by Guest Contributor Tami, originally published at What Tami Said
Saturday night, as my husband and I sped north on a highway in Central Indiana, I had a brainstorm: One day I’m going to write a book and I already know the title–There Are No Black People There: A History of African Americans in the Midwest. The book would tell the stories of black folks like me, who live in places they’re not “supposed to.”
When my husband and I first moved from Chicago to the Hoosier state, where I was born and raised, we settled in a mid-sized town about 30 miles north of Indianapolis. We loved that the suburban area had great schools, decent property values and a quiet, small town charm, yet offered access to the amenities of a nearby urban area. But our decision flummoxed several of my husband’s black co-workers: What’d you move up there for? There are no black people there.
It is true that we have few neighbors of color, though the town’s African American and Latino communities have grown over the last five years. It is also true that there have been black people in my town for centuries–a point that was driven home this weekend when a fellow genealogist shared with me the fruits of her recent research. My town once had enough of a black community to support two churches, a “colored” school and a thriving black settlement. A review of early 1900s issues of a now-defunct county newspaper reveals black citizens being born, graduating, getting married, working, dying–living their lives alongside their white neighbors. There are and always have been black people here.
Upon learning the fascinating, and seemingly hidden, history of of black people in the place I currently live, it occurred to me how often I have heard those six words: There are no black people there. I hear them spoken about my current hometown. I heard them spoken during the 2008 election as people across the country analyzed voting results from my home state. There are no black people there. I heard them when I was going to college in Iowa alongside black students from Nebraska and Kansas. There are no black people there.
Conventional wisdom seems to hold that African Americans can only be found in two places: the South and the big city. As always, there is some logic behind that conventional wisdom. It is unfortunate, though, that those logical leaps erase the past and present experiences of black folks like me. There are thriving black communities in many of those places where “black folks don’t live.” Communities in Omaha and Evansville may not look like the ones in Chicago or Birmingham, but they exist, they have their own unapologetically black character and they should not be denied. To do so would be to narrow the black experience and obscure the rich diversity of African American peoples.
There are no black people there.
How can that be when I am here?
About This BlogRacialicious is a blog about the intersection of race and pop culture. Check out our daily updates on the latest celebrity gaffes, our no-holds-barred critique of questionable media representations, and of course, the inevitable
Keanu ReevesJohn Cho newsflashes.
Latoya Peterson (DC) is the Owner and Editor (not the Founder!) of Racialicious, Arturo García (San Diego) is the Managing Editor, Andrea Plaid (NYC) is the Associate Editor. You can email us at email@example.com.
The founders of Racialicious are Carmen Sognonvi and Jen Chau. They are no longer with the blog. Carmen now runs Urban Martial Arts with her husband and blogs about local business. Jen can still be found at Swirl or on her personal blog. Please do not send them emails here, they are no longer affiliated with this blog.
Comments on this blog are moderated. Please read our comment moderation policy.
Use the "for:racialicious" tag in del.icio.us to send us tips. See here for detailed instructions.
Interested in writing for us? Check out our submissions guidelines.
Follow Us on Twitter!
- aboynamedart on Open Thread: Scandal S03 E09: ‘YOLO’
- Tonya on Race + The Netherlands: Exile
- nicthommi on Race + The Netherlands: Exile
- Derek Vandivere on Race + The Netherlands: Exile
- Delevan on Video: President Obama’s Speech At Nelson Mandela Memorial
- The Racialicious Links Roundup 12.12.13: Nelson Mandela, New York’s Poor, Black Republicans and more
- Race + The Netherlands: Exile
- Please Stop: The Trans Joke at the Spike Video Game Awards
- Video: President Obama’s Speech At Nelson Mandela Memorial
- What names are normal? Shifting the center of the world
- Will Black Woman-Directed Docs Make it to the Oscars?
- Quoted: A South African Muslim Woman’s Memories of Mandela
- Rumour Mill: Casting for the Man of Steel sequel and CW’s The Flash pilot
TagsABC activism advertising african-american asian asian-american barack obama black celebrities comedy diversity fashion feminism film gender glbt HBO hip hop hispanic history hollywood identity interracial relationships Kerry Washington latino media mixed race movies music muslim politics race racial stereotypes racism religion Scandal sex sexism sexual stereotypes stereotypes True Blood tv Uncategorized white youtube