Disparity in Detroit | #3

The Robot Garage serves a primarily upper-middle class customer base, hence why it has stores in Grosse Pointe, Rochester, and Birmingham. Detroit racial demographics come out to something around 80% Black depending on the source (Wikipedia uses the entire metro area of Detroit for its demographics which may explain the difference from all other sources, though many of its cited sources came up as 404 errors). It costs $385 for one week of camp, though this doesn’t really reflect the total cost of the camp. The camps end at 3pm with students sent aftercare at 3:15pm. Ford, the main employer in Detroit, doesn’t let out employees from most work until 3:50pm (source: there’s an hour long traffic deadlock that starts at 4pm and ends at 6pm every weekday). This means that most families with two working parents must pay the aftercare fee of $10 and hour which adds an extra $50-100 to their weekly cost depending on whether or not that can consistently leave before the deadlock.

Of the few hundred kids I’ve seen rotating through eight weeks of camp I’ve only seen four black students total; two of them were brothers from the same family, one of them was there on scholarship (from Ford, they’re really kind of involved in everything in Detroit), and the other wasn’t in my age group so I don’t know his situation. This isn’t to say that there isn’t any opportunity, that scholarship is extended to all Detroit Public Schools and has a much higher capacity than just one student, but the parents still have to find time to send their kid to camp and I don’t think the scholarship covers aftercare. This sort of disparity isn’t just obvious in TRG camp classes either. TRG also holds school field trips that are sponsored by Ford (everything). These sponsored field trips are given to local, impoverished schools. They were all entirely, no exception, Black. The poverty of the schools really got nailed home when we served our typical pizza lunch and everyone supervising was told to ignore the two-slice limit and just keep giving out as much pizza as possible. We were told to do this because for some of these kids it was going to be the only meal they got today. There was one camp where the kids all arrived late because the buses got held up in traffic. When they arrived they stayed for 1-hour and about 30 minutes before it was time for lunch an announcement rolled in from Detroit Public Schools that all students were being sent home because it was too hot and several of the schools don’t have AC. We couldn’t even send the pizza with them because the buses don’t allow food.

Outside of the context of TRG, Detroit in general has some really stark dividing lines between the affluent neighborhoods and the rest of the city. Just driving to work you can see run down and abandoned buildings and broken, bare roads suddenly shift to tons of trees and houses with gardens. The most obvious distinction was at Grosse Pointe where my route takes me through downtown. There is a very visible, almost comical, dividing line between Grosse Pointe, the area, and Grosse Pointe Park, the wealthy bit. Literally everything on the road leading into the Park just looks desitute: there are plants growing out of the sidewalks and not a single tree for shade, the roads are cracked and in disrepair,  half the buildings are abandoned and boarded up, the other half have faded and rusted signs. The moment you see the “Welcome to Grosse Pointe Park” sign though, it’s sitting on a nice middle island between two roads, with freshly mown grass. There are so many trees, in such heavy variety, that it’s hard to find a spot of sun. The roads are super smooth with crisp, clean curbs and the sidewalks are all polished and square. It kinda took my breath away the first time I went there and I broke out into laughter right after from how incredibly ridiculous it all was. Driving towards the sign, all you can see is a super clean model of upper-middle class suburbia. Driving away from the sign it’s abandoned buildings and weeds on the sidewalks. The sidewalks really are just the funniest thing because you can see the dividing line as it passes into Park territory; just an abrupt transition from weeds to trees.

I really don’t what else to say about it all; all of this. I don’t have an idea to fix things, or any outrage to express. So I guess I’ll just end it here.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *