Aaron Foley: "No one person is 'more Detroit' than the next'

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Aaron Foley, author of the upcoming How to Live in Detroit Without Being a Jackass, raised some eyebrows yesterday at the Fox Theatre during a TED talk about what it means to be a Detroiter. 

Foley, a native Detroiter who was featured in Metro Times earlier this year, said the city needs to stop thinking about Old Detroit vs. New Detroit and get back to being simply "Detroit."

"No one person is 'more Detroit' than the next," he said at the annual TEDxDetroit conference. "We all might not live in the same neighborhood, but we're all Detroiters, we're all neighbors." 

Foley stressed that throughout the city's 139 square miles, there are neighborhoods that are thriving outside of the 7.2 and that it's important to listen to residents there, that their concerns are valid.

Foley said that it's critical that we start listening to each other and not talking over each other (like Matt Damon did recently in explaining "diversity" to Effie Brown, producer of Dear White People). 

He also made some intriguing comments about the region's age-old city-suburb divide. "If we live in Detroit," Foley said, "let's stop making fun of our friends for living in Ferndale."

Foley, who lives on the city's west side and grew up in the Russell Woods neighborhood, said that newcomers in recent years have moved into cities like Portland and Austin and Brooklyn and have too often dictated to older and more established residents what kinds of businesses they need to have. 

And while certain newer businesses in Detroit have gotten their share of attention, Foley made a point to say, "We had barbecue [in Detroit] before Slows opened in Corktown."

As for the future of metro Detroit, Foley said it's important that each of us expand our social circles.

"We have to start listening to each other," he said. "We have to be inclusive of everyone."  

Watch Foley's TED Talk in its entirety here, starting at 08:11:20:

Frequent Metro Times contributor Dave Mesrey is a native of Detroit's Morningside neighborhood living in exile in St. Clair Shores. (But he swears he's not more St. Clair Shores than you.) 

About The Author

Dave Mesrey

SPJ Award–winning journalist Dave Mesrey is a veteran copy editor who’s worked for the Detroit Metro Times, Motor City Muckraker, The Detroit News, and ESPN’s Grantland.com. The editor of Willie Horton’s autobiography, “The People’s Champion,” Mesrey is also a founding member of the Hamtramck Stadium Grounds Crew...
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