A response to Ben Austen’s “Detroit Through Rose-Colored Glasses.”
Joshua Akers and I published this response in Guernica to Ben Austen’s hagiographic profile of Dan Gilbert in the New York Times Magazine.
The new Detroit—the one surveyed by what Austen calls the “new prospector class”—resides in a few neighborhoods around downtown and Wayne State University. Perhaps it also lives in the fantasies of tech entrepreneurs whose most substantial decision thus far has likely been choosing what color bean bag chairs to put in their offices. It is built, though, on the backs of mostly black workers cleaning offices, staffing cafeterias, washing dishes, cleaning casino floors, and occasionally finding their way to the front of the house in new downtown bars and restaurants. Such Detroiters are nowhere to be seen in Austen’s account of male entrepreneurial heroes. They are bystanders to some free-market experiment in which the only consequences, apparently, are whether or not speculative investments result in profit.