There’s a great piece of commentary in today’s Detroit News from Karen Dumas discussing a topic I find extremely intriguing.
Dumas, former press secretary for Mayor Dave Bing, defines a “new” Detroit, a city seeing an influx of “young, white, educated and employed” individuals moving in, starting businesses and reshaping the city. She goes on to examine how this “new” Detroit compares to what is already here, and has been here, for quite some time. She describes a stark dichotomy between the native, jaded Detroiter and the optimistic ”new” Detroiter, and how the two can be at odds with eachother.
On one hand, you have a population of people who see Detroit as a land of incredible opportunity, who are coming in to make change on their own rather than waiting for the government to step up and do something. But on the other hand, you have a population that has been in Detroit for years—generations even—who have become jaded and cynical after years of being let down by their government and their education system.
New residents seem oblivious to the challenges of crime and schools, and instead have embraced the opportunity to redefine a seemingly faceless city.
It seems they’ve said, “OK. Those who were here have not seized the opportunity, so step aside and allow us to do so.” They are not waiting for City Council to pass any resolution, or for there to be a collective performance of “Kumbaya” with the Mayor’s Office. They, along with a core group of businesses, are doing what they want, where they can, to create the city they want Detroit to become.
The challenge is balancing the needs of those who have stayed with the wants of those who are arriving.
Now, whether or not all of this is turning Detroit into a suburb remains unanswered. I honestly never really considered a Whole Foods chain coming to Detroit being an example of the suburbanization of the city. Plenty of big cities have chains like this.
But, it’s a fascinating conversation that is important to have, and worth having for that matter. It’ll be crucial to watch how these two Detroits grow alongside each other and whether the needs and wants of both populations can be met successfully.
Detroit has had a rocky past and the wounds of racial and social divides in the Metro Detroit area still run deep for many. I truly hope the story of the new Detroit will not become a story of the “rich white people trying to come in and take over the city.” It’s not about that. There’s incredible opportunity and potential, and success will only happen if we’re all willing to work together. I do hope Detroit continues to be a story of how people of all different backgrounds, perspectives and ideas can come together to rebuild a city, because that’s the Detroit I want to continue to work in, and a Detroit I want to one day live in.
Read the entire commentary here.