Kevin Sweitzer: 40 minutes away

Wednesday, September 7, 2016 - 11:14am

The city of Detroit has long been a great American city that has gone through a lot as our nation has developed. Over the past few years, Detroit has had its fair share of struggles, having filed for bankruptcy in 2013 and seen a monumental decline in population over the last few decades. Pundits and writers from as close as Michigan and as far away as other countries are always lining up to take shots at Detroit and its identity as a city.

However, the problems with Detroit didn’t start in the last 10 years. Decades of systemic racism and inequality have allowed privileged white people to move to suburbs as far away as Ann Arbor, while stranding low-income minority populations inside the city with less and less resources available to serve the city.

Even this last year, Detroit Public Schools were reborn as the Detroit Community Schools as part of a deal worked out in the Michigan legislature — a deal that I have already spoken out against. Despite the fact that Detroit is the largest city in Michigan, enrollment at the University of Michigan features a sparse population of Detroit residents.

To add onto all of this, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump still found a way to call Michigan, specifically the manufacturing sector of Detroit, a “disaster.” Michigan students frequently have a litany of bad things to say about the city. Even students who have never been to Michigan ask if they are safe to visit the airport, which is located 20 minutes outside of Detroit city limits.

Despite all of this, I still have hope. Detroit is an amazingly diverse city, with pockets of areas made up of a majority of Muslim or Latino people. The culture and spirit of Detroit can’t be crushed, and I firmly believe that things will only go upward from here. All across the city, people are coming together to do what the city motto has instructed the city to do for hundreds of years. “Speramus meliora; resurget cineribus,” the Latin mottos on the city flag, say we shall hope for better things, and that those things shall rise from the ashes. 

That motto is something I can believe — not for a “new Detroit” only for wealthy suburban residents or downtown trustafarians, but for a Detroit that rises from the ashes for all Detroiters. I highly urge all Michigan students to visit Detroit via the free Detroit Center Connector and to explore all that the great things the city has to offer.

Finally, I urge everyone to keep abreast on issues in the city. While it may be easy to ignore developments about the ongoing school concerns or the unfair tax foreclosures that are taking place across the city, it is incredibly important to stay up to date on what is happening.

Kevin Sweitzer can be reached at ksweitz@umich.edu