George N’Namdi of the N’Namdi Gallery once spoke of the concept of “psychological gentrification” in Detroit, where if Detroiters of color don’t see themselves in media representations of the city, they’re at risk of “losing that sense of having input into your environment.” With that in mind, let’s take a look at the artists’ renderings for a proposed soccer stadium that Quicken Loans CEO Dan Gilbert and Detroit Pistons owner Tom Gores want to see built in Detroit.
For almost any proposed project in Detroit, artists will render a vision of what that project will look like when it’s completed. And oftentimes those visions include happy pedestrians and bicyclists to indicate there’s actual human activity going on. Generally, the people in the renderings should be representative of who’s going to visit and patronize that space. So do the renderings for the soccer stadium – note that there actually isn’t a stadium in the works as of this post, but there was a press conference today to push the idea of building one on the site of an incomplete Wayne County jail in downtown Detroit – look like Detroit? Um…well…
Similar to what we did with the most recent Pure Michigan ad about Detroit, let’s do a frame-by-frame analysis of how many black people are represented. Now granted, your first defense might be "it's a rendering!" but unlike some renderings, this is in full-color, almost lifelike — as you'll see with the second scene. So we think this is fair game for criticism.
1. People jogging. This seems to be a common theme with these kinds of videos. What is it about white people exercising in Detroit that makes for a compelling visual? Two people, zero black.
2. The money shot. Ah, all the people attending a game (the video makes sure to pan in on the little kid on the right playing with a soccer ball — awww!) and maybe that woman in the far, far left corner might be black? Other than that, this is clearly a lot of white folks. At least 50 people, one black.
3. Inside the stadium. You can zoom in just enough to see all-white teams playing. Or maybe they're very fair-skinned players of other ethnicities. Who actually knows, but considering that soccer is played worldwide, we could have thrown a little more diversity in there. 24 people (counting the folks on the field), who knows how many black.
Your first defense might be that black people don't watch soccer (although I'd tell you to visit, oh, just about anywhere in Africa to debunk that) or your first defense might be that black people in Detroit don't watch soccer, but my retort would be this: Shouldn't a stadium built in Detroit be offered to everyone in Detroit? Wouldn't an MLS franchise here undoubtedly spin off some after-school program, some kind of student athletic league or some kind of outreach program in the city that would either train up future players, attract future fans or both?
And again, like I asked with the Pure Michigan ad, where are the other people of color? You can't walk through Hamtramck or Dearborn without tripping over an Arab-American kid with a soccer ball; same with Southwest Detroit and Latinos. Soccer is all-inclusive. This video is not.