THE American Dream is alive and well and living in Detroit. Moreover, for at least 60 percent of Detroiters, the American Dream is black. Many white Americans, who have been fed doses of Detroit's negative media image over the last two decades, would be surprised by what they find here. They've heard about race riots in the '60s, followed by white flight to the suburbs; industry layoffs and unemployment; high homicide rates; and the decay of the downtown commercial district in favor of suburban shopping malls. The image they have of Detroit's black community is likely to be squalid, violent, and economically depressed.
It is true that the commercial streets that serve the residential neighborhoods abound with evidence of urban blight: Many businesses are boarded up, litter is plentiful, and those stores that are open are often barricaded against crime with metal gates and bulletproof windows.
The crisis in the auto industry during the 1970s took its toll when many jobs -- and many homes -- were lost. Even Denise Glover, who has worked for the city in various capacities and is one of its staunchest supporters, will concede that.
``Many people went through hard times,'' says Ms. Glover, a third-generation Detroiter whose grandparents were among the first small group of blacks to move into an all-white residential neighborhood in northwest Detroit in the 1930s. ``There were people who were displaced as a result of what happened with the automobile situation. There were homes that were lost. It would not be fair to say that we survived it whole. There are still people who have not been called back, who will never be called back.''
But it's on the streets where people live -- and there are miles and miles of such streets here, today almost exclusively black -- that one finds the American Dream.
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