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How People Talk About Blight and Vacancies

The kinds of words and arguments people use to describe blight, foreclosure, and eviction reveals a lot of society's biases.
October 18, 2017, 6am PDT | James Brasuell | @CasualBrasuell
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Kaeleigh Herstad provides a semantic analysis of rhetoric on the subjects of blight, foreclosure, and eviction in Detroit to reveal "local attitudes towards and concepts of ownership, poverty, race, and social justice."

Herstad spent two years documenting local media coverage of Detroit’s blight and foreclosure crises, and has identified a few pervasive themes. Herstad only needs one case study to illustrate these themes—the comments from a recent Detroit News article "about a negligent property owner, Jeffrey Cusimano, who does not pay property taxes or keep his properties up to code, yet faces no consequences for his actions."

Herstad identifies the following comments left on the article as indicative of larger themes, which she details thoroughly in the source article:

  • “When someone plays the system like a fiddle, I tend to blame the system.”
  • “Don’t you think that 19 evictions is more a reflection of the quality of tenants and their attitudes towards paying honest debts than it is of the system?”
  • “And yet they have a dish on the roof.”
  • “Why would anyone move in there in the first place? Did they expect it to magically transform? Hardly. It’s just an excuse to not pay.” and “Renters don’t take care of anything! Move in, destroy, move out.”
  • The city should be giving this guy an award for even trying in Detroit. If he didn’t own these houses they would just be more shells to dump bodies in…” and “Who cares? Detroit is a Sewer!” and “Detroilet” 
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Published on Friday, October 6, 2017 in Rustbelt Anthro
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