Monday, March 09, 2009

Whirlpool & Upton Created a white community in St. Joe, and poverty in Benton Harbor

Mar 8, 2009

It is hard to understand the complexity of Benton Harbor, St. Joe and the relationship of the Whirlpool Corporation and the State of Michigan. Though Benton Harbor has appeared desperate and downtrodden, there are many strengths that have kept the city/community a desirable place for those who have history in Benton Harbor. Benton Harbor was once thriving (not that long ago) and the separation between the two areas (St. Joe and Benton Harbor) was not that pronounced. Benton Harbor was a vital and healthy place to work and live (little more than a generation ago) and many of the families who built the city or who have lived there for generations still live there. It is a place with family ties.

Whirlpool wielded money and control and buddied up with the legal system, the coastal wealth and really coveted the resources and created a white community in St. Joe as a means of excluding those of color. This contrast has resulted in faulty public perception; St. Joe is safe and wonderful and white and Benton Harbor has just created their own easy way out of confronting the painful truth. St. Joe residents are now apt to steer people away from Benton Harbor with police signs and ignorant comments (I have heard it myself). St. Joe now prides itself in a grand and overfunded art center, sculptures, a children's museum, a beach front park that is simply too grand for a city of it's size. St. Joe is an embarrassment. The wealth to fund the streets, parks, art and downtown come from Benton Harbor's Whirlpool Corporation.

They are now so deep into a racial divide that the court system and probably even the national park system are behind them. Whirlpool has convinced the State of Michigan they are doing something helpful for Benton Harbor by creating a golf course on public land in Benton Harbor, by bringing jobs, by getting the poverty out of there. This is a sad time for Benton Harbor... they are losing what little they have...all to Whirlpool. If you go to Benton Harbor you will find a lack of public funding. The parks are without basic benches, basketball hoops, tennis nets, etc. The downtown buildings and city center is without a museum (could feature the rich history of the produce business, etc.), there are few civic resources. From Kalamazoo, Grand Rapids, South Haven, to Battle Creek you will see businesses in the city giving back to the community. Whirlpool is giving to one place: white St. Joe. When you look at the family and people behind this agenda you may see smiles, amicable styles, casual dress...and hear smooth talking...

I wonder what stimulus package money will go to Benton Harbor? Has Upton coveted that for St. Joe too?