As you are probably aware, Huffington Post has started a Detroit section, featuring opinion pieces from every variety of Detroiter, and because we are ultimately a small town it has of course become a little bit of a shitstorm already.
Toby Barlow wrote a piece called "Detroit," Meet Detroit which was a strong argument for the idea that as much as people from the 'burbs want to say they are Detroit, they really are ultimately still the suburbs. Maybe not his strongest idea piece ever - this is the man who broke the $100 house story (much to Ryan Cooley's chagrin) and who proposed the idea that became Dan Gilbert's business model - but a strong assertion to actually make in public. Naturally, a strongly worded response arrived from the Northwest Territories saying "Hey! Whose money is fixing up your damn town anyway??" It's a tale as old as time, revisiting itself in a new iteration: City vs. Suburb: the Blog Wars.
I'm not going to belabor this in a lengthy way, and I'm going to paint in relatively broad strokes, so take this all with a grain of salt. But the fact is, if you don't live in the city, if you don't put up with the bullshit along with the glory, then you ARE a suburbanite. The biggest lesson I learned when I moved to Detroit was that living in Detroit was a completely different experience than just hanging out in Detroit. And you can't fake it and you can't learn it from the outside and it is almost impossible to create authentic, meaningful, non-douchebaggy change unless you live here.
I was having a drink with an old acquaintance a while back. someone who knew me from my store back in the Ann Arbor days and who now lives in Royal Oak. He was doing what I call the Suburban Shuffle ... getting in on the street cred of Detroit while trying to rationalize staying in the 'burbs. The old, "I'd move to Detroit except ..." And I said listen, nobody who lives in Detroit has any superpowers. But they did make that leap, and they take the bad with the good. So don't expect a pat on the back because you tool down I-75 for the fun stuff and then tsk-tsk from the comfort of your fake loft when the latest calamity strikes.
There's a lot of cool stuff going on in Detroit right now, and it hasn't
always been this way. And suddenly it's cool to say you're a
Detroiter. I do believe there are Detroiters "in spirit," but at the
end of the day you don't get to use Detroit to validate yourself without
So what IS the status of the suburbanite who loves Detroit but won't or can't move to the city? Or who just loves where they live (because frankly our suburbs are pretty great if you're into that kind of thing)? Well, I think you are "A Suburbanite Who Loves Detroit." Or a "Detroiter in Spirit." It's not an aspersion, it's just a fact. I know a TON of people who fit that description. Please, do stuff in the city, work to make it better if that's what you believe in, say good things about it. And be honest and unapologetic about your level of involvement. I think you'll find everyone appreciates that.
Or, why don't you move to Detroit? THAT is how you really make a difference, and you can finally be a Detroiter! Now wouldn't that be awesome?