Week 3: Can Anyone Really “Save” a City? – Detroit Community-Engaged Research Program

Week 3: Can Anyone Really “Save” a City?

While reading “How to Kill a City” I came to the realization that people can view gentrification as an impersonal thing. “But these buildings are helping the city! The economy is booming! Everyone’s happy!” But in reality, that’s far from the truth. Not everyone is happy with flashy lights and colors that illuminate the big buildings in Motown. And not everyone is happy with the newest basketball court installment right in the center of Downtown. How could they be? How could they be happy when many Detroit residents lack the basics; housing, water, job security, transportation security (etc) that many people in other cities are guaranteed? Not much surprises me anymore about the impersonal connection people have with gentrification. If people haven’t experienced the hardship of being kicked out of their home, especially to make way for a shiny, trendy new boutique– they don’t feel the same way someone who has been in that situation feels.

But does it hurt to be empathetic? Sometimes, for some people, I think yes. And it pains me to say that truly, because we should all combat housing injustice at the hands of a “booming” economy. Because where one soars, someone else falls. And that’s not what community is about. From what I’ve read so far, I’m experiencing a huge conundrum. To be young and not experiencing the direct affects of gentrification, it’s easy to be blinded by fun, hipster locations with cute picture taking opportunities. It’s one thing to admire building up a city, but it’s another thing to think you can save it by completely destroying the culture and history it holds. On the forefront, I believe that nobody should be kicked out of their home- period. Housing is, and should be under the law, a human right. Before anything, we are humans all trying to live through whatever life throws at us. If the urban revitalization efforts in Detroit weren’t at the expense of people losing their homes, jobs, and neighborhoods, I would be 100% all for it. But, since I know that complete outsiders from the Detroit area, business men who quite frankly have no business impeding on people’s livelihoods, storm in and change everything— it puts a sour taste in my mouth. But alas, can anyone really save a city? Even if they think they are doing more good than harm?

1 thought on “Week 3: Can Anyone Really “Save” a City?”

  1. Hey!

    I havent really considered gentrification through the lens of empathy – both having or lacking it. Thanks for opening my eyes to this! I wonder if those who feel like gentrification is impersonal are ignorant rather than apathetic; maybe because they have not been a part of the community, they dont care about it. You make a super good point about benefitting from the effects of gentrification. I love new cafes and “hipster” spots and think I benefit too. Maybe I need to do some work into deconstructing ideas of what is and isnt cool/hip. Thanks for such an eye opening post!

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