Times are tough in Flint, Mich.
Unemployment in the struggling Rust Belt city north of Detroit currently stands at 16%, well above the national average of 7%, and about 40% of the local population lives below the poverty line. The metro area’s violent crime rate is a staggering 3,000 incidents per 100,000 residents, making Flint a regular on those lists of America’s “most miserable cities” and “most dangerous cities,” among others.
But, despite its various problems, the residents of Flint still have their pride, which was on full display Monday after an article slamming their hometown as “America’s most apocalyptic, violent city” was posted to PolicyMic, a site devoted to news by and for millennials. The story was written by Laura Dimon, whose father is JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon.
Flint is emblematic of a deeper story in America, only one of the many similar tales to emerge from the once thriving, now deteriorating Rust Belt of the United States. These manufacturing and industrial hot spots, spanning from Albany, New York, west across Ohio, Indiana, and through Michigan, were once the great symbols of American innovation and economic prosperity. Today they're mere vestiges of a bygone era that's been eclipsed by new economic power centers like Wall Street and Silicon Valley.
For emphasis, she added: "Flint now drowns in the hell that has become of much of America's Rust Belt."
Granted, Dimon has a point. Flint, like other Rust Belt cities, has been hit hard by the decline of America’s manufacturing sector, and its troubles are far-reaching. Of the 15 American cities that have lost the largest share of their populations since 1960, 14 are in the industrial Northeast and upper Midwest. Flint, like Detroit and Gary, lost about 20% of its population during the first decade of the 21st century. In the 1960s, Flint's population was double what it is today.
But this is far from breaking news in late 2013. After all, Flint was the subject of local native Michael Moore’s 1989 documentary “Roger & Me,” about the closing of a General Motors plant in the area that cost some 30,000 jobs. The city’s violence problem has also been well documented over the past couple of decades.
Truth is, given this history, Dimon’s assertion that Flint is a city many people have never heard of is off base at best, grossly misinformed at worst. It didn’t take long for Michiganders to take to social media (PolicyMic turned off the comments section below the original article shortly after the controversy exploded) to question Dimon and call attention to everything that's actually going right these days in Flint.
And doesn’t it say something that Laura Dimon assumes that folks haven’t heard of Flint and it’s problems before? No, YOU haven’t.— Douglas Williams (@DougWilliams85) December 30, 2013
And the fact that Dimon didn’t actually visit the city before sharing her opinions on it ... that didn’t sit well at all.
@gabegutierrez i wish i could have but i did not. only spoke to people who were there. next time i have the means, flint..here i come!— Laura Dimon (@LauraDimon) December 27, 2013
And to be fair, Dimon has been open and forthcoming in her responses to the criticism, even posting a follow-up photo essay about the people who are working to rebuild the city, and amending her original story to highlight these positive stories.
Flint native and photographer Justin Clanton, 27, said, "I love it here. Crime is a bitch, but, hey, not every place is perfect. There are few other places I would want to live. I'd choose the 'worst city in America' over a ritzy area any day."
Locals hate that the only story told about Flint is a negative one. "There are people trying very hard to make this city a better place," Young said.