Week 3: How to Kill a City Reading – Detroit Community-Engaged Research Program

Week 3: How to Kill a City Reading

One of the things about this reading that struck me is how intentional all the steps of the gentrification have been. Including Mayor Albert Cobo’s racist rhetoric and subsequent policy decisions and redlining, and also the more covert racism of government institutions that still were a form of violence against Black people who were priced out of their neighborhoods. Especially while reading about how young white people today make more than their parents but the same is not true for Black people, it was clear how families have been robbed of the opportunity to build generational wealth.

While reading about how the banks coming back to Detroit are viewed as heroic for investing in the city, I thought about something that was discussed in a political theory class I took this year, that charity is not the way to solve problems. Reliance on charities indicates a failure of the system. Especially when reading that the same banks that are bringing new, shiny capital into the city are the same ones with racist lending practices that caused the eviction and urban blight that they are now praised for combating. It made me think of something the Director of my organization told me on the second day of working there when he took me on a tour of Delray. A lot of the refineries that are in that neighborhood will make billions while releasing cancer-causing fumes into the air. They then might spend 80k on a park in the area to “serve” the community.

The way the chapter concluded seemed to give the impression that there isn’t really a way to end gentrification–that people will always move into neighborhoods that are more affordable for them, displacing others, and that billionaires like Dan Gilbert will reign over cities that rely on their “benevolence,” as the book described it. I wonder if there are other perspectives on this. I don’t think that gentrification must be a necessary or natural part of housing people because it’s built on a foundation of racism, which is a manufactured evil. I’d be interested in hearing other people’s thoughts on that and learning more about it.

1 thought on “Week 3: How to Kill a City Reading”

  1. Caitlin, I definitely agree with you that charity and philanthropic efforts often miss the mark. They tend to lean towards putting a band-aid on the problem instead of targeting the root causes in the pursuit of long-term change. It’s definitely difficult to think of Dan Gilbert as benevolent seeing that his immense wealth is a product of taking advantage of a flawed system.

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