Week 7! – Detroit Community-Engaged Research Program

Week 7!

Honestly, I did not expect myself to become more and more annoyed (at this article) in the process of writing this blog post and analyzing this article in more depth. While Smith emphasizes the problems Detroit faces, such as population decline, pervasive blight, and bankruptcies among businesses, he frames it as a matter that has been mostly resolved, even describing how Detroit now has extra funds that it can use on making the city prettier. The article seems to fail to understand why the population decline occurred and spends at most one paragraph glossing over the possibility that business development in Detroit could possibly push out legacy Detroiters. To be clear, it’s not to say that we shouldn’t focus on Detroit’s positive assets or highlight the beautiful riverfront – it’s that his metric for success seem to end at the amount of money available in the government coffers and the presence of bougie buildings. (Also, particularly untrue when the very area I work in Detroit still very much deals with pervasive issues of blight).

There are so many ways to frame Detroit coming together after the bankruptcy through highlighting the work and success that activists, residents, and nonprofits have achieved, and not a single bit was in this article. Most of all, it irks me that every single direct quote in this article is from a government official or developer. (The rest of the quotes are from city workers and businesses). It is surprising that he did not talk to at least one local resident (and not someone involved in the government or in the growing businesses) about the changes in the city when he decided to write an article about Detroit

I will finish this (perhaps too harsh) blog post by reflecting on this quote from the article: “Looking back, Mr. Carrington said the bankruptcy was a reset button for the city — one that caused real pain for many people but that also gave Detroit a chance to refine its identity.” But what does it mean to “redefine” identity, whose identity is erased in this process, and who gets to speak for the “people”?

1 thought on “Week 7!”

  1. Hi Jessica, I definitely feel as frustrated as you after reading your blog post about the massive “success” in Detroit. This summer, I have been reflecting on how many varying ideas there can be on the changes in a city, depending on who you ask and how they are economically impacted by them and what aspects you choose to focus on. Development looks beautiful, but is detrimental to many stakeholders- including the residents that have built lives and families there. I really like that you included the section from the Southwest interviewee, who prefers function over aesthetic in city projects. While things like a waterfront and newer construction seems like a sign of success for the city, it definitely doesn’t tell the whole story.

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