There Are No Black People There

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 Blog

Racialicious 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 Reeves John 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 team@racialicious.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!

Support Racialicious

The Octavia Butler Book Club

The Octavia Butler Book Club
(Click the book for the latest conversation)

Recent Comments

Feminism for Real – Jessica, Latoya, Andrea

Feminism for Real

Yes Means Yes – Latoya

Yes Means Yes

Sex Ed and Youth – Jessica

Youth and Sexual Health

OMLN

Online Media Legal Network

Recent Posts

Support Racialicious

Older Archives

Tags

Written by: