This is the first in a series of twelve blog posts on the segregation that shaped my hometown of Inkster, Michigan, a suburb of Detroit. These posts are excerpts from my book: https://www.facebook.com/americasmostviolentandinspiringtown
I remember the day we moved from Dearborn to Inkster, and the feeling that we were leaving the city for the suburbs. Inkster looked beautiful to my eight-year-old eyes, with lots of trees and open fields, and none of the big, smelly factories that occupied much of Dearborn (Ford and many other manufacturers are headquartered in Dearborn, the hometown of Henry Ford).
It would be some time before I understood it was the lack of factories that made Inkster so poor.
From the early days of the Ford Motor Company, black workers were pushed into living in Inkster. This was accomplished through a combination of barring them from living in
Dearborn, while providing access to housing, a company commissary, and other services for them in Inkster, in a seeming show of generosity by their employers. But housing them outside of Dearborn meant they would be separated from the industrial tax base and their community would not receive the high tax revenues paid by the factories in Dearborn. Those revenues provided well-funded coffers and schools for the residents of
Dearborn who held the same jobs in the same factories as their coworkers from Inkster. Residents of Inkster undoubtedly worked just as hard as their next-door neighbors in Dearborn, yet they reaped far fewer benefits. This century-old feat of social engineering sleight-of-hand resulted in Dearborn and Inkster remaining racially segregated and
disparately funded even today. (There is a small section of Inkster with more white residents, north of Avondale Road, accounting for Inkster’s 20% white population [2010 U.S. Census].)