The title of a recent Huffington Post article, which stated that Detroit didn’t need white hipsters to survive, it needed black people, touched a sensitive nerve in the Motor City this week, sparking a conversation community members say is overdue.
To many in the 83-percent black city, which declared bankruptcy last year and is currently under emergency management, revitalization has carried mixed messages, encouraging investment and commercial activity in central, whiter areas of the city, while ignoring much of the rest.
This is bad news, according to native Detroiter Lauren Hood, an urban professional and founder of Deep Dive Detroit, an organization seeking to give space to difficult conversations and transformation in Detroit. The current climate, which has seen an influx of young, white, college-educated professionals to the central areas surrounding downtown and midtown, is making racial and socio-economic divisions starker, she says.
“They’re getting reinforced. All the opportunities and investments are going to places where all the white people and newcomers are going. Meanwhile, those who have been here forever still can’t find jobs and still aren’t getting out of their situation.”
Hood’s statements are in line with the warnings recently issued by University of Pennsylvania professor Thomas Sugrue, author of The Origins of the Urban Crisis, which documents the importance of race in the rise and fall of postwar Detroit.
Last month, the scholar warned that the city would only recover if it managed to improve the lives of working class African-Americans living in the city, the Huffington Post reported.
One third of Detroiters are currently living below the poverty line and the median income per household in the city is just shy of $28,000 a year in the city. Rent prices in the downtown and midtown areas of Detroit, where money is being coming in, have been on the rise, with landlords asking between $1,100 and $3,200 a month for cool loft spaces.
Worries about income and race disparities have been brushed to one side by economists such as Barnard College and Columbia University professor Rajiv Sethi, who says the city needs to be put back on its feet first so that its inhabitants can find their own, too.
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