In the documentary We Are Not Ghosts, one of the narrators describes the city of Detroit as “vulnerable,” a word usually associated with weakness and susceptibility. Paradoxically, he proceeds to argue that vulnerability not only gives the city hope, but also “a position… to explore [its] power.” In addition, he says, “Privilege can be debilitating because you have so many resources that you never have an opportunity to explore your true capacity.” In these assertions, the narrator distorts any preconceived notions about the words vulnerability and privilege. He finds hope in the hopeless and failure in the fortunate, an idea that is perhaps not universal, but applies perfectly to Detroit and the surrounding area. As seen in both “Detroit Arcadia,” by Rebecca Solnit, and “Origin of Urban Crisis,” by Thomas Sugre, Detroit is a city abandoned by wealth and wellbeing, overcome in turn by poverty and powerlessness and overgrown grass. However, neither the narrator I described nor the countless others in the film seem to despair over their city. Instead, they see potential, something most of the country believes is gone from the once-great city of Detroit.
I have never been to Detroit, but the stories I hear are never good. Before we began our study of the city, the most I knew about it was its historic background in automobile production and its reputation for being extremely dangerous. Watching the film gave me a new perspective on Detroit. Of course, I still believe that it has many problems, particularly in its economy and crime rate. However, like the narrators in the documentary, I am now able to see potential in the city—how could a place that so many people love and call home not have infinite possibilities?