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Mostly-white "See Detroit Like We Do" ad draws backlash and apologies

Photo courtesy of Khaled Beydoun
But really, who was like, "Yes, looks great, put that up?" And who was the first Bedrock employee who was like, "Um, guys, hey, quick question..."

If you spent the weekend on a deserted island or just abstaining from all social media, you probably missed the swift, brutal backlash to a large window ad in downtown Detroit. 

The banner was put up by Detroit mogul Dan Gilbert's property management company, Bedrock, on a building at the corner of Woodward Ave. and Congress St. 

The slogan for the campaign, "See Detroit Like We Do" overlays a mostly-white crowd. Cringe. 

Detroiters took to Twitter and Instagram with #SeeDetroitLikeWeDo, arguing that the ad promoted gentrification, made black people "invisible," and generally underlined their skepticism of Gilbert's intentions for downtown.

"Hey, can you see me?" "Yeah, can you see me?" #SeeDetroitLikeWeDo, @soulcialscene happy hour A post shared by Damion Ellis (@detroit_damion) on Jul 23, 2017 at 10:32am PDT

#sondayfunday #soncrushsunday #seedetroitlikewedo @bedrockdetroit A post shared by Byron Suggs (@cool.smart.suggs) on Jul 23, 2017 at 2:27pm PDT

Gilbert apologized Sunday night, saying "we screwed up badly" and announcing that the ad campaign has been canceled.

"The full graphic package that was slated to be installed across all of the retail windows on the Vinton Building was a very inclusive and diverse set of images that reflects the population of the city... "This past Friday, the installers of the graphic package put up just a portion of the entire installation. The graphic that was completed Fridaywas unfortunately, not diverse or inclusive when looked at by itself. The remaining graphics were scheduled to be installed and completed early this upcoming week. "As soon as we realized on Saturday that the partial installation would completely distort our vision for the finished project, we removed it so it would not cause further misinterpretation and confusion."

The controversy comes at a time when some fear Detroit's economic comeback is already forcing out lower-class, black residents from increasingly popular parts of the city. It also comes on the fiftieth anniversary of the Detroit uprising, which is associated with the city's long history of racial injustice. 

Emma is a communications specialist with the digital team at Michigan Radio. She works across all departments at Michigan Radio, with a hand in everything from digital marketing and fundraising to graphic design and website maintenance. She also produces the station's daily newsletter, The Michigan Radio Beat.
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