Saturday, March 06, 2021

Iowans and the original sin of racism

Something called "the funnel" --- a deadline that dooms bills that have failed to clear committee in the Iowa Legislature --- channeled to the toilet for this term at least several transphobic measures that would have adversely affected the lives and welfare of our state's transgender children.

Another measure that died would have forbidden schools to include in their coursework anything related to the Pulitzer Prize-winning The1619 Project, developed with others for The New York Times by Waterloo native Nikole Hannah-Jones. That project aims to move the institution of slavery to the conversational center when discussions of U.S. history occur.

Still alive and well, however, are House and Senate measures that would bar K-12 public schools and public universities from offering diversity training based on the premise that neither racism nor sexism exists in Iowa. Wayne County's Amy Sinclair (R-Allerton) introduced a Senate version. At least one Republican lawmaker declared recently that our state is without the stain of either "ism," an interesting but inaccurate observation.

I got to thinking back a little --- my first conversation with anyone whose skin color and culture differed from my own occurred after I'd enrolled as a freshman at the University of Iowa in the fall of 1964. Black faces still were rare on campus then --- the School of Journalism had one black student during my undergraduate years.

And then I got to wondering: What percentage of Iowans do you think as the year 2021 advances still has never had a meaningful conversation or interacted in a meaningful way with anyone of a race other than white? I'm guessing well above 50 percent, which goes some distance in explaining the odd concept that Iowans are free from this most basic of a nation's original sins.

1 comment:

Tanya said...

I work in a college town in Kansas, and facilitate discussions about race among other white people who work at the university. The amount of people I've had say to me, "Oh, I grew up in a small Kansas town, we never had any racial problems," and then find out the reason is because there were no Black or other people of color who lived in their town. I remember one person actually said, "I grew up in an all-white town, so we didn't have any racism at all-" and then they just trailed off as they realized what they were saying. My follow-up is asking why they think non-White people didn't live in their neighborhood, town, or part of the state. If they're stumped, it's time to mention redlining, covenants, and sundown towns. Makes for a thoughtful discussion. Once you see it, you can't unsee it, everywhere you go.