Is the Detroit Experience...really a Detroit experience?

Sunday, February 24, 2019 - 7:40pm

The Detroit skyline

The Detroit skyline Buy this photo
Alexis Rankin/Daily

I visited and participated in a tour run by the Detroit Experience Factory (DxF) on a day trip to Detroit with my classmates from Honors 241. While I was on this trip, a realization hit me I did not know as much about Detroit as I thought I did. I grew up in Dearborn, Michigan, a suburb that is ten minutes outside of inner-city Detroit. My dad’s job is near Rosedale Park, and when I visited him I saw the abandoned houses, stores and bars on the window of every establishment I passed. Ultimately, I knew that Detroit was not at its best. So I was pleasantly surprised by the beauty of some of the buildings they showed us, yet frustrated at the version of Detroit they chose to tell.

 

The DxF tour I went on was a walking tour around Downtown Detroit. I found myself pleasantly enjoying and learning about Detroit’s many historical landmarks, such as the Guardian Building -- one of the most expressive Art Deco buildings ever built. However, I have to say, the highlight of the entire tour was when our tour guide told us that the Coney Island’s originated in Detroit. I found the rivalry between Lafayette and American Coney Island to be especially riveting and intend to go back and try American Coney Island one day.

Despite my excitement about the Coney’s, I did not like how our tour guide portrayed Detroit. He held a very one-sided view of the city throughout the tour. Although very knowledgeable, he brushed over topics and questions regarding gentrification in Detroit, making the tour seem somewhat white-washed. For those who did their research before the tour, they would know that the African American plight, white flight, and Detroit’s fall from grace were major parts of the city’s history, but he did not mention it. Racial covenants, systemic racial oppression, neglect, etc. ran Detroit into the ground. Moreover, he made it seem as if Dan Gilbert--founder of Quicken Loans and Rock Ventures -- was Detroit’s Mother Teresa. On the tour, we found out that Gilbert owned the majority of the buildings in Downtown Detroit and our tour guide was all too happy to point it out. It was as if he was implying that Gilbert bought the buildings for altruistic reasons, when in reality he is a speculator who bought the buildings for future investments. I found issue with this because speculators are primarily after the dollar, not the welfare of the people as they buy up land and employ people that aren’t Detroit natives. This part of the tour was very misinformative and I did not appreciate it.

Overall, I would recommend the Detroit Experience Factory to others, but I do advise you all to do your own research on the city’s history of gentrification and downfall for a more worldly view of Detroit as a whole. As a native Dearborner who grew up surrounded by both the good and bad of Detroit, I give the DxF a 7/10.