A group of Black Detroit residents say they are upset at how economic recovery efforts are being portrayed in the media. According to the Black residents, the media is portraying the rebirth of Detroit as the result of “white saviors.” This issue was a point of discussion at the Regional Summit of Unity Journalists held in Detroit.
Louis Aguilar, a Detroit News reporter, pointed out a story by Chad Rochkind, which talked about a group who were working to reclaim a parking lot. The story was accompanied by a picture of white people, even though Detroit is 82 percent Black, according to census figures.
This is not the first time Detroit recovery efforts have been cast in this light. Darrell Dawsey, a former journalist who is now communications director of the American Civil Liberties Union-Michigan, pointed out a similar story. “A Gleam of Renewal in Struggling Detroit,” a story about the renewal of the Corktown neighborhood published in The New York Times, showed no Black people.
“White people were being cast as the saviors of the city of Detroit,” Dawsey said.
Luther Keith, a former editor at The Detroit News who now runs Arise Detroit, a group of community organizations, said local groups often don’t get acknowledged for their efforts.
“Somehow the people in the neighborhoods don’t get enough credit for the work they do,” Keith said.
Arise Detroit recently organized its ninth Neighborhood Day in conjunction with 250 civic groups. Although the event, which cleaned up the city, attracted a record turnout, The Detroit News relied on The Associated Press for reporting.
“The only time we’ve been on the front pages is when outsiders are telling their story, but nothing about the black folks they were working with,” Keith said.