Bright, it looked bright compared to the neighborhood that surrounded. The rainbow of dots I saw reminded me of a carnival attraction and clowns, like something to stare at. I was at the Heidelberg project, deep within the heart of Detroit. I walked deeper into the display, past a long and uninhabited plot of grass. Clocks covered the entire area, showing the rotations of the community or maybe that time for change was running ou-
The stagnation has gone on for too long and those in power have let it.
The center of the Heidelberg project holds a dilapidated building covered completely in discarded items. This area would remain unseen, perhaps buried by the outsiders who visit if not for the art. Empty alcohol bottles, washed-out stuffed animals, and rust covered school chairs all riddled the array before me. Evidence of broken school systems and families, occurrences that are marginally more likely in areas below the national poverty line than above. An area that can’t benefit American society in a traditional way. Something avoidable. Higher than these stood a tall, black lawn jockey, erriely remnant of a time thought to be behind us as a nation. News stations day in and day out showing cases of police brutality spand outbreaks like that in Charlottesville, Virginia prove that they aren’t. All of this stared bleakly back at me as I did at it, magnifying the poverty entrenched society around me as if it were under a microscope. The same truths of the community lied in the pile before me but with severe emphasis.
A white woman spoke loudly of her donation to the project while parading her young children back to their car. She did not live in an area fighting for its survival, and her lack of empathy made the most important part of what she experienced her own generosity. She left in nice car, not having to look back at what she was leaving. A small black child sang a song loudly across the street untouched by Heidelberg. He was joyful, glad to just be there with his mother. She swept the porch silently, and his voice echoed through the display.
All of this is deeply ingrained into the American creed and what at its core it means to be America. Light in the face of darkness. Ignorance. Perseverance. America historically has been viewed as a place of hope and opportunity, and while that may seem compromised in this day and age due to our current political climate, pieces of this ideal are still very much alive. The child who lives in an area known by the United States as the most dangerous in the country can still find joy. Those who live outside unprivileged areas are ignorant to the issues that surround those within, often because the knowledge is a painful inconvenience and ugly truth. Those untouched by a system that systematically impoverishes the same groups in a time of declining mobility simply turn their heads. Continually we see those in our nation holding power setting roadblocks for those without the same inherited privileges. Mass incarceration holds a disproportionate control over our country’s black communities, thought by many to be just another recurrence of oppression taking yet another gripping form in our nation. The cycle without change continues: familial poverty, child grows, poor schooling, struggle in adulthood, failure to get out of the poverty, familial poverty...
In order for the American creed to remain as it stands and to become an even more solidified version of itself, there has to be a dedication by all communities to help others. Improvement for following generations and equality for the members of our country will only come out of a commitment to stripping away oppressive forces and all that contributes to cyclical poverty. The hardship of one is a hardship for all in our current state of decreasing mobility, and our ignorance simply drags us as a nation down. Being American, as the Heidelberg project expressively taught me, is a wide range of things to be both proud of, but also to grow from. We are often misguided and ignorant because our society often makes it all to easy to be, but we all have the power to use our empathy to make change and fix all that is neglected. Putting this effort in and making this change is just another piece of our progressive nature and will only unite our country more, and strengthen what it really means to be American.