rethinking the narrative – #2.

So my mom is from a very tiny town in West Michigan. She had 15 people in her graduating class, went to college in Grand Rapids, and lived there 1990-2003 until my family moved to where I live now, which is about 45 minutes outside of Grand Rapids.

That being said, my mom—and my entire family at that—is terrified of large cities, especially Detroit. Both sides of my family live in West Michigan, the farthest east is my uncle, who lives in Chelsea. I’ve been force fed this narrative of crime, poverty, danger, and death in Detroit since day one from both sides. However, in the spirit of teen rebellion, I’ve always loved and have been fascinated by cities and their rich histories. I’m a sociology major, I love cities, it’s what I do.

At the beginning of my program, one of my program supervisors mentioned the fact that often when people are new to Detroit, two extremes can present themselves: one of which the person is so afraid of the city that they are paranoid about even leaving their apartment so they don’t go out and explore the city. The other is that they’re so confident in the city that they don’t think about their safety and, say, go out alone in a neighborhood they don’t know at 3 am, for example. I think that I’m an interesting mix, as I assume that most people are. A part of me wants to be like “you see family? There’s nothing to fear I can do whatever I want!” just to stick it to their scared ideas of the city, but there’s still this part of me, who at times is like “you shouldn’t even leave your apartment what are you even doing here??” So I’ve been thinking about the nice happy medium that allows me to have the best experience possible while also not, feeding the stereotype my Western Michigan family has of this city and having something bad happening to me. This implies lots of the buddy system, some planning, and always telling people where I’m going.

This summer has been one of a lot of firsts for me in Detroit (first time seeing the Spirit of Detroit! First pride! First time in Southwest Detroit! Etc etc) I think that this summer has been an amazing experience of getting to know more about Detroit and it’s past, present, and future, and taking the time to reclaim the narrative of Detroit that I’ve been taught and see the city in a new light.

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