Toon & text by John Auchter
I have something of a Wikipedia problem. In idle moments in between tasks, I tend to wander over to the website for a quick nip — the plotline of a half-watched movie here, the defining geographic features of an obscure African country there. I’m in, I’m out, and I’m back to the task at hand. No big deal. I can quit at any time. Really.
Except, not really. Sometimes I get caught up in one of those link rabbit holes. Like when the first article links to a second one, which links to a third, and so on. I’m particularly susceptible to the “On This Day” area, which lists articles about events that happened on that day. On June 20th, there was this one: “1943 – The Detroit race riot breaks out and continues for three more days.”
I was aware of the event but knew little about it. It had some similarities to the 1967 uprising (competition for jobs and housing) but was really unique to itself. The most fascinating thing to me was the timing: Here we were in the throes of World War II, patriotism arguably running at an all-time high, a concerted focus on defeating the enemy, and we still managed to let our greed and prejudice and tribalism get the best of us. So the first takeaway is: “The good ‘ol days are not always the good ‘ol days.”
The second is: “We should be able to learn from history, but we don’t.” There we were in 2016, living an economic expansion after having survived the Great Recession. Sure, it wasn’t what we wanted it to be, but times were relatively good. But again, we now seem to be letting our greed and prejudice and tribalism get the best of us. You all just experienced the same week I did, so no need to relive it here. Let’s just maybe resolve to remember the positives of the past without repeating the mistakes.