Finley: Detroit’s dying kids are unseen

Nolan Finley
The Detroit News

The children of Flint have names. Everyone knows the tragic story of how they were poisoned by government incompetence. Their struggle to get by in a city where they can’t drink or even bathe in the water has been meticulously detailed, as has the potential damage done to their young bodies by exposure to lead.

Kids in this city need the same sort of across the board help as do those in Flint, Finley writes.

The children of Flint have faces. They’ve been splashed across national magazine covers and television screens and pulled onto stages to stand next to politicians.

The children of Flint have advocates. Hollywood celebrities have rallied to their cause. Hillary Clinton made them a centerpiece of her campaign. President Barack Obama vowed he has their backs.

But the children of Detroit are nameless, faceless and voiceless.

Without diminishing the crisis in Flint, there is a disturbing contrast between the response to the danger facing its children and the one menacing the kids in Detroit.

Gun violence is not a potential threat in Detroit neighborhoods; it’s a daily reality. Children are being mowed down by the indiscriminate bullets of drive-by shooters. They’re first-hand witnesses to the murders of their parents. They’re falling victim to guns stashed in closets and under pillows by adults who are scared to death in their own homes.

It’s a slaughter, and no one outside the neighborhoods seems to care.

In the 8th Precinct alone, four young children have been shot to death since Easter. Population of the precinct is roughly 63,000, about the same as West Bloomfield. Imagine the national attention that would come if four children were murdered in that Oakland County suburb over the course of six weeks.

Flint is considered an affront to the civil rights of the city’s children, and the ACLU and other advocacy groups have engaged. Detroit kids are being deprived to their right to life, are living in constant fear and are seeing things that will scar them forever. That’s a violation of their civil rights, too.

I’m not sure what it will take to raise the urgency level. Perhaps the lack of a political target makes Detroit’s violence crisis less appealing than Flint’s water crisis. If there was a Republican to blame, maybe Michael Moore and Cher and Clinton would show up to rage against the suffering of Detroit’s children.

Kids in this city need the same sort of across-the-board help as do those in Flint. State and federal resources are necessary for a massive police mobilization against gang violence. Remove the gangsters from the city as if they were lead water pipes.

Programs to nurture children exposed to violence at such a young age are needed here as much as the extra nutrition and education assistance that Flint children are getting to mitigate lead damage.

Congressional committees should be grilling local officials about how conditions deteriorated to this point, and what they’re going to do about it.

Mayor Mike Duggan should be in the 8th Precinct, and other neighborhoods where children are taking random bullets, every day until he figures out how to stop the shooting.

Dying kids don’t fit into the happy narrative of a Detroit comeback. But it’s the only story that matters in the city at the moment. And more people should be telling it.

Nolan Finley’s “Little Red Hen: A Collection of Columns from Detroit’s Conservative Voice” is available from Amazon, iBooks and Barnes & Noble Nook.