Sunday, March 2, 2014

Stand Up and Tell 'em You're From Detroit

Joe Louis's Fist
Ellen Creager, a travel writer for the Detroit Free Press, asks, "Do you tell them you're from Detroit − or hide it?" 

It's a legitimate question. Detroiters who have traveled or moved out of state, or out of the country, know that answering the question "Where are you from?" with "Detroit" can lead to a myriad of negative responses.  

Creager, exasperated with Europeans' negative views of Detroit (no doubt a result of the international reach of the "ruin porn" narrative of our national media), decided to experiment by saying "Michigan" instead. She found that the Europeans' responses generally were more positive (so I guess that's good PR news for the rest of the state).

When I was a kid, I either said Detroit or the Detroit area when asked where I was from. Eventually, I stopped saying Detroit and started saying Michigan because I was tired of the predictable negative reactions toward the word "Detroit."

I moved out of Michigan but never stopped paying attention to what was happening in Detroit. Somewhere along the line, watching the media and East Coasters who had never even been to the city tear apart my hometown from afar made me want to stand up for Detroit. It was as if I was witnessing a gang of bullies gang up on a kid who had no one else there to defend him. If I didn't step in, Detroit would just keep getting pummeled.

I started telling people I was from Detroit again. If I saw a negative comment about Detroit on Facebook, I would intervene and tell the errant commentator why he or she was wrong about the Motor City. Eventually, I started this blog to defend and promote both Detroit and Michigan. I may not have the readership of the Wall Street Journal, but if I can change one mind or make one former Detroiter proud of his hometown again, I am doing my part.

And that's why Detroiters (and that includes suburbanites) should not shy away from saying "Detroit" when asked where they are from. You can control the person at a time. Go on Twitter and follow Detroit corporations, nonprofits, and, most important, people who are making a difference in the city. They will give you the talking points to combat the narratives of bankruptcy and ruin porn.

Detroit is getting better. It still has a long way to go, but the trip will be a lot easier if you can stand up and tell them you're from Detroit.

Or you can sing it loud for the world to hear like we did in 1985:

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