Attention National Media: It’s Time to Change The Way You Cover Detroit
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around the edges of authenticity, but falls short. If you come with me, the first rule is that you’re getting out of the car. Had the Economist done that, they would have seen the Brightmoor neighborhood as more than a charitable foundation’s pity project. It’s a very poor section of the city, true. But the residents there feel passionately about where they live and are responding to the lack of city services mentioned in the article by planting gardens, watching over each other’s homes in an attempt to curb crime, and opening storefronts.
The other neighborhood the Economist mentions by name, the Osborn area, is one closer to my heart. If you’re a fan of hip-hop, the north-east part of Detroit is the birthplace of the music of Slum Village, J Dilla (and the countless artists whose sound he shaped), Kid Rock, and Eminem. It’s also where my boyfriend grew up, and where his parents still live.
There is no doubt that the level of decay and despair there is shocking—it doesn’t feel like America, and it makes you wonder if anyone outside of its residents even know it exists, because our governor and president surely wouldn’t allow things to stand in such a state of wretchedness if they had seen it. But there are also blocks of tidy ranch houses, like the one my future in-laws live in, that house blue-collar families of every flavor. Often, if the family has had possession of the home for 20 or more years, they no longer pay a note on it. And Mayor Bing wants these families to pick up and move to the other side of town? You can understand, perhaps, why those public meetings get so “nasty.” Not to mention the Eastside vs. Westside dynamic in the city that is alive and well, and will be just as big of a stumbling block to the relocation plan as convincing people to leave homes they’ve lived in for decades.
As I’ve said before in this space, Detroit is an endlessly fascinating city to me. It has an energy that, if I may quote my friend Jason Lorimer (Detroit will be hearing a lot more about him very soon), “sits on your shoulders.” We have problems, no doubt. But many people who live here can’t imagine living anywhere else because this city is so unique, so wild, so open to interpretation, so full of history, so ripe for problem-solving. There are hundreds, maybe thousands, of Phil Cooleys trying to make their mark here. You reporters ought to talk to them sometime.