New Detroit is not from Detroit, or maybe they are. They grew up here as a child and are now dedicated to changing the city for the better. They arrived from just north of 8 Mile, from a suburb, drawn to Motown for its reemerging art scene. They moved here from New York. They moved here from Boston. They moved here from Los Angeles. They moved here from Iowa.
They are From Here or Not From Here, but they will always say they are Here Now. They will talk about their past, wherever they are from, but they will always say it’s behind them because things Right Now are so much better.
They are Here and it is Now, and they will tell you it’s about the Now and it is not about the Past. They acknowledge the Past but say it’s behind them— and you. The Past is toxic, they say. And it doesn’t fit either one of you.
New Detroit is interesting. They’re invested in biking as opposed to buying a car. They have a car they bought secondhand. They have a new car they bought with their hard-earned money. Their parents gave them a car. They are young. They have just graduated. They have not just graduated. They are old. They are white. They are black. They are stylish. They are not stylish but brilliant. They are not brilliant but talented. They are not talented but have friends. They have no friends but are incredibly resourceful.
They hold parties where you go and have a good time. The halls are filled with people who have amazing things to say. The food is from Honeybee. The food is from Whole Foods. The food is catered. There is no food but there is lots of beer.
The conversation is positive. The conversation is always positive. A camera crew or a team of photographers will take your picture. You will be tagged, smiling, with your new friends. You are photographed or filmed alone. You are not photographed or filmed, but your friends are. A friend of a friend is photographed. The pictures are on social media. The pictures are not on social media, but in a documentary. You catch a fleeting moment of yourself on Youtube one day from the video that has now gone viral. You and your friends all like the video. The video is posted to a cool website. You feel good for having gone to this party.
The negative aspects of the city are not discussed. If you live in an apartment and say what’s wrong with it, it’s countered with the Silver Lining.
“You have to take the good with the bad, right?” says New Detroit, holding a bottle of local beer you haven’t tried yet.
You concede and wonder where they got the beer from. You didn’t see it on the refreshments table when you came in.
New Detroit tells you about all of the great things happening here. He or she tells you what a wonderful time it is to be in the city. They say it’s a Clean Slate. You believe them, and in the energy of the party, and in the energy of the song that’s just begun to play over the loudspeakers from somewhere in the house.
The crowd swirls around you, and the rest of the evening melts into a fuzzy feeling of pleasantries and celebration. You head home later with your mind still on the conversation you’ve had earlier. Detroit is changing. You can see it; it’s present in the neighborhoods around you.
And then you take a ramp onto the freeway to speed past the streets still enshrouded in the dark.
New Detroit is enticing. They are appealing because of what they stand for: the Tabula Rasa, the New Beginning, the Fresh Start, the The This Time We Get It Right. New Detroit is your friend. New Detroit is a colleague. New Detroit is a coworker. New Detroit is someone you met on Facebook, but not in person.
You see New Detroit on a billboard one day as you’re headed downtown to take care of an errand at the bank. They are in the advertisement, front and center. They are not front and center, but other New Detroiters are. The young ones are in front. The young ones are always in front. New Detroit may be any age, but the spirit of the advertisement is always that of a twenty-year-old.
You are leaving downtown again, when you spot an eviction notice pinned to the front door of an aging building off of Woodward. Getting out of your car, you take a closer look: the residents are being moved due to renovations. You talk about this on Facebook, surmising the prices there will raise. Will the residents be welcome back again once remodeling is finished?
New Detroit is one of the first to answer your status update. They tell you it’s for the best. They tell you the owner of the building has a right to do what they want. They tell you it isn’t classism. They tell you it’s progress.
You concede, thinking New Detroit’s calm attitude about the situation must be right, because a calm person is a rational person. You wait and wonder when the residents will be able to return.
Until you see an advertisement for the newly-rehabbed building. It’s housing luxury lofts now. And everyone in the advertisement is a New Detroiter, too.
New Detroit believes in progress. They do not see race. They see race, but don’t talk about it. The talk about it very briefly before changing the subject. They ignore the discussion on classism or dismiss it with a neutral stance. New Detroit is any color, but they do not believe in rocking the boat. New Detroit wants you to understand with crystal clarity that they believe in equality for everyone.
New Detroit saw the racist thing you were outraged about on Facebook one day. They say there was nothing to be upset about. They say it wasn’t really racism. They say they don’t believe on focusing on the negative. They say the best way to change a situation is to simply lead by example.
New Detroit is friends with a person who committed the same act. New Detroit is friends with the current perpetrator. New Detroit is the perpetrator. New Detroit just did it for the laughs, no offense meant. No offense ever meant. And besides, everyone gave it a like. No one said anything about it. They think everyone should be made fun of equally. New Detroit lives in a better age now, and you should really get with the program.
New Detroit is not Detroit. New Detroit is not Los Angeles. New Detroit is not New York. New Detroit is simply Itself.
It replicates itself and sees only itself in the mirror. It doesn’t talk about the people who did the same things New Detroit did before New Detroit got there. New Detroit sees everything it does as innovative. New Detroit scowls at you if you disagree.
New Detroit doesn’t understand when you mention 1945. New Detroit doesn’t see the connection between themselves and the ghost of the city’s past, the ghost of the past that focused on themselves and loved themselves and pushed anyone else out of the picture that was Undesirable. New Detroit thinks you’re crazy if you talk about it. New Detroit thinks you should take off the tinfoil hat and talk about positive things again.
New Detroit is sorry to see you move away when the price of your apartment raises past a tolerable point. They say it’s progress. They say it’s for the better. They say it’s inevitable. They say you can always visit if you can’t live in the city anymore.
They tell you goodbye as you drift closer and closer to 8 Mile, where the suburbs are housing Old Detroiters, and Detroit has become a new city. New Detroit wishes you luck. They say they’ll take care of your art galleries and universities. They’ve filled them with good people—all New Detroiters, who think just like them.
Just like them. Because if you are not New Detroit, then you don’t belong here. And no one will be sorry to see you go.