Thursday, June 12, 2014

Beating Detroit's Dead Horse

Detroit is beautiful
Anyone who lives in or near Detroit likely has seen the t-shirts with the slogan “Detroit vs. Everybody” printed on them. This slogan has always bothered me because the optimist in me thinks that the ideal slogan should be “Everyone with Detroit.” Then again, it’s not hard to understand the combative sentiment when the media has spent 15 years attacking the city’s image, as the Washington Post recently did with an “article” that featured unoriginal pictures of Detroit’s blight.

The ignorant comments from readers on the Post’s Facebook page and website are a sad commentary on the views that many Americans have towards Detroit. Unfortunately, many of these views are probably the result of years of negative images and stories about the city. How many times do we have to see pictures of the Packard Plant or Michigan Central Station to know they are abandoned? Yes, Detroit has problems, but stop beating us over the head with them. It's not all. Detroit's blight stopped being news long ago. 

Show these businesses or one of Detroit's thriving neighborhoods instead of abandoned houses
So thank you, Washington Post, and every other media outlet that has beaten Detroit's dead horse for 15 years, for creating viewpoints like the following from the Post's website and Facebook page:

The Political/Racial Blame Game Comments

“Detroit should be so proud it voted for Democrats.”

Another reader's direct response to the above: “It sure should, realizing how much worse off it would be under a Republican administration.”

At this point, blight photos no longer tell us anything new about Detroit, but they do allow Americans to play the blame game that we too often turn to when we do not have the answers. If something goes wrong, dig your feet in and blame the other side. Americans have become really good at pointing fingers, except when it comes to pointing them at themselves. 

“Headlines should read...‘The over demands of government Promises have collapsed the City’”

Or maybe the headlines should read: “More Detroit ruin porn elicits ignorant comments from people who’ve never set foot in the city.”

“No big deal---with all the union and minority votes in detroit, barack and the congressional black caucus will get the us government to bail out detroit with huge money---at least 100 billion---it's a matter of time.”

At least this racist is optimistic that Detroit’s blight is not a big deal. Thanks for the vote of confidence.

The “Detroit Sucks” Comments

“Both sides are to blame..the Dems for the way the manage the city, the GOP for the way big business failed to keep up......I would rather live in Pyongyang than in Detroit. At least I know my chances to not be mugged are higher...”

Almost had me with “Both sides are to blame.” 

I’m sure Pyongyang might have some nice qualities, but I am not qualified to comment since I’ve never been there. I’m also guessing this commentator has never been to Detroit or Pyongyang. Also, the "I would rather live in X city in a third world or communist country than Detroit" comment is as played out as articles focusing on Detroit's ruins.

“Its really quite shameful to see America in decline as it is.... but refreshing to see the media bring it to the attention of the American public... I'd really thought that would be left to Al-Jazeera / America...”

Must be the first time this person has picked up a newspaper or looked online in the last decade. How is ruin porn “refreshing” after 10 to 15 years of the mainstream media bombarding  us with images of Detroit’s blight? If the Washington Post actually reported something new about Detroit, that would be refreshing.

Lafayette Greens in Detroit. Refreshing, isn't it?
“We have to get used to abandoning untenable cities. For example, there is no point in saving New Orleans, LA or Norfolk, VA because of sea level rise. Abandon and rebuild inland, just as we should abandon Detroit and rebuild around more viable urban centers.”

Don’t ask what you can do for your fellow Americans or what they can do for you, just give up on them and your country’s history. This reader wants to set the great precedent of just quitting when things get difficult. Our whole country will be in ruins in 50 years with that attitude.

“The problem with Detroit is that it is in the middle of nowhere and without its major industry to prop it up there would be no reason for anyone to live there or visit there. Unlike New Orleans which was totally devastated and brought back to life, Detroit is really only known for two things, cars and murder. Without cars, all that is left is murder and if you like visiting murder capitals Mexico has a nicer climate and better hotels.”

Thanks for telling us what the problem with Detroit is. The middle of nowhere? Well, I’m actually happy this person thinks this because I will not have to see him/her in Michigan anytime soon.

Detroit is only known for two things? Detroit has only contributed cars and murder to America? If ignorance is bliss, why is this person so unhappy?

“Burn it down and move on.” 

Maybe we can ship Detroiters off to Mexico to live in the nice hotels and to enjoy its climate after you burn down their homes. Clearly, this comment is from someone who truly cares about the people of Detroit. Thank you for your insightful comment.

“Detroit's eye sores? Isn't Detroit itself an eyesore?”

No, it’s not. It has a lot of areas that are still in bad shape. No one denies that, but there are areas that are recovering. When the Post published its blight photos, I made a comment on their Facebook page asking whether the rehashed theme of Detroit’s blight was journalism or Buzzfeed? Then I remembered that Buzzfeed recently did a more creative assessment of Detroit’s blight with photos

When a website that is best known for quizzes that ask which country/city you should live in or what band/television character you are does a better job than the Washington Post at reporting original news, then maybe the Post should assess whether it is in decline.

Detroit: The City Beautiful


  1. I need to make a point of reading these blogs more! Very well stated!