New Arena's Kid Rock Shows Flash 'a Sturdy Middle Finger to Detroiters' -- Henderson
September 2nd, 2017, 2:14 PM
The Free Press editorial page editor is blunt about what he sees as a serious judgment lapse by Olympia Entertainment:
"Kid Rock opener at Little Caesars Arena is middle finger to Detroiters," says the headline on Stephen Henderson's weekend column.
Though it's surely too late to reschedule the six shows Sept. 12-13, 15-16 and 19-20 that were announced eight months ago, Henderson speaks out forcefully.
The debut act is "a message to the Detroiters who made the project possible and who have yet to see the benefits promised."
It's a message that's not too far off those Jim Crow-era signs warning that blacks weren't welcome.
Negro, go home.
That's what it feels like, at least. And for weeks, I've been struggling to come up with an alternative, less wounding interpretation. But how can I? . . .
Having Kid Rock open this arena is erecting a sturdy middle finger to Detroiters -- nothing less. And the Ilitches, who've done so much for this city and also taken so much from it, should be the last to embrace that kind of signaling.
Others who're offended plan to picket the first show Sept. 12. "We will not stand by silently as the . . . embarrassment to Detroit known as Kid Rock performs the inaugural concert at Little Caesars Arena downtown," says an announcement of the 6:30-8:30 p.m. protest.
In his 1,135-word column, Henderson -- who acknowledges "having just come to this position . . . lately" -- calls the choice of debut performer "insulting." He adds:
Kid Rock’s actions, the symbols he chooses and the stances he favors -- - the dog whistle racism about [Colin] Kaepernick, the twisted nods to the Confederate flag as a symbol of American pride -- are incompatible with the pro-Detroit platitudes he sometimes mouths.
This is a man who is exploitative and resentful of the city’s population, not a man who is for Detroit and Detroiters. . . .
It's hurtful. It's disrespectful. And in the context of the current national racial strife, . . . the Kid Rock extravaganza at a new Detroit arena is absolutely nuts. . . .
Detroit has given artistic birth to so many performers whose work appeals across racial, class and musical barriers. Stevie Wonder, Jack White, Aretha Franklin, Bob Seger — any one of them could have been the kind of choice that made all of Detroit proud.
This month's six shows "will be an inauspicious start, to say the least" for an $863-million arena financed partly with public money, writes Henderson, noting that support includes "proceeds from a tax meant to support public schools."
The community "has grown tired of being told its concerns don't matter, even when our money is used for something built in our own backyard," the opinion editor adds.
Two days earlier, in a Bridge magazine guest commentary, Camille Johnson of Detroit also criticizes the arena's first performer:
Little Caesars Arena is providing a platform to an artist who has used symbols of white nationalism and openly supports policies and politicians that are harmful to most of Detroit residents.
Why choose Kid Rock when there are worldwide stars and Detroit icons like Stevie Wonder, Eminem and Jack White who don’t support messages of racism, bigotry and hate through their brands, art, words and actions? The decision to have Kid Rock is willfully ignorant and indicative of a larger problem.
Decisions are being made that routinely ignore the perspectives, needs and experiences of Detroit’s residents of color.