When people ask me where I'm from, I say Detroit. But well, I grew up in Ann Arbor. Then they ask me where I live, and I say Corktown. They nod and say how much they love Slows. I think I may have had more street cred when I lived in Grosse Pointe Park on Barrington, one street outside of Detroit. Then I could say I lived near Jefferson and Alter. After living in Detroit for almost two years, I have fallen in love with the city but I can hardly call myself a seasoned Detroiter.
I have been reading Detroit: A Biography by Scott Martelle. Which hardly makes me an expert, but a certain theme continues to pop up throughout the history and disintegration of this city: Racism. In the 40s and 50s when a black family moved to a neighborhood, the value of all the houses went down. You know someone has to decide the value of those houses right? It doesn't just happen that they devalue. So white people moved to other neighborhoods. They formed bands of roving mobs to punish the blacks for moving in on their turf. They formed “neighborhood coalitions” to dictate who could and could not move into their hood. If you think that young black boys in gangs originated turf wars, think again.
Who was it that said “Those who don't learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” Well, I have an idea on how we can save Detroit. Lets forget the racism. And classism. Lets forget whose neighborhood this or that is, and lets all just get along. Why can't we all just get along?
I was really saddened by this article in Curbed Detroit (http://tinyurl.com/clx2mhk) not because I don't agree that it is sad that the Imagination Station burned, but because it was written as if this is somehow worse than all of the house fires ever before in Detroit. Thank God no one was hurt. Like in this story from just a few days ago (http://tinyurl.com/bt3b76r) or in March of this year (http://tinyurl.com/bnyo83o). Or how about in December last year when two people had to jump out of a window? (http://tinyurl.com/7tmrvlv) ?? The comments on the page of the Curbed article got ugly and defensive, and racist.
Why can't we improve on the city without suppressing others? During the Fireworks this year almost 300 youths were arrested and detained for violating a curfew that many of them did not know about. Sometimes it's hard to get the news if you don't have a paper, or an iphone, or a TV, or a computer. Was that really necessary? Why do we have to arrest young Detroiters in order to make it safe enough for out-of-towners to enjoy the fireworks? I'm sure there is a better way.
So how about this? Veteran Detroiters, why don't you join Mr. Mongo of Cafe D'Mongo's Speakeasy when he corrects his friend who said “These white kids, takin' over the city.” Mongo told him “Naw, they fill in the gaps. They left first, we filled in gaps. Then we left for the suburbs, now they fillin' the gaps.” And you, New Detroit Hipster Crackers (I'm definitely a cracker, I don't know how hipster) why don't you stop using the fact that you live in Detroit like a badge of honor? And don't get so defensive when someone questions your understanding of the city's pain. Maybe if you sit and listen, you will learn something and become a better person.
All in all, my point is that when you live in Detroit. There is bound to be some losses. I had two bikes and a car stolen in less that two months. And nearly 300 youths were arrested on fireworks night for being out and about. And Jerry Paffendorf's Imagination Station burned. And someone's brother was shot and killed. And... So let's not compare our losses. But why don't we share in the dream of Detroit?