‘Wait, where are you from again?’

Nate Smith

I’m from Flint, Michigan. It’s where I grew up and it’s the place that I identify as home. One thing I’ve noticed since moving to this side of the state is people’s reactions when I tell them where I’m from. It’s not uncommon for me to get the prolonged, bug-eyed stare upon people learning about my hometown. People usually proceed from the stare in about four different ways depending on what they think about Flint, or me.

Jokes: One of the most common reactions by people when learning my hometown is to crack some sort of joke. “And you made it here in one piece!” or something similar is common. I get it: Flint is always at the top of some homicide or economic depression survey. Making a joke about where I come from doesn’t get you extra points with me. If you often hear jokes upon mentioning your home town I’m sure you’d agree in saying that you’ve heard them all before, and they weren’t that funny to begin with. I feel like the worst part of these jokes is that they’re coming from people that have never stepped foot in Flint, and have no idea what it’s like.

Story time: Another common response from people is the expression of the desire to hear stories about my experiences in Flint. This isn’t as bad as the jokes, but it’s still fairly annoying. Just because someone moved from a city with higher crime to a city with lower crime doesn’t mean there’s a story behind it. I’m not the Fresh Prince. I didn’t move here for any other reason than to go to school (and live with an ex-girlfriend but that’s a story for another day). Flint is an economically depressed city, not a war zone. The way people ask me to tell them stories makes me think they’re expecting tales of drive-by shootings and plots straight out of The Wire. That makes me sad.

“I heard…”: The only thing worse than the crime in Flint are stories about the crime in Flint. People have told me some of the wildest tales of crime exploits that I’m pretty sure never happened. Stories of houses being blown up with families in it (I’m not kidding at all), stories of Ocean’s Eleven-type bank robberies, the whole nine. These stories are usually always lies and rumors, which hurts me more than the real statistics.

My mom worked as a CSI for the City of Flint for more than two decades and she never told me about anything as horrible as the things I’ve heard in these stories. Flint is having a rough enough time as it is without people making things up, c’mon guys.

But you’re so nice!: Last but not least is the reaction that makes me the most angry, the “But you’re so nice!” WHAT IS THAT SUPPOSED TO EVEN MEAN?! Like, just because I’m from Flint I’m programmed to steal your purse or something? I think what makes me so angry about this reaction is the fact that once again: the people saying it have never actually been to Flint. The city is full of some of the most hardworking and earnest people I’ve ever met. It’s horrible that even people that are from the same state can hold these strange and unfair opinions without ever actually going there.

Does Flint have a long way to go when it comes to most things? Yes. But it’s still a great place, and more importantly: it’s my home. Come visit! I’m sure you’ll have a great time, or at least a true story about your visit to tell your friends.

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