Photograph from Pinterest
Dear Mr. President,
I grew up in a household of considerable privilege. In Detroit, the Briggs name once meant something, and though long removed from prominence by the inevitable grind of time, I wear it proudly.
My great-grandfather was the embodiment of the American dream. He was the son of immigrants, who lifted himself up from poverty to become a multi-millionaire through hard work, acute business sense, and ruthless competitiveness. Briggs Manufacturing was a huge company, designing cars and supplying all manner of parts and sub-assemblies to automakers that included Ford, Lincoln, Packard, Chrysler, Stutz, Hudson and many others. He was an avid baseball fan who was bitterly disappointed that he was unable to purchase a ticket to the World Series in 1908. So he bought into the Detroit Tigers in 1920 ensuring he’d never be without a seat again. In 1935, he took sole ownership of the team, paying to expand Navin Field into Briggs Stadium, a 54,000 seat baseball palace which would eventually be renamed Tiger Stadium. He gifted huge sums of money to the Detroit Institute of Arts. He was a significant patron of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. He helped found the Detroit Zoo. The fieldhouse at Eastern Michigan University and a hall on campus bore my family’s name thanks to his largesse.
During World War II, Mr. President, our family’s factories were converted to supply the U.S. Armed Forces with the machinery necessary to fight the Nazis and fascists in Europe, producing over a billion dollars’ worth of stamped steel and aluminum products. A workforce of 31,000 men and women built a myriad of parts for the “Arsenal of Democracy,” including aircraft gun turrets, doors and bulkheads for the B-26 bomber, outer wings, wing tips, and ailerons for the A-20 bomber, outer wings, wing tips, stabilizers, fins, ailerons, flaps, and ducts for the B-17, flaps, aft bomb doors, forward bomb doors, nose wheel doors, and outer wings for the B-29. Briggs Manufacturing also built tools, dies, fixtures, trucks, cabs and tops, tank hulls, ambulance bodies, and so much more to support the war effort.
And yet, for all he accomplished, for all the good he did for the city of Detroit, the community, and our country, I cannot overlook one fact.
He was a racist.
His factories employed thousands of African Americans, but based on news stories and other historical reports, conditions overall were less than ideal and discrimination against black workers was pervasive.
The Detroit Tigers, his beloved team, was the second to last team in baseball to integrate (the Red Sox own the distinction of being last, sorry Boston). So famous was his disdain for black players that my great-grandfather, Walter O. Briggs, Sr., was dubbed “No Nigs Briggs” by Detroit sportswriters.
This is my legacy. This is my heritage. This is why I can’t coddle a president who ignores the truth and doesn’t have the moral compass to know that all Nazis are evil. This is why I can’t tolerate a supposed leader who doesn’t know that those who fight Nazis today are true patriots, just as they were during World War II. This is why I must speak out against white supremacists, neo-Nazis, and the Confederate revisionists who are crawling out from under their rocks to infect our society with hatred and bigotry.
My family’s shame does not weigh heavily on me. It provides me with energy, focus, and hope. I know that my brothers, sisters, and I are kind, loving, and while not perfect, pretty damn good people. I know that my father and mother were the same. In just two generations, we have done our best to shed the darkness of our personal past, and continue to strive to honor the Declaration of Independence and its core belief “that all men are created equal.”
The world can become better. America can become better. I can become better. My family is living proof of this. But it won’t as long as you are our leader. As long as you refuse to face the truth. As long as you won’t call evil by its name. As long as you won’t stand up to people who are antithetical to our nation’s founding principles.
It is time for you to do the right thing and resign so the country can move forward and heal. If not, it is time for Congress to do its job and have you removed.
Thanks for listening.