One of the common narrative that arises when talking about the city is “bringing it back” or “restoring it.” While I think it’s fair to have different opinions and strategies about how to bring about change, I think that hearkening back to the past is where people are mistaken. Detroit and the metro region, just like many others across the country, have had a myriad of problems, even in their “hay day.” Racism and racist and unjust policies shaped a significant amount of the struggles of many and the city today and in years past. To say that Detroit was great at a different point in time seems to ignore our often shaky, divided, tension filled, and at times violent past. A past which is still present in many ways today.
What I’m saying is not that there wasn’t prosperity or a well functioning city in the past. There are absolutely some things that we lack today that we had in the past, for example a well functioning public transportation system. However, we can’t sugar coat how we got to the point where we are today or pretend like the past was golden. We must recognize missteps of the past and recognize how we can take steps to correct past mistakes to bring about a new, equitable prosperity.