Putting Faces to the Anonymous Voices Behind Detroit’s Subreddit

June 25, 2019, 12:25 PM

By Oona Friedland

This month, a black veteran officer of the Detroit police department alleged he was racially profiled when a rookie white officer roughed up and arrested him for possessing thousands of dollars in cash.

The incident, now under investigation, drew disparate reactions from across the internet. In one corner, the Instagram page @statefactsnow, an account focused on packaging news for a minority audience, saw commenters blast the white cop for assuming a black person carrying a large sum of cash was up to no good. The officer said his girlfriend recently sold her home and that he was holding the money to pay medical bills later in the day.

A group of self-styled sleuths on the Detroit subreddit, meanwhile, had a different take: The majority found the officer’s possession of the money suspicious and doubted that race played a role.

It’s not unique commentary for the subreddit known as r/Detroit, where the most vocal of the 36,000 subscribers routinely express views that are pro-downtown, pro-police and unrepresentative of the broader Detroit population.

And after a local weekend gathering to celebrate “Reddit Global Meetup Day,” we know why: The most dedicated Redditors on r/Detroit — at least the ones who showed up — are white. And according to a moderator, 75 percent of subscribers are from the suburbs.

/r/Detroit Global Reddit Meetup 2019 - Detroit GrMD 2019

For example, threads asking "what’s the biggest social problem facing” the city have placed blame on former Mayor Coleman A. Young, who is accused of “turning the city against the suburbs.” The overwhelming majority of commenters are anonymous.

One moderator says the forum takes steps to weed out racist comments, and that it's unfair to paint the entire group as racist.

At least a half-dozen young Redditors, mostly men, met up at the Old Miami for the Saturday event, and took a photo reminiscent of the Twitter Detroit image that went viral this year for its lack of minority representation.

The Redditors also recognized prominent commenters with paper plate awards. GpForLife, a right-wing troll from Grosse Pointe known for sparring in the comments sections of many local media sites, was named “Best Pot-stirrer.” Other awards included, “Definitely From the ‘Burbs,” and the, “Say Nice Things About Detroit.” Those went to @leftdetroitthrowaway, and @bernieboy, respectively.

One r/Detroit subscriber offered thoughts as to why the meetup drew only white participants.

“Lots of racism in the sub — would you really want to meet up with some of these people in public as a visible minority?”

One of the subreddit's moderators, @Stratiform, pictured on the left in the photo above, says that although the commenters have different backgrounds than city residents (@Stratiform himself lives in Berkley) he feels r/Detroit is welcoming to all.

"It's Reddit — and it's a great place to stay informed, make friends, and participate in a broader community — in this case the whole spectrum of what makes up Detroit."

There is a separate r/metroDetroit subreddit with fewer subscribers.

Another mod didn't entertain Deadline Detroit's questions. When asked whether they felt the city subreddit reflected the more white, affluent of the “two Detroits”, @BDCanuck responded “Trolllllllolololollll.”

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Potd__mg_2515_419 Building taking is time being reclaimed by land. Spotted near Hamilton Ave.

By: Michael Lucido