Detroit and Highland Park

Probably my favorite book or reading we’ve covered in PoVo this semester has been “Place Matters.” After reading a specific section in the book on the decline of Detroit, it reminded me of an encounter I had at an airport with a woman who had once lived in the city. I have never been to Detroit or explored the city; my only experience with the place is within the terminals of the airport. However, I definitely had some preconceived notions about Detroit, especially since this particular layover (a long one, I’ll add) occurred in late 2013, right after the city declared bankruptcy. Reading in “Place Matters” about the immense loss of industry was astounding. I had no idea that at the beginning of the car industry explosion, over 1,500 industries existed, and now only three remain. Reading, too, about the rapid increase in population, then quick decline was disheartening, especially after this particular conversation I had with this woman at the airport. Though she had retired to Florida, she had spent most of her life in the city. She had raised her kids, who were now grown, in Detroit. Had I known this, I probably would not have started this small talk conversation with a complaint about how I’d rather be at pretty much any other airport considering the circumstances of Detroit’s finances. But the love this woman had for the place she’d call home all her life was reverent. After touring Highland Park, especially the seemingly vacant Six Points area, I couldn’t understand why people would want to stay there. Perhaps they don’t have a choice and do not have the social or monetary capital to physically relocate. But I feel like place matters as much as you want it to. If you establish a home in a place, it is easier to make excuses for its flaws. Although Detroit and Highland Park are starkly different in a number of ways, perhaps a tie that binds them is the roots people have to their homes.

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