Home > COMMUNITY COMMUNICATION > Spitzer out, kilpatrick in?

Spitzer out, kilpatrick in?

March 13, 2008

Carlos Osorio / AP
Mayor Kilpatrick lashed out at his critics and the press.

Racial Politics

Trying to hang on, Detroit’s mayor says the issue is not his sex scandal, but racism.

You might think the resignation of New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer would put more pressure on Detroit‘s embattled mayor, Kwame Kilpatrick, to do the same. But Kilpatrick, seven weeks into his own text sex scandal, shows no signs of giving up the fight. In fact, with a prosecutor contemplating perjury charges and his city council in revolt, Kilpatrick has chosen the nuclear option in this deeply divided city. At the end of an otherwise routine state-of-the-city speech Tuesday night, Kilpatrick went off on a racially explosive tirade against his critics and the media.

“In the past 30 days I’ve been called a n—– more than any time in my entire life,” he told a cheering, invitation-only crowd of 1,500 at Detroit’s gilded Orchestra Hall. “In the past three days I’ve received more death threats than I have in my entire administration. I’ve heard these words, but I’ve never heard people say them about my wife and children. I have to say this, because it’s very personal to me.” He stole a glace at his wife and twin 12-year-old sons standing at attention in a luxury box above the stage. “I don’t believe a Nielsen rating is worth the life of my children or your children. This unethical, illegal lynch-mob mentality has to stop.”

An African-American man might be making a serious run at the White House, but here in Motown the old-school politics of race still define this struggling city. Census data show this is the most racially divided urban center in America, with 81 percent of the city black and a roughly equal percentage of the surrounding suburbs white. Politicians on both sides of Detroit’s cultural fault line—the 8 Mile Road made famous by Eminem—have stoked racial fears for decades in order to get elected and stay in power. Kilpatrick is no stranger to this tactic. There was plenty of racial rhetoric in his bruising 2005 re-election campaign. But last summer, long before this scandal erupted, Kilpatrick joined with the NAACP to bury the N word in a ceremony complete with horse-drawn casket and burial plot. “Today we’re not just burying the N word, we’re taking it out of our spirit,” Kilpatrick said in his eulogy. “Die, N word, and we don’t want to see you ’round here no more.”

(story continues here)

Advertisements
%d bloggers like this: