Derelict and delinquent? That’s not Detroit

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Clare Myers, Staff Writer

This is the first in a series of articles in which students and faculty either deny or affirm the stereotypes of their home states and cities.

When I was a child, a babysitter took my brothers and me to a run-down part of the city to see an extraordinary sight: an urban version of Noah’s Ark, fashioned from an old fiberglass boat. It was surrounded by fanciful sculptures, striking and strange to those of us too young to understand their message of social critique. To me it was a beautiful and alien world we had entered; the artist had taken dilapidated houses and vacant lots and transformed them into a treasure trove of street art.

That’s what I think of when I think of Detroit.

For those of you who have never been there, you may be shocked to hear that Detroit is more than derelict houses and delinquents. There is no addendum to the city limits signs reading: “Abandon hope, all ye who enter here.” It is not a post-apocalyptic wasteland, it is not a cesspool of crime, and above all, it is not a lost cause.

That’s not something you hear on the news.

When I tell people I’m from a little suburb of Detroit, I almost always have to endure an ignorant comment about bankruptcy, unemployment or crime. It’s true; the city is going through an extremely difficult time, to put it very mildly. It has the highest violent crime rate of any large U.S. city. The jobless rate sits at 10.3 percent, the highest of any big city in the country. And yes, this past July, Detroit became the largest city to ever file for bankruptcy.

While experiencing some rough times, Detroit has more to it than you may think. -Photo courtesy of Reuters
While experiencing some rough times, Detroit has more to it than you may think.
-Photo courtesy of Reuters

 

But let’s take a step back from all this – or rather, a step forward, past the grim photos of abandonment and neglect and past the cynical predictions that the city is beyond repair. Getting past these can be difficult, especially in Texas, where the natives’ state pride, while admirable, can cause them to dismiss the merits of, well, everywhere else on earth. We are University of Dallas students, and surely by now the old cliché not to judge a book by its cover is second nature. And the Motor City certainly deserves another look.

Over 700,000 people currently live in Detroit, so if you’re still picturing a ghost town, remember that that’s more than the population of cities like Boston, Seattle or Washington, D.C. And that auto industry that had to be bailed out a few years back? It’s actually on the rebound. The area is home to all kinds of growing businesses, from well-known brands like 5-Hour Energy to local small businesses like Detroit Denim, which sells hand-made jeans.

But statistics don’t tell a story; people do. And Motown has no shortage of vibrant characters passionate about revitalizing the city, ranging from Kid Rock to Quicken Loans CEO Dan Gilbert.

Don’t count the city out yet. As long as hockey fans are still throwing octopi on the ice at Joe Louis Arena, as long as locals rave over coney dogs and insist on calling Fat Tuesday “Paczki Day,” as long as car enthusiasts cruise down Woodward Avenue, Detroit will always be a city hundreds of thousands of people are proud to call home.

 

1 COMMENT

  1. I’m not sure you can call someone “ignorant” for making a comment about “bankruptcy, unemployment or crime” and then go on to immediately say that everything they claim about those issues is true.

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