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In July 1967, five days of chaos erupted in Detroit. Citizens, police, and troops clashed in a violent conflict that left 43 people dead, thousands of buildings destroyed, and a lingering scar on the once-vibrant city. It was a pivotal moment for Detroit, and for the country.Today, many believe Detroit is having a renaissance. And there have been plenty of visible improvements in recent years.But for many Detroiters, little has changed for the better in the past half-century. Poverty is even more entrenched. There are few good jobs and even fewer good schools. Blight and foreclosure have erased entire neighborhoods.If we want to understand today’s Detroit, we have to consider the city’s turbulent past. That’s why Michigan Radio is revisiting the events of that hot summer in 1967.From July 17-28, Stateside and Morning Edition will hear from people who were there; explore the issues that led to the deadliest riot of the 1960s; and examine why it still resonates in the city today.

Issues & Ale: How problems that led to the 1967 rebellion are still with us

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Lindsey Scullen
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Michigan Radio

Monday night’s Issues & Ale event plunged back in time to the days surrounding the 1967 rebellion – the historic conflict between citizens and police that led to 43 deaths and thousands of buildings destroyed during five summer days in Detroit.

Panelist Ike McKinnon was in Detroit during the rebellion. He was one of few black police officers on the force at the time. Listen here as he describes what it was like to be pulled over by his colleagues on the second night of the rebellion:

The night’s panelists included the following:

Ike McKinnon, Detroit’s former police chief and deputy mayor, and current assistant professor of education at the University of Detroit Mercy Lauren Hood, acting director of Live6 Alliance and expert in diversity training Chastity Pratt Dawsey, a reporter with Bridge Magazine and the Detroit Journalism Cooperative Peter Hammer, a professor at the Wayne State University Law School and director of the Damon J. Keith Center for Civil Rights Host: Lester Graham, reporter for the Detroit Journalism Cooperative and host of Stateside on Michigan Radio

Graham said the Detroit Journalism Cooperative spent the year investigating how Detroit has changed since 1967.

“Here’s what we found out: Police relationships are better,” Graham said. “Everything else that we studied in Detroit is actually worse now than it was in 1967 for black people in Detroit.”

Hood said the overwhelming lesson here is this: Racism is like an illness.

“If you don’t address it, it doesn’t go away,” she said. “It just gets worse. So we need to not be afraid to talk about it.”

Hood is glad the 50th anniversary of the rebellion is giving rise to safe conversation spaces, like this Issues & Ale event, but she said it’s not enough.

“You need to have the conversations at home,” she said. “You need to have the uncomfortable conversations with your family members, with your colleagues at work…. It’s got to happen in the hard places. This is easy.”

White people may sometimes feel these conversations are too difficult to have at Thanksgiving dinner tables or in the office, for instance.

Hear what Hood had to say to that:

For the night’s in-depth conversation about the 1967 rebellion, race relations today compared to 1967, and the systemic racism at play in our society, listen above. You won’t want to miss it.

From July 17-28, Michigan Radio is looking back at Detroit in 1967, the Summer of Rebellion. We’ll explore the issues that led to one of the deadliest civil disturbances in American history, and examine why it still resonates in the city today.

For information on upcoming Issues & Ale events, click here.