Empire Builders rally round Stephen Henderson’s Free Press editorial
March 18, 2013, Detroit – Last week, in the Free Press, Stephen Henderson wrote an editorial that was highly critical of the protestors who gathered outside of Cadillac Place as Governor Snyder announced Kevyn Orr would be Detroit’s Emergency Manager. EFM protesters miss opportunities to truly help Detroit paints the protestors as both inane and as demagogues, while mindfully misrepresenting their concerns and demands. He summarizes his assumption about their argument:
Their argument… is that we, as Detroiters, can fix our problems by ourselves. Outsiders need not meddle and certainly shouldn’t be swooping in to take the reins.
Henderson conveniently leaves out a number of the protesters most poignant demands to get this one off. The majority of the opposition that I’ve spoken with cite the fact that Detroit needs help from ‘outsiders’ to the tune of the money the state owes the city and from many ‘insiders’ like Detroit’s large corporation’s coming clean on their tax debt before moving forward with new developments.
He also, with a great deal of disrespect from my perspective, makes the mistake of assuming that the protestors are not active in their communities, are not cleaning up their blocks, parks, etc. I’m not claiming I know or can know even a small slice of everything going on in Detroit, but Mr. Henderson’s claims must mean that he hangs out in vastly different circles than I. If our paths ever crossed, he’d know like I do, many of the protestors he’s attempting to call out here are extremely active in community service, many of them across generations.
The article is also rife with what sociologist refer to as coded-language. If you’re not up on that lingo, I totally understand. Coded language is a means for racism and other indoctrinated parameters to retain prevalence in the face of state imposed legislation and cultural engineering fostered by political correctness and corporate interests. It’s a common strategy employed to avoid any meaningful systemic transformation, which would be bad for business.
I was searching around for clear examples of coded-language and found Newt Racism: The Racially Coded Language of Presidential Candidates by Jason Eastman, that focused on last year’s election campaign and Newt Gingriches’ word usage. Along with an accessible Daily Show skit the page cites Eduardo Bonilla-Silva who “argues that the new racism entails individuals saying and doing things that perpetuate racial stereotypes and inequalities, but they do so in such a way that the offender is able to deny being explicitly racist.”
I’ll not debate whether or not Mr. Henderson was aware of the coded-language he was throwing about. What I do find interesting and feel well within my realm to critique is how many Detroiters I consider to be progressive in both thought and deed, relished in and rallied behind Henderson’s words. The buzz was potent. It was as if, finally, someone spoke with clarity from their perspective. To use Henderson’s own coded language, it seemed like for some Detroiters, his editorial finally broke through “the Darkness”. I’ve bolded a few examples here that are quite lush.
The protests of the emergency financial manager in Detroit appeal to the most base and craven instincts, seeking to tell a people who can’t count on the most basic services that their biggest problem is the outsiders tasked with restoring order.
A human chain around City Hall? It’s a bit inane, and focused on the idea of power, rather than results.
In Detroit, our problem is the lack of services and the fiscal imbalance that make it impossible to manage a sustainable urban center. Trash. Darkness that helps make streets horribly dangerous.
If you think the idea that words carry cultural weight and power is too ‘out’ there, check out any marketing textbook to confirm that manipulated messaging influences consumer choice. Having some personal experience in sales and marketing, in addition to doing penance everyday, I’ve observed that coded language is most successful when folk don’t intellectually or consciously connect to the undercurrent of meaning.
The most powerful aspects of indoctrination are the subtle ones, the ones that are barely perceptible to us but could speak volumes to others. Hence my bringing it up here, it’s like an interruption. Excuse me? Did he just say what I think he did? If he did, are Detroiters still certain that they want to so readily fly this flag?