce job opportunities and only resided in the city’s oldest housing stocks that needed urgent rehabilitation, maintenance, and repair. Thus, this knowledge about racial segregation and black people profiling by the Detroit white government has motivated me to curb all racial achievement gaps present in academic institutions. Evident from Surge’s (2014) book, the desperate housing situation that resulted to overcrowding, culminated to extreme atrocities such as the outbreak of fires and deaths “…after four people were killed in a fire in one of Burton’s buildings.” (Surgue, 2014: 54). Thus, as a learner, I am obliged to be an advocate for any incidences of racial segregation. In school, the effect can worsen as a segregated learner due to race or colour can be a host of associated conditions such as depressions. These conditions affect the typical segregated learners’ school performance where he or she may score lower grades.

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Reflective learning summary of Chapter 3

In this chapter titled as ‘the coffin of peace, talks more of the containment of the public housing. I have garnered knowledge about the general failure of public housing at all levels. Thus, I have understood that despite all the blacks’ efforts in airing their grievances to the authorities on their housing conditions, they never gained acceptance. Besides, some of the complaints that were heard by the authorities were never implemented well in any place within the city or the neighbouring towns. From the case study of Charles Johnson, a WWII war veteran, he was frustrated by the poor housing and overcrowded homes that he witnessed in Detroit. “Detroit’s black neighbourhoods were bursting with tenants.” (Surgue, 2014: 92). Having served his nation for over ten years, he expected to receive a conducive house where his family would reside. From this case scenario, I have gained knowledge that the effects of racial segregation affect all the subjects despite their position or service to the government.

Also, from this chapter, I can draw knowledge of persistency. Black American residents like Charles Johnson persistently moved the notion of proper housing for their families to Detroit’s Housing Commission and the Interracial Committee. From the persistence, a new deal in housing was raised to the table by the US national government. As an alternative, Detroit’s private housing firms were given new deals to solve the housing issue “…Detroit’s private market to solve the city’s housing crisis.” (Surgue, 2014:59). Besides, I have learned the critical significance of teamwork in achieving a common goal. In the pursuit of proper housing, the Detroit black’s society formed range of association such as UAW that regularly won lawsuits that challenged Detroit’s housing laws.

Chapter 4

This chapter that is entitled “the structure of employment discrimination” highlights the discriminatory aspects of the labour industry in Detroit. It gives a story of Mays’s tireless job-hunting with no fruition. Mays was a qualified worker who sought for recruitment at Chrysler Dodge Company after the company issued a massive recruitment advertisement only to be turned down due to the colour of his skin. From this story, I have learnt that the employment discrimination in the postwar Detroit was endemic, inconsistent and capricious. In addition, I have gotten to know that the discrimination in the labour market was not only shaped by racial discrimination but mainly by the structure of the labour market as it was divided into capitalized primary sector firms, poorly capitalized and small scale ones. The blacks were situated in the secondary sector firms in poor-paying jobs such as service works and also more concentrated in the primary sector in subordinates’ jobs as janitors. Generally, I have learnt that employment discrimination on race was shaped by labour market structure, internal firms’ dynamics and racial ideology along with the culture.

This chapter has provided a further dissection into racial employment discrimination through investigating employment practices at crucial industries in Detroit like automobile manufacture, machine tool production, construction labour and several others. Since racial preference in job adverts was outlawed in Michigan in 1955, companies could not use adverts that had a racial preference. Thus, companies opted for decentralized hiring policies that made it hard for blacks to get job opportunities. Moreover, I have observed that discrimination was institutionalized in union practices and also in the division of the workplace. This was majorly in the automobile industry while other industries made workplace division by race and ethnicity elevating employment discrimination. I thereby clearly understand that just at the moment that African American were happy that they had ended segregation and they would soon enjoy free labour, their joy was short-lived because discrimination was institutionalized.

Chapter 5

This chapter captures the implication of the white flight in Detroit that caused an economic slump-downas companies relocated to exurban and suburban areas. This indicates to me that employment opportunity is the economic background of cities since Detroit’s economic condition fluctuated and the development of the city was greatly derailed. The aftermath of the job flight was marked with 4 main recessions being caused by the relocation of automobile industry companies including the major Ford manufacturing plant. I think this is the reason behind the title of this chapter ‘deindustrialization’. One of the topics covered in this chapter is capital mobilization and the insight I have gained is that companies moved to other parts of the country to gain access to markets in other sections of the country and that the rapid development of infrastructure encouraged companies to distribute their goods over longer distances. I, therefore, understand that the concept of capital mobility allowed firms to relocate productions in more profitable areas leading to the flight of industries hence configuring the landscape of most industrial cities like Detroit.

I have also learnt that industries that were in involved in the flight from Detroit blamed lack of land to expand their plants as a cause for relocation which I understand was not the case since flight of industries was not caused by inexorable consequences of economic progress or market force but was done due to cultural, political and institutional context in order to fight the powerful union movements for the struggle over work control and work rules. Therefore, I can deduce that the deindustrialization in Detroit was a way of combating the powerful labour union in Detroit. I have also learnt that most industries used automation as a weapon to ensure their anti-labour arsenals. They say that adopting full automation in the automobile industry would give them an upper-hand in the labour-management relations as it led to a downsizing of the workforce to a manageable size. This led to job loss in Detroit increasing calamities of jobless African American who could not fend for themselves.

Chapter 6

In my view, this chapter addresses the responses that the people of Detroit had deindustrialization and discrimination. The UAW is depicted to make the loudest outcry in this chapter since they were largely affected by job runaways. I notice that they made this outcry because the flight of industries was an indication that the fundamental issues about rights, power, responsibilities and inequality that had faced America in the past had not been resolved. According to them, deindustrialization illustrated that the corporation had little obligations in the communities that they were located in. I have also noticed that what was happening in Detroit did not receive national attention since the country was clouded with the phenomenal national growth and most economists assumed that the condition was temporary. Hence, the economic status quo in Detroit was upheld since politicians gave the situation a cold eye with the rationale that the situation would resolve itself leading to the outcry of the people of Detroit to be censored.

From my understanding, it was up to those who were suffering due to the job flight to stand up for themselves and the grievances that UAW was depicting were the best way to start. It shows that when there is no one to defend you, you should stand and defend yourself. The UAW began by opposing Ford Company’s initiative to adopt automation of its plants. The plant workers filed for a lawsuit with claims that the runaway jobs was a casualty of the takeover and this lawsuit garnered support that forced industries to settle for concessions. Their efforts paid off as corporate leaders, labour leaders, and city government attempted to reindustrialize Detroit.  This led to the industrial renewal that followed the response against job runaways and discriminations.

Chapter 7

This chapter talks about the changing geography of Black Detroit as Detroit was becoming more racially integrated. This chapter is opened with a lawsuit against a Black person who had purchased a house in a White-neighborhood after moving from the Black enclave. This spurred rebut on the restrictive covenant inspiring blacks in Detroit to move boldly in looking for residents in a predominantly white neighbourhood. In my understanding, this also raised the influence of civil right activist since they were more inclined of pluralism, antiracism, the tolerance that were forged after the Nazi atrocities. As a result, this positivity led to the expansion of black residents outside the enclaves leading to improvements in black housing conditions significantly. The effect of this was decreased in overcrowding and improved living standards.

However, discrimination still existed as the residents were subdivided into sub-communities leading to the segregation of the living residents. It also created a division of class among the class as those who had high paying jobs moved to better neighbourhoods near predominantly white neighbourhood whereas those who were stuck in poor paying jobs were left in the gentrified neighbourhoods (Surgue, 2014: 190). The resultant effect was the emergence of black elites that marked the capable black people who had managed to move out of the Black enclave to the society that was predominantly white. The black elites were black entrepreneurs whose names were well established in the wealthy class and thereby sought residence in districts that were outside of the traditional inner-city neighbourhood. The black elites founded open house movement which brought African American leaders, religious organization and Civil Right Groups to pursue desegregation in the Detroit housing market. The collective effort that was garnered gained fruition and they even pursued political action by lobbying the Federal Housing Administration to allow black to purchase foreclosed houses in white neighbourhoods. Their efforts gradually and steadily paid off.


Surgue, T. J. (2014). The origins of the urban crisis: Race and inequality in postwar Detroit-updated edition. Princeton University Press.

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