This summer I've been lucky enough to spend the summer traveling, and it's been wonderful meeting so many people from all over the country. In the first moments of a conversation when you meet someone new, the chatter will inevitably turn to the question - "where are you from?" Something that's always bugged me as a person who has lived, worked, and gone to school in the city of Detroit, is the reaction I get when I say "I'm from Detroit" to whomever I meet.
The reactions typically make me uncomfortable, and not because I don't like Detroit, or I'm embarrassed to be from there. I love Detroit, and not just the trendy parts that are getting so much attention. People both inside and outside of the city's wealthy downtown are working hard in a city that is cash strapped, and their dedication is helping this city survive. Living in the city of Detroit is like being a part of a cause or advocacy group, where you have to defend your participation in the Detroit project. That's why the "Detroit Vs. Everybody" brand is so popular.
As someone who is trying to help make my community a better place, I can't help but be miffed when someone says something crappy about this city. And I don't want to fight with someone I just met! So to hopefully help this situation, here's the rundown of the top 3 responses to "I'm from Detroit" that bug the crap out of me.
1) "They ran that city into the ground didn't they!"
Who is "they?" This response always feels like subtly racially veiled jab to me. With a city that's majority black, is that the "they" to which you are referring? Suffice to say, when I've only been talking to you for two seconds - I really cringe if I have to talk any longer if this is how you start with me.
Not to mention that other cities are struggling under similar problems as Detroit. Our economy is changing, deindustrialization is a problem, and our state and federal government don't invest enough in urban areas. Maybe that's the real problem?
— Meppergan Fortas (@mepperganfortas) March 12, 2015
2) "Oh I'm so sorry"
For what? I love the city of Detroit, and I don't think that even if I didn't, I don't want to trash talk a city within the introductory part of a conversation.
How would you feel if I dissed wherever you're from? Oh you're from Cleveland, Boston, or Chattanooga? I'm so sorry. If you fill in the blank of the city with anything other than Detroit, people get offended, and understandably so! Extend basic respect to anyone's hometown - even the 313.
3) "It's so dangerous there!"
A lot of my experience with living in Detroit hasn't been with me living in fear of being shot or mugged every five seconds. Of course crime is a problem in Detroit, just as it's a problem in every major city. Most of the time I feel equally nervous about being robbed when I'm in a metro Detroit suburb as when I'm in the city. You shouldn't live in this bubble where certain areas are always safe, and certain areas are always dangerous. Be street smart, but don't live with irrational fear.
If you want to talk about the real issues plaguing Detroit and urban America, that's fine. The first moments of a conversation are not when that heavy discussion should happen. So the next time someone says "I'm from Detroit" don't recoil in fear or disgust. Let's just talk, because after all - a city is its people. Let's get to know each other.