When People Cross the Street

Nicholas is a hot dog vendor in downtown Detroit. Having growing up in Detroit and spent time in other places, he has strong ideas about how the city can improve and how other people see him.

What Detroit’s citizens can do to improve the city:

I think that some people (are) complacent with the status quo of dirtiness and the lack of services. Citizens should do more clean up. Be cognizant of cleaning up your neighborhood. Everything starts at home and with yourself. If you want everyone else to do something nice, start it at home. Make sure your home and yard is clean. You start at your neighborhood, and it goes out. Everyone starts to catch that vibe of everything looking clean and nice. It puts a smile on people’s faces.

What Detroit’s citizens need from their leaders:

Politicians need to bring more real jobs into the city for Detroit citizens, not for people coming from outside the city. Their (the people from the suburbs’) tax dollars (via the city tax) are appreciated. But they’re not living here, so you miss out on the property tax. It doesn’t work out as well as it’s supposed to. 

His keys to good citizenship are:

Being invested in your community, and taking control of what you can control. Volunteer at your kids’ schools, or if your kids aren’t in schools, volunteer at a local school. See someone in need, help them.

The small example of great citizenship he sees everyday:

I get homeless people through here (the hot dog stand) all the time, and there are still real people in the world who will see someone homeless walk by and buy that homeless person a meal.

He doesn’t think Republicans would see him as a good citizen:

I don’t think Republicans would see me as a good citizen because of the way that I look, the way I carry myself. I look like what they are definitely against. I’m not saying every Republican is an alt-right person, but they, Republicans, would rather not deal with me. People gravitate towards people who look like them.

He is skeptical about how people see him as a black man in general:

The only level a lot of people see you (as a black person) on is on the TV or in a movie. That’s one of the biggest misconceptions. I used to have long hair, and people would walk on the other side of the street. I’m probably one of the least threatening dudes you’ll see. But people saw me with dreadlocks, and they (still crossed) the street.

What we all need to do to be better Americans:

We have to stand up, even to people we deal with on an everyday basis. We can’t let these people spew hate and say this wrong stuff. It can’t be okay. People say, “Well, they said that, so it’s okay I’m saying this.” You can’t do that. We can see things happen, these unjust things, and we just blink, and say “it’s not me.”

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