Flashpoint: 'New Detroit' Essay Sparks Heated Discussions

"I had no idea pressing the submit button would make this happen," Detroiter Kelly Guillory posts Thursday in one of many responses to discussions about a provocative 1,400-word commentary she posted a day earlier at Medium, a "social journalism" site.

Her blunt reflections about some of those who make up "New Detroit" are unsparing and touch a nerve. Reactions on Facebook, Twitter, Reddit (111 comments) and below our linked summary (94 comments) are impassioned and sharply divided.

Some critics seem ready to put Guillory in a pillory for "the most pretentious bullshit I've ever read," as a Redditor posting as "LakeStClair" puts it. Another reader praises "observations [that] are golden," in the words of Karima Sorel at Facebook.

Audience members await a speaker at the M@dison Building's collaborative space. (Bizdom Detroit photo)

We're also in a few cross-hairs for posting about it Wednesday. "Stop with negative, shock journalism. If that's the only way you can get readers then you are no better than the National Inquirer," Ron Smith suggests on our Facebook page.   

The 32-year-old author, a painter, graphic designer and comic publisher, engages with a few readers to clarify what she wrote.

Several Redditors and Deadline readers questioned this sentence: "New Detroit doesn’t understand when you mention 1945." She explains on Twitter:

It was just a year to represent when there was perceived prosperity but minorities were pushed to the side. . . . Sorry for the confusion [about whether she meant 1943 Detroit rioting].

And on Facebook, she frames her intent this way Thursday afternoon:  

The essay is only about people who come here under the guise of wanting to help the city but are racist. It is NOT against the resurgence of the city.

I think many people misunderstood this despite the section where New Detroit very plainly tells a racist joke and then doesn't care about the POV [point of view] getting angry over it.

A sampling of her essay includes this:

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.

In a separate post on her Facebook page, she adds that "a 'hipster' lifestyle [doesn't make someone] a harmful person." Rather, her targets are those who "talk a talk but don't walk the walk. They aren't even interested in walking the walk. The talk is just to fit in and make friends."

Here's a sampling of reactions from readers disparaging and defending Guillory's point of view: 

 "Make it more fair:" It was almost completely unbearable to get through all the arty, pretentious windbaggery. . . . Suggestion: lead, follow, or get the f**k out of the way. Detroit is changing. Obviously for the better. Deal with it. Do something to make it more fair instead of yelling at people. -- A.L. Cadillac, our site 

• "Stupid:" We over-hyped the negative for years. Why not over-hype the positive? Draw people here with excitement, not stupid articles like this. -- Justin Cessante, our Facebook page

• "Two-sided coin:" What I think Kelly is trying to say is that we can't over-hype the positive and, at the same time, ignore the negative. Detroit is a complicated two-sided coin. So while we revel in the positives of the "New Detroit," we can't lose sight of the negatives . . . that got us in the predicament in which we find ourselves in today. -- Peter Mays, our Facebook page

• "Conflicting statements:" How the hell can that mass of conflicting statements be considered an essay? You could maybe call it a poem, since poems aren't required to make sense. -- "LED_Blinker," Reddit

"Painfully honest:" All about this today. If we aren't painfully honest about the issues we are facing, how can we better the damn thing? Her observations are golden. -- Karima Sorel, Facebook 

• Satirical? I was having a hard time telling if this was satire. -- Magic6435, Reddit

 43 years in city: I have started feel uncomfortable with my city lately. I notice and appreciate the new restaurants, bars and stores. I also know that many that live and have lived in the city for years can't afford to go to those places. I want to be happy with the changes, but I see people that have lived here for their entire lives being pushed out. Most are people that have lower incomes and a skin color that is a different color than the new Detroiters moving downtown. I have lived in Detroit for 43 years and have had a love/hate relationship for that entire time, but I have stayed and raised my family here. I don't know anymore. -- Geri Trombley, Facebook

• "I'm in my 20s:" I enjoyed the article. It's talking about a very specific group culture that's been emerging in the city for a while now. I'm in my 20s. I've been to the parties the essay talks about. I've overheard the conversations when I walk down the street or am out to eat. And it always made me sick to my stomach.. -- CiciCatastrophe, Reddit

• "Well-done:" I thought it was well-done and thought-provoking. While clearly a personal piece, written based on her experience, I think it has a broader appeal as well. I saw people that I've encountered in the writing. -- "GreenOgre," Reddit

 "What is she saying?" So, what is she saying? Detroit should be left in ruins? Don't improve the city because the rent will go up? -- Debbie Gerard, our Facebook page

 "A bunch of Yuppies:" She's saying it's BS having to move after living in the city for five-plus years because a bunch of Yuppies now want to take advantage. . . . Detroit will look like Troy in 5 years and then like '67 all over again if you don't include its current residents -- the ones who stuck it out, not the assholes who are taking advantage of a bad situation! -- Randy Postlewait, our Facebook page

• Black entrepreneurs: I think she's saying we're not including black people in the change. We aren't celebrating new black-owned businesses because they aren't getting the loans / incentives / backing necessary to thrive in this environment. The city . . . should be showing black entrepreneurs how to market to their new neighbors. -- Brandon Caroland, our Facebook page

• "Weathered the storms:" No one wants to see a once-glorious place die a slow death, but there needs to be a place for those who weathered the storms when It begins to thrive, as well. -- Michelle Magiore, Facebook

•  "Greatest city:" For the first time in a long time, the city is becoming more diverse racially and economically -- this is cause for celebration not condemnation. . . . Let's create a sense of community by including everyone in candid, respectful conversations about the problems which persist, while seeking solutions. . . . Let's make this the greatest city on earth, and let's evolve beyond the need for a boogeyman. -- Craig Moore, our site

• "Not helping:" We all need a thriving, viable, and diverse Detroit. These articles that pit race and economic differences against each other are not helping. -- Ron Smith, our Facebook page


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