Dearborn’s former mayor Orville Hubbard was a segregationist who many believe symbolized the resistance of Whites to Blacks during the height of the racial conflicts of the 1960s, one of the few openly anti-Black mayors of a Northern city. Now, nearly 40 years after he left office, Fatina Abdrabboh is urging the city to remove the former mayor’s statue which was erected outside City Hall
By Ray Hanania
Racism is and has been an integral part of American history. African Americans were forcibly taken from their homes in Africa and sold as slaves in Europe and in early America, especially in the South.
Although much has been legislated to give African American equal rights, and push back against racist government policies, racism continues, as we saw recently in Charleston, South Carolina where a White Supremacist gunned down nine Blacks as they prayed in church.
This week, Dr. Fatina Abdrabboh, Director of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC), Michigan Regional Office, added her voice to the growing choir of Americans who are urging this country to once and for all remove the icons of racism and hatred that linger in this country, from the Confederate Flag that adorned the Charleston mass murderer Dylann Roof, to homages to individuals who despite achievements in politics for mainstream White Americans symbolized the vicious racism that continues to plague this country.
Abdrabboh is urging the City of Dearborn to remove a 10 foot tall statue of former Mayor Orville L. Hubbard that was placed in front of Dearborn’s City Hall following the former mayor’s retirement in 1978.
Hubbard was one of the few Northern mayor’s and elected officials who openly advocated segregation, urging in 1956, during his third term as Dearborn mayor, segregation as a national policy. As mayor from 1942 until 1978, Hubbard discouraged Blacks from moving into Dearborn and he was behind a campaign theme for the city and slogan, “Keep Dearborn Clean,” which everyone knew was a message to “Keep Dearborn White.”
In an Op-Ed in the Detroit Free Press this week, Abdrabboh noted that while some view Hubbard as a pioneering statesman, others including African Americans saw him as an “unapologetic segregationist” who stood in their way of equal rights.
“During Hubbard’s 36 years as mayor, the city of Dearborn was accused of encouraging intolerance in various sectors. In fact, police cars were branded with the slogan ‘Keep Dearborn Clean,’ which was a euphemistic catchphrase widely understood to mean ‘Keep Dearborn White’,” Abdrabboh wrote.
“Following the recent murder of nine innocent people in a church in Charleston, S.C., top retailers like eBay, Amazon and others stopped the sale of Confederate flags and other relics that serve as a reminder of the racial intolerance that plagued our country. While we may not have a Confederate flag waving atop our buildings, this larger-than-life statue of Hubbard memorializes and celebrates a man who symbolizes the same kind of intolerance for many.”
Abdrabboh noted that Hubbard characterized African Americans using the “N-word” and as “mogrels.”
“We understand that Hubbard and his statue are aspects of our city’s history, but that is exactly what they need to be viewed as — history — which is not always without shame,” Abdrabboh argued, noting the debate that has continued unresolved for years.
“The danger of normalizing such symbols is that by tolerating racism we run the risk of enabling dominant culture to embed and justify deep inequalities in our society.”
Abdrabboh noted that removing the statue will not change the racist problems that exist in Dearborn and in America, but said, “However, at a time when our nation is struggling to break free from the burdens of racism, dismantling this relic is an opportunity for this great city to formally acknowledge and disavow its racist past. It also lays the foundation for a future where diversity and tolerance are embraced.”