I have volunteered at Earthworks Urban Farm in Detroit a few times now this month. I love being there, working hard alongside people just broaching the surface of what responsible urban renewal and rebuilding a sustainable community means, and how urban agriculture differs from rural farming. I met this girl who works on the farm through a program similar to Americorps. I asked her to hang out sometime and she reluctantly agreed. We had a late breakfast and wantered through Corktown through a delightful alley and down to the railroad tracks along the river to under the Ambassador Bridge. We started talking about Andrea Gibson and Ani DiFranco, and no sooner did we mention Ani's name that a trooper from the Department of Homeland Security pulled up in his new white, government logo infested Suburban.
"I think he wants us to leave," I said, which would, in hindsight, make sense as we were walking down railroad tracks under an international bridge. He rolled down his window and we smiled our naive, we're just lost white girls look at him. He asked us what we were doing there, and we responded we were just visitors going for a walk. "In DETROIT?" he prodded. "This is DETROIT, it's not SAFE to wander here." My new friend explained that she's actually a recent transplant from Ann Arbor, working on a community garden on the east side. "Why do you want to live HERE?" he asked, with disbelief, disgust and disdain. Like the motherfucker wants a fucking job more than he wants to fulfill the actual (imaginary) purpose of his job. Like he's a crusader for keeping Detroit ugly so he can continue to work for the assumptions that make him a hero. Like he takes pleasure in the fact that Detroit has a rough reputation that no one can seem to penetrate, so his appeal in uniform and loose relationship to keeping detroit "safe" never gets old. Like the rough projected image of Detroit is really just a cover to keep the legacy of structural violence going strong. I've never felt unsafe in Detroit until I was locked in the back of his car as he escorted us to safety, telling us to call 911 if we get into trouble on our walks back to our Made in Detroit vehicles.