“The city needs the suburbs…and, like it or not…the suburbs need the city.” – Me, almost four years ago

Before I even clicked “publish” on this one, I knew people are going to get upset about it. Don’t care. Just like every Don’t Be That Guy article we over at IT in the D ever published or ever will publish, if you get upset about it … good.  However, make sure you’re getting angry for the right reasons, and read The Cracker Barrel Conundrum before you fire off any reply or commentary.

Dave Phillips
Dave Phillips

Nearly four years ago, I wrote “Suburban Kryptonite” because of the way some people from the suburbs reacted to us hosting events downtown.

At the time I wrote that, I had no clue that I’d be sitting here down to write the other side of the story, barely able to keep from screaming at people, and thinking about starting a support group for middle aged white guys who live in the suburbs and give a crap about the city of Detroit.

Seriously.  It’s almost at that point.

That point where I feel like I need to post an ad in the back of local newspapers advertising that there’s a safe place to go and meet and talk about the issue.  Without judgment.  Without being attacked.  With those who understand the problems being faced by each individual in the room and offering mutual support as we work our way through things.

Alex B. Hill chart of race and revitalization in Detroit.
Alex B. Hill chart of race and revitalization in Detroit.

Because every time I turn around, there’s another article, another blog, another inflammatory infographic telling me that I, or people like me, are a problem.


Why does it even need to be called out which race is doing things? Isn’t it enough that things are finally freaking happening?

Charts like that containing all of these statistics floating around about how Detroit was 82 point something percent “Black or African-American” and that’s not being reflected in what’s going on downtown get pulled out like knives looking to stab someone in the eye.  However, when I see those charts, you know what I see?

I see divisiveness.

I see racism.

I see obstructionism.

I see someone looking to play the victim card instead of actually doing something positive.

You don’t want “outsiders” buying buildings in your neighborhood?  Fine, figure out a way to buy it yourself.  Form a collective. Host a fundraiser. Get involved and guide the change in the direction you think it should be going.

You don’t want someone new opening a business in that vacant storefront that’s sat there and languished vacant for years on end?  That’s cool. Go get yourself a small business loan and open a business there yourself. Employ the people from your neighborhood to run it day to day. Increase employment and the tax base in the city.

You’re mad because you’re an artist and that run down building you’ve had a studio in for a few years is being renovated? After years of dealing with a decreased occupancy and carrying the building as a loss forever, the owner finally has an opportunity to make their investment worthwhile?  And you might not be able to afford the new rent once everything is completed?  Either start selling more pieces of wood with “Detroit” spelled out in Faygo bottle caps or start thinking about a new workspace.  Or hey, maybe get a bunch of your artist friends together and buy a building yourselves.  Become the landlord.  Own the property. Rent it out for whatever amount you feel is right, pay your taxes, and become part of the solution for the city, yourself and your friends.


There’s strength in numbers, and yes, a thousand people with $10 is the same amount of money as a single person with $10,000.  Do it.  Build it.  Grow it.

But stop it. Stop it with the “New Detroit” vs “Old Detroit” nonsensical crap. Change is coming, and yes, change is painful sometimes, and even when you backpedal a day later and try to say “Oh no no, I wasn’t talking about you” … nobody reads retractions. Nobody reads updates. Nobody reads the follow up. All that people remember is the knife you stabbed them with, regardless of whether or not you pulled out some bandages and tried to stop the bleeding afterwards.

Stop with the modifiers, the adjectives, and yes, the hyphens. Stop identifying yourself as a subset of society and become a part of the solution instead of the problem.  Quit whining, stop bitching, and knock it off with the divisiveness. If you’re not happy with the solutions that are evolving around you, then figure out a way to guide things in a direction that’ll be more in line with how you’d like to see things go. There has never been a better time, a cleaner slate, a more insane set of opportunities laying in front of you than right now in the metro Detroit area.

And yes, the entire metro Detroit area … the city and the suburbs … are involved in the answers.

Like I said four years ago:

How do you expect the “metro Detroit area” to get any better … if you have no intention of helping what’s at the heart of that phrase, Detroit?  Do you not understand ripple effect?  Do you have no concept of simple economics and math?  Is basic anatomy beyond your understanding, like, say, it doesn’t matter if the suburban areas of your own body … your skin … aren’t marred by melanoma and cancer if the center … the heart … dies?

In a similar vein (pardon the pun), the heart doesn’t hate the hand that opens the pill bottle, or the mouth that ingests the pill, or the throat that brings the pill down to the stomach so that the medicine can get into the system so that the heart can keep pumping.

While you work on figuring that out, I’ll be in a bar somewhere with my fellow support group members working on ways to continue trying to help the city, whether from within or from the outskirts.

Because I know I’m not the only middle aged white guy in the suburbs who thinks this way. But if necessary, I’ll be the one who stands up and calls people out on this. We’re not racists. We’re not carpetbaggers. We’re not shysters. We’re not vultures. We’re genuinely looking to help things because we understand the fundamentals at play here, and we’re tired of getting told that we’re not needed. That we’re not wanted. That we’re somehow “bad” or “evil” because we’re trying to help.

It’s not all fun and games for us, either.  It’s getting to be a pain to find a venue that doesn’t suddenly think they can price gouge the hell out of anyone who walks up.  Parking is getting to be worse and worse.  It’s a miracle when our favorite bars that we’ve gone to for years aren’t packed to the gills and overrun with the new folks who have found out about them.

And we might complain a little … but at least these are all signs of positive things happening.  Whether we realize or not.  Whether you want to see it that way or not.

Stop pretending to be a martyr and climb down off the cross already … your arms must be getting tired anyway, Old Detroit.

We’re not here to try and help Old Detroit or New Detroit get better. We’re here to try and help Detroit get better. Because we believe it can. You should try that sometime.

Ed. Note: Dave Phillips is one of the co-founders and partners of IT in the D. The views expressed here are his own, and this is re-posted with his permission. We encourage Daily Detroit to be a platform for ideas, conversation, and moving Detroit forward. If you have an idea or something people should know about, check out our submit form.

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