Get the defibrillators out because I’m about to say something that might stop some hearts!
Not everyone in Detroit gets killed!
Are you still alive? Maybe this one will do ya in:
Detroit has buildings that are still standing! What’s more, some of them have people inside!!
As the NCAA gets set to come to Michigan, I’m already starting to see more Detroit-bashing on the blogosphere. Sure, some of it is done without thinking, some bloggers probably think making fun of Detroit is “good clean fun” and they don’t mean anything by it. But the fact that it is so pervasive shows that people really have these views of Detroit. What’s more, that someone doesn’t intend for something to come across a certain way, doesn’t mean that it won’t come across in a bad way.
It bothers me when people make jokes about Detroit by citing crime statistics. Why is it funny to say things like “you better lock your doors in Detroit because the murder rate is so high!” We’re talking about human lives being taken! Wouldn’t it be much more productive to sit down and say, “why is something so horrible happening? What can I do about it?” And if it’s too much to ask that people be productive and a part of the solution, why can’t they at least not be part of the problem? Words absolutely have power. If you keep telling someone they’re dumb and ugly, and many other people join in on that harassment, the harassed person will probably start believing it, and what follows will probably not be good (for example, a self-destructive lack of self-worth or a homicidal rage against the abusers). Likewise, the bad press Detroit gets does not help Detroiters see themselves in a good light. I have unfortunately met and seen Detroiters who do not care about their city. You can see it in how they litter, vandalize property, and generally, carry on as if other people don’t exist. Such douchy behavior would not be as common if the social expectation that people care about Detroit was more widely spread. In general, you put on nicer clothes to go to places you expect to be “high class.” If you expect somewhere to be of little consequence, you are more likely to act in an inconsiderate manner once you get there.
Please, if you feel inclined to engage in Detroit-bashing, please think about your actions. Such actions make you a part of the problem, not the solution. Jokes about Detroit are cheap shots; it’s kicking us when we’re down. I’m not asking anyone to pretend Detroit is paradise. I just want them to quit their bashing or their bitching if they’re not going to do anything to help turn it into as close to a paradise as humanly possible. And that goes for all cities across the US, and across the world, that are in Detroit’s situation.
You may say, what can I do to help change something as serious as a high murder rate? Well, there’s plenty! And it starts with having goodwill in your actions. It can be something as simple as not littering. Then, take it to the next level: pick up litter, especially litter that has freshly been dropped by some thoughtless person. Statistically, the cleaner the neighborhood, the less crime it will have. You may go so far as to volunteer to be a mentor to a young person. Maybe some young person in your own family is on the road to becoming a jerk. Be the one who sets them straight! Don’t be ashamed to proclaim that you care.
I think it’s obvious from the beginning of this post that I was writing in anger. But I calmed down because I believe I don’t help Detroit by merely being angry (again, the complaining without taking action thing). So I will end this with links to 4 organizations that I think (because I have personal experience with them) are doing a good job of helping Detroit. I hope this inspires someone out there to do something about the problems we face, rather than just complain about them or worse, make mean-spirited jokes.
The Greening of Detroit Dedicated to adding trees and other greenery to the concrete jungle since 1989.
RecycleHere Bringing recycling within city limits.
Detroit RiverFront Conservancy Responsible for the new River Walk. Once the Dequindre Cut is completed, the Conservancy will also be involved in its maintenance.
City Year Detroit Part of AmeriCorps, this is a full-time volunteer commitment. There are City Year sites in 18 other US cities (as well as one in South Africa, but Americans can’t join that one). I was a Corps Member in CYD for two years, and even though my second year was, to be brutally honest, one of the most stressful and exasperating of my life, I still recommend it to people that are truly dedicated to serving their communities. Even if I think, “I went through Hell,” I also know, “I did my best to turn the flames into something positive, and in many instances, succeeded in doing so.”