America is experiencing a brutal year filled with domestic and world violence. It seems to be everywhere, everyday, at all times. There are many who constantly remind us to have fear in this social media savvy world.
Does fear sell news? It sells guns. It scares us into thinking more about violence in our daily lives. So what shall we do? I love the posture, grit, and honesty that comedian Bernie Mac used in his routine. The late humorist would say during his show that he was not afraid of anything. Looking directly at his audience he would tell them with a serious face, “I ain’t scare of y’all.” His legacy of coming from the tough section of Chicago demanded his fearlessness. This is the same fearlessness that iconic American president Franklin D. Roosevelt expressed in his first inaugural speech when he declared to our nation, “[T]hat the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” Both of these men have given us a key to unlock our fears at this tumultuous moment in world history.
Not long ago I wrote an article for the Free Press about urban terror. It was welcomed by some and cursed by others. I said that many in our beloved Detroit are living in an atmosphere that terrifies them – thus using the term urban terrorism. Some of my colleagues, close associates, family, and friends were uncomfortable with that particular word usage. One in particular, a close colleague and native of Detroit, scolded me that it was not the correct term, as people should understand the political ramifications that stem from the actual definition of terrorism. He is a scholar and a political scientist and I highly respect his opinion, but in this situation I strongly differed. It is terror that has paralyzed the education in schools. It begins in the homes when uncivil exchanges are normalized. Many neighborhoods are abandoned by both people and the larger society. These are the daily lives of which many have no voice to protest against the oppressive nature of being scared all the time. Crime is terrorism, and it is politically postured by different factions in our society. Complicated, conflicting, and confusing, yet, it is not so complex that it cannot be understood and resolved.
Detroit has crime despite its progressive achievements up to this very moment. The reconstructed Detroit is doing well. Despite things like the new hockey arena, there remains two distinctly uneven Detroits. The poor education system, dismal economics, and hopelessness of many contribute to a criminal atmosphere. It is the old Detroit that needs attention, improvement, and focus. There are plenty of good citizens, and hardworking Americans living across the city. Many are retired, still in homes they bought decades ago. Those conscientious residents who live in distressed areas have no love for the recklessness of those who seem not to care about anything nor anyone. They commit crimes and senseless acts of brutality. The transgressors do not represent the entire Detroit community. It is not simply black pathology; it is complex with families, history, economics, and social structures all intersecting.
So who is the bogeyman? Some political leaders around the world including in America have declared a state of fear to destroy the “invasion of outsiders.” They do this by constructing walls, building camps, deporting people, closing borders, and refusing to offer human aid to those running from violent war campaigns, or even genocide. They say you better be scared. Dearborn, which has the highest proportion of Arabs in the United States, is in the Greater Detroit region so its role has a unique bifurcation similar to other ethnic experiences. The religious experience along with the historic separation in this region has not allowed us to move beyond the fear of other cultures and people.
We are being robbed of our civility. Our democracies once dealt firmly with fear, which permitted a certain quality of life. We need everyone that has an understanding of cultural differences, racial diversity, and poverty to show we are not scared. Allowing local or international fears to take away our democratic freedom is not the answer.