So I am getting more than a bit sick and tired of poorly contextualized ruminations on the ruin landscape of Detroit. Some of this art and writing is interesting enough on its own. Marc Binelli’s piece for instance is alright and does sort of get at some of the deeper problems challenging Detroit. But looking at Detroit as the end of the world ignores the biggest reason why Detroit has reached this state. Deindustrialization of course plays a major role. But equally important, especially in Detroit, is continued residential segregation. If we isolate Detroit as the physical boundaries of that city alone, without paying much attention to the metro area, then we can create these apocalyptic constructions. But there is a tremendous amount of money in the suburbs around Detroit. What we are seeing is not the end of the world. It’s the logical consequence of white supremacy combined with corporate race-to-the-bottom policies.
Here’s another way to look at the problem:
This is a residential map of Detroit, with dots pointing to the racial makeup of neighborhoods. Guess which dots represent black and white? Bet you can’t tell!!! Yellow are Latinos. Not surprisingly, the boundary between black and white in the Detroit metro area corresponds closely to the Detroit city limits. We need to be talking about metro areas when thinking about cities, not just the central city isolated from the context of what is going on a mere few miles away.
In other words, anyone writing or filming anything about Detroit should be forced to read Thomas Sugrue’s The Origins of the Urban Crisis first. This John Patrick Leary essay in Guernica is also pretty fantastic.