Sometime around May (my memory is a little foggy), I graduated college.
I’m one of those assholes who went to college 20 minutes from where they grew up, which is kinda relevant to the issue at hand here. It’s relevant because I had the sudden realization sometime around the middle of May that spending the rest of my 20s "playin wit my nose" in murky basements and dating girls who have tortured and complicated histories with five or six dudes I know was "not the wave," as the kids say. With this in mind, I packed up my toy robots and folding bicycle and headed to the nearest affordable and "relevant" city, this being Detroit. After mom and pop helped me hang my Dizzee Rascal poster in my brand-new studio apartment and treated me to an impossibly obvious to all passerby White Child Send Off Dinner In the Big City ("Bro can I get that burrito vegan? Thanks. Yes mom for sure I’ll call every day, yes I promise to brush my hair, yes I’ll wear clean clothes"), I was off to a good start.
Now here’s the thing about Detroit, guys. Detroit and white people have a history which is very "tortured and complicated." We’ve all been to college and watched the Al Jazeera special so I doubt I need to explain it, but what my readers may not know is that almost all white people in Michigan are totally and completely fucking terrified of the Motor City. When I announced I was moving here all I got from adults and my less "hip to the scene" peers was "DETROIT!!??!?! WHY WOULD YOU EVER MOVE THERE!?!?!?" I got tired of explaining how I can buy a house for like zero dollars and have my own chicken farm/writer colony at age 22 so I kinda just stopped bringing it up.
As to why white people are afraid of Detroit, I’m not sure. It’s either the 20-year media campaign to get all the honkies out of the city and construct the Detroit suburbs, the fact that race-baiting and thinly veiled anti-white sentiment is the most popular method of gaining traction in Detroit city politics, or maybe they just saw RoboCop. Either way, a couple of my townie friends kicked around the idea of coming with me and eventually bailed, most of the people in the "scene" started hating on me out of some (totally unfounded omg) belief that I thought I was cooler and edgier than them for living in Detroit (wow I so totally don’t think that I have no idea omg), and worst of all the young lady who was debating joining me in my adventures decided against it and broke up with me. In her words, "Detroit isn’t somewhere where someone like me can have a very autonomous existence." By the way, if anyone asks, she was right. My neighborhood has a 60/40 ratio of cockroaches to crackheads, hordes of rogue youths fight in the street, and the city burns down around me as I pine for our lost love. There aren’t like a thousand 20-something-year-old white girls living in my zip code.
In my voyage to the former capital of the Western World, I was on my own. I’ve been here about a month now, and I figured I would let everybody know what the scoop is on Detroit. A lot of people around the country have been telling me that they were thinking of checking it out, but they were worried about safety and most importantly (nobody will admit this) being fucked with for being white.
Have I been subjected to "reverse racism" and "the hate that hate produced" since I’ve been out here? The honest answer is yes, but it’s nowhere near what people would expect and when you look at it for what it is it’s not that big of a deal. I’ve only really been fucked with by three groups of people: crackheads, hoodrat single moms, and public workers. As anyone who’s ever lived in the city knows, these are generally belligerent and unreasonable groups of people who live to fuck with everyone around them for no reason, regardless of race. Sure I might have gotten more than my share of grief or been subjected to especially harsh street confrontations because of my hue (as opposed to the content of my character—way to sell out Dr. King, guys!), but it’s not because everyone down here hates whitey or any shit like that. It’s just that my whiteness and the fact that I’m on a folding bicycle wearing a Star Trek T-shirt makes me look like someone who’s gonna be more sensitive to hostility and hence be a better unloading point for the stresses of their lives.
And I don’t get upset or take it personally. For one, I went to college, so I know full well that I’m the "oppressor" in these engagements! Second I lived in the hood for a little bit in college, so I’m used to dealing with the downtrodden masses. The sheer volume of zombies and people yelling about Jesus that I encounter on my way downtown every day was jarring at first, but by now I’m accustomed to it. The thing about Detroit is it’s actually pretty easy to stay safe, mostly because the boundaries for "someone like" my former wifey are clearly defined and the Wayne State cops actually patrol there. Nobody except squatter crust punks lives north of a certain point, and if you buy a house in one of the no man’s lands outside of downtown you can pretty much shoot a crackhead for fucking with your shit anyway. I’m an advocate of aggressive and uncompromising nonviolence myself, I’m just saying. I guess I should probably mention that I’m 6’2 and 200 and the women folk are generally more careful than I am, but if you’re in a core neighborhood near the college (or one of the inner-ring suburbs that all the pussies who are afraid of the city live in, FERNDALE WHATTUP DOE!) I would say that you’re as safe as you are in any other major American city.
That’s pretty much what it boils down to. Virtually all of the crime in Detroit that the media loves to hype up happens out in the neighborhoods miles away from where any college student or graduate lives. There’s a thousand fun things to do every day, everyone here is excited about the city and what’s going on, French guys show up at the party to buy you beers and ask you where to "take photo of ze street art," etc. I’m probably going to buy a house next year and rent it out to some friends so I can go back and forth from here to London or whatever, but I think I’m gonna be here for a long time in one form or another. If you can’t deal with a crackhead asking you "HOW COME THEY AINT GOT NO GREEN JOBS FOR BLACK FOLKS, MOTHAFUCKA?!?!" on your morning commute, then yeah, you shouldn’t live here or anywhere else except your mom’s house, you fucking baby.