Shorter Rick Snyder: Black People Can Be Customers, Not Citizens

As Rick Snyder was announcing the takeover of Detroit’s government, paving the way for an Emergency Manager for the city, his staff tweeted out this:

“Citizens of #Detroit are the customers of the city, not just the citizens. We need to figure out how to provide them great service.”

It might be a nice sentiment (if many public services under Rick Snyder, especially education and services helping the poor, hadn’t already been cut to make way for tax cuts for businesses, and if the entire point of an EM weren’t to make further huge cuts to services).

Except that if and when Detroit officially gets an EM (there is an appeal process that will roll out over the next couple of weeks), the people of Detroit will, temporarily at least, lose their ability to elect representatives to run their city. Down the road, after Detroit has continued to disintegrate for 18 months (EMs have never turned around a city), elected representatives will be able to get rid of the EM. But until then, local democracy in Detroit will be dead.

And so at precisely the moment when Snyder moved to locally disenfranchise 40% of Michigan’s African Americans — leaving half of Michigan’s African Americans locally disenfranchised — he relabeled those African Americans (and Latinos, and remarkably few whites) “customers.”

Black people, Rick Snyder seems to be saying, can be customers, but they can’t be citizens.

We have spent the week talking about whether or not we still need a Voting Rights Act. Given the cynical new ways politicians are using to disenfranchise people of color, I say it’s time to expand it, not end it.

Marcy has been blogging full time since 2007. She’s known for her live-blogging of the Scooter Libby trial, her discovery of the number of times Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was waterboarded, and generally for her weedy analysis of document dumps.

Marcy Wheeler is an independent journalist writing about national security and civil liberties. She writes as emptywheel at her eponymous blog, publishes at outlets including the Guardian, Salon, and the Progressive, and appears frequently on television and radio. She is the author of Anatomy of Deceit, a primer on the CIA leak investigation, and liveblogged the Scooter Libby trial.

Marcy has a PhD from the University of Michigan, where she researched the “feuilleton,” a short conversational newspaper form that has proven important in times of heightened censorship. Before and after her time in academics, Marcy provided documentation consulting for corporations in the auto, tech, and energy industries. She lives with her spouse and dog in Grand Rapids, MI.

7 replies
  1. prostratedragon says:

    We have spent the week talking about whether or not we still need a Voting Rights Act. Given the cynical new ways politicians are using to disenfranchise people of color, I say it’s time to expand it, not end it.

    Hear, hear!

  2. scribe says:

    In the words of the old Jim Crow-era signs: “We reserve the right to refuse service to anyone.”

    That “anyone”, of course, was always black.

  3. Alice_X says:

    This is the retreaded law to that struck down by Michigan voters last November.

    For the latter, it is a complete slap in the face.

  4. P J Evans says:

    I was reading comments on a news site. You probably would not be surprised at how many people think that this was a good thing to have happen to Detroit. Apparently a lot of people think that the only ones there are minority and on welfare (and other similar ideas).

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