Of Feral Cats & Fear

FearFire up the fear machine, let’s all tremble over the scourge of multiculturalism.  Frosty Wooldridge is a journalist whose stock in trade has become raging against illegal immigrants in particular, with a wide enough swath to slap immigrants in general for good measure.  Making the email rounds lately is a piece he wrote back in 2009 titled, “How Immigration and Multiculturalism Destroyed Detroit“.

The essay is a scary depiction of the demise of what was once one of America’s great cities.  I lack the ambition to fact check all of his data, but he offers a fair bit.  And while I suspect he’s directionally correct, he’s clearly playing a little fast and loose with his numbers.  In one paragraph he laments that Detroit has become “a majority black city with 67 percent African-Americans.”  In the next paragraph he states:

Detroit plummeted from 1.8 million citizens to 912,000 today. At the same time, legal and illegal immigrants converged on the city, so much so, that Muslims number over 300,000. Mexicans number 400,000 throughout Michigan, but most work in Detroit.

So, 67% of 912,000 is about 611,000 Blacks.  Therefore, of the 301,000 remaining, 300,000 are Muslims and some number that constitutes “most” of 400,000 are Mexican.  Um… that don’t add up.  Even if you assume some overlap because of African-American Muslims, it’s still some funky math.

Still, Detroit is a shambles.  On that I suspect we can all agree.  Yet the larger point of the article is not to convince the reader Detroit is a mess, it’s to assert that it got that way because of the influx of immigrants.  Now we could argue about whether this constitutes racism, or classism, or some other form of discrimination, but I think there’s a clearer point to be made.

Indulge me in a smaller scale analogy.  Let’s assume you live in a typical middle class neighborhood.  You and all your neighbors are all employed by the local plant, and life seems pretty good.  That is, until one day when the plant shuts down and you’re all out of work.  One by one, people trickle away because they can’t afford to live there.  Many houses are abandoned because there are no buyers anxious to move into a town with no jobs.  Over time, the abandoned houses are overrun with feral cats.  The cats multiply and before long the neighborhood is full of them.  Does it make sense in this scenario to blame the demise of the neighborhood on the cats?

I’m not remotely suggesting that immigrants are the equivalent of feral cats, so please don’t get carried away with the analogy.  The point being, that Detroit lost its major industry.  The city blight and the exodus of the historic population was a direct result of the unemployment, which the article repeatedly screams about as if somehow the immigrants caused it.  Unemployment soared, housing costs plummeted, people fled to greener pastures.  In essence, a population vacuum was created, and it doesn’t seem too surprising that immigrants (and poor ones at that) were attracted to this apparent void.  It was an easy and affordable place to settle for very little down.  Unfortunately, once they got there the realities of unemployment hit them as well, but unlike their predecessors, they could not afford to escape the situation.

Now any group, impoverished with little to no way of getting a good job and securing a future, will inexorably degrade into the urban hell that is modern-day Detroit.  Corruption, crime, drugs, illiteracy, high drop out rates, is any of this a surprise?  And not because they are immigrants, but because they are poor and hopeless.  Had this happened to a group of Christian white bread good ‘ol boys, the result would have been about the same.

What’s happened to Detroit is a shame.  But there is no evidence I can see for blaming it on the Blacks, Muslims, and Mexicans living there.  If anything, it was destroyed by the greedy rich white guys who drove the industry in the ditch and then bailed.

This article is fear mongering, pure and simple… and yeah… racist to boot.

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