Detroit Elects A White Guy To Be Mayor, So What Does It All Mean?

Even though Governing magazine had the scoop, we've been predicting for weeks here on Jalopnik Detroit that Mike Duggan would be the Motor City's next mayor. Here's what will happen next in Metro Detroit as a result.

As much as the headlines will scream that Detroiters have voted for change, this is your reminder that Duggan, who beat his opponent, Wayne County Sheriff Benny Napoleon, by about 10%, doesn't take office until January. Detroit will remain under emergency management until who knows when. The city is still bankrupt, half the lights are still on and the abandoned houses with blue asterisks on them are still waiting to be torn down. It's a long, patient process.

Even if structural and logistical issues changed over the next few years, there are still giant hurdles to clear. If you would have taken a drink every time you saw "first white mayor" last night, you'd be very, very hungover this morning or perhaps dead if you're a media fiend like I am. Truth is, as likely as you are to read some national flyover piece about a white mayor in a black city written by some coastal writer who's probably been to Detroit once or twice, racial relations in Southeastern Michigan within and beyond the city's borders only improved by 0.0001% last night and we still have a long way to go.

People will still refer to anything south of 21 Mile in Macomb County as "ghetto" as more Detroiters find their way into Warren, Eastpointe, St. Clair Shores and other eastern suburbs while Oakland County frets about Southfielders and Oak Parkers moving farther north. Residents will complain that their schools of choice districts are getting worse as parents from Detroit commute into their towns looking for better education or that property values are going down even though the region is in somewhat of a housing boom right now.

Duggan's election won't mean that black people from Detroit won't still be looked at with suspicion when they travel outside the city limits and it won't stop them from the possibility of being killed when simply asking for help in the event of an incident. It also doesn't mean that young white people moving into the city won't still be looked at with suspicion by older residents worried about gentrification, and that the coded "real Detroiter" narrative that Napoleon pushed so hard in the last few months will die along with his defeat. Yep, it goes both ways.

Our local media still will have no clue how to deal with its own role in creating some kind of harmony among the region. Editors at the dailies will continue to defend the wildly racist comments in Facebook comment sections, like when an immigrant from a Middle Eastern country wants a driver's license, in the name of community conversation" but you'll be met with crickets if you ask when was the last time something healthy came out of a Facebook comment. Meanwhile, under-new-but-not-really-new management Model D will continue to marginalize all of its subjects that don't fit their brand of hipstepreneur, continuing to be blissfully unaware of its own privilege as they publish stories about how they think working-class black people are incapable of planting flowers.

All race aside, gay people in Detroit won't be able to get married since our governor just doesn't want to talk about it, which lets me know exactly where he stands on that issue. So while we're still working on overcoming this whole racial tension thing, Chicago is about to become even more crowded with Michigan ex-pats. Whoever opens a Michigan State-themed bar in Boystown that sells coneys, Better Made and Vernor's is sure to become a millionaire.

Um, what else? Well, if there's one bright spot to last night's election, it's that Lisa Howze, a former mayoral candidate, appears to be the next deputy mayor. She'd be the first woman to hold the job, and if — God forbid — something happened to Duggan on the job, she'd be Detroit's first female mayor. Or she can run for mayor on her own when Duggan does two or three terms. Maybe now the media will start paying attention to her so she doesn't have to buy Super Bowl ads.

But still. A white mayor is not going to change decades of pervasive mindsets and social discomfort, and no amount of tweets from county executives is going to fix things overnight. As optimistic as I am about the city of Detroit, Metro Detroit is massively fucked.

[Photo via AP]