I wrote an article about Detroit a few years ago that never got published. In it, I said that Detroit is our nation's whipping boy. America needs Detroit to be dysfunctional. America needs Detroit to bear the burden of negative perceptions. If it wasn't going to be Detroit, it would've been some other city. I argued this for three reasons:
The image of Detroit serves as a constant reminder to cities of what not to become. City leaders around the nation can always refer to Detroit as the quintessential urban dystopia, invoking images of crime and crumbling infrastructure. By doing this they can garner support for (or more likely, against) a local project, because if this project does or doesn’t happen, you know what could happen to our fair city? We could become like Detroit!
The image of Detroit allows the rest of the nation’s cities to avoid facing their own issues – urban and suburban. As long as Detroit’s negative image remains prominent in people’s minds, they can forget about trying to improve what may be just as bad in their own communities. I
The image of Detroit allows the rest of the nation to maintain a smug arrogance and sense of superiority. This is what I perceive as happening with the media attention Detroit gets now. The whole "how did this happen in America" sentiment.
The fact is it's happening all across America, even in your city.
Can Detroit EVER get a break?