With Detroit’s mayoral election one week away, voters have contrasting views on the role race is playing in the mayoral campaign.
Mike Duggan, who is white, is running against Wayne County Sheriff Benny Napoleon, who is black.
“It should not be a matter of race. It should be a matter of who can do the best job for the city,” said Connie Lanier, of Detroit.
The overwhelming majority of Detroit voters share that view, at least on camera. But columnist Bill Johnson says an influential Detroit leader made a strictly racial argument in attempting to get him to back Napoleon.
“He suggested that I inform Detroiters that the election of Mike Duggan would essentially mean the end of political power for black folks, and it would mean the end of economic power because it would turn over the economic reins to the so called white corporate elite,” said Johnson, who rejects the argument.
Attorney Cliff Woodards says black Duggan supporters are being attacked on social media.
“People have gone so far as to talk about what would happen if Mike is elected in terms of ‘house negroes’” said Woodards.
No one can be sure whether these anecdotes are exceptions, or the tip of the iceberg. Considering Detroit’s painful racial history, it’s no surprise that people would see black and white at some level.
Forty years ago Coleman Young was elected as the city’s first black mayor. Tobias Dumas, 61, recalls the pride he felt.
“It was a great thing to see, because we had never had a black mayor before," he said.
But Tobias, who has a Duggan sign on his lawn, is more concerned about Detroit’s deterioration than on an historic event in 1973.
" ... Because we’re pissed off with the way the city turned out to be," he said.
Napoleon supporter DaCory Cooper says his candidate’s race is not important, but his lifelong Detroit ties are.
"I’ve seen him work here in the police department and the Sheriff’s Department," said Cooper. “That’s the name I’m familiar with."