Round-Trip White Flight, Detroit Style

Ty Cobb

(Above: Detroit’s Ty Cobb spots a black guy in the stands at Tiger Stadium)

So the lady and I took off to Detroit last week to catch the White Sox play the Tigers at Comerica Park. It was our first visit to Motor City, and now I know why.

After the Sox’s 2-1 loss in the 9th inning courtesy of Octavio Dotel’s hung slider to Miguel “Not Orlando” Cabrera, resulting in a home run to left center and 3-game sweep for the Tigers, the crowd filed out onto Woodward Avenue, site of Martin Luther King’s 1963 march. We were sporting Sox black and white colors in a sea of Tiger orange, which prompted the following first-innocuous-then-horrifying exchange:

Group of white Tigers fans: Hey, that sweep’s gotta hurt.

Us: Yeah, Kenny Rogers brought his stuff today. But hey, what’s the use of being out in front of the division if you can’t drop three on the road?

Group of white Tigers fans, walking away: Well, thanks for bringing your race. We love your race.

Us: (flummoxed, stunned silence)

We were just…thanked…for being white people.

I knew Detroit is a legendarily messed up place. It did not escape my notice that in a city sporting an 81% black population the only African-American faces inside Comerica were behind the concession stands. It wasn’t a surprise that Comerica is a park built for the enjoyment of white suburbanites.

You know, it’s just like Wrigley Field.

Taking in the city at large, the scars of the ’67 riots were plain, as was the whiplash effect of driving north on E Jefferson and crossing Maryland Avenue, of moving from blight (or “bloit”, a term I coined) to manicured lawn in the blink of an eye. The landscape spoke volumes about the sorry situation on the ground. As unintegrated as much of Chicago is, Detroit’s bunker mentality set a standard of white flight that Chicago couldn’t come close to matching, thank god.

But…thank you for being white? Hey, I’m fat and lazy too, where’s my trophy?

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1984-89: Defoliants
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