Apr 23, 2011

Change IS Gonna Come (get ready Iowa)

Last Wednesday in Iowa City,  a short documentary film premiered entitled "Black American Gothic: Planting Urban Roots in Iowa."  An opinion article appeared in the Iowa City Press-Citizen prior to the film's release stating, "New documentary will spark some needed discussion"

The opinion piece briefly describes problems with racism that exist in Iowa City, but the evidence of those problems appear in the comments section

For example, the opinion piece states that black folks move to Iowa City from Chicago because they want better lives for their families. The commenters discuss their belief that black folks come to Iowa City for shorter welfare lines. 

The filmmaker is quoted as saying, "Soon Iowa City and much of Iowa will be truly multiracial like most of the nation, and now we must all reconsider what that means." The commenters do not understand this statement. One of them asks, "Does that mean we have reached some magical number on the desired mixture of races?" 

I read this article and feel a knot in the pit of my stomach. I remember the looks on my all-white students' faces when in Government class we discussed the 2010 U.S. Census prediction: by 2023 more than half of the children in our country will be nonwhite; by 2042 more than half of the adults will be nonwhite. Iowa will not be immune to this change. My family is evidence of the shift to a more multiracial community, as are the many other multiracial families in my neighborhood. Change is here and more is coming. One can only hope that when those white folks who make such closed-minded comments become the minority, the multiracial majority will treat them better than they have been treated. We need to learn to respect each other, not beat each other down.


  1. I haven't seen the movie. I would have liked to have seen it, but it doesn't seem like there was much advance publicity about it. 

    I don't recall hearing about the movie during the time period during which it was made, I have to wonder how much effort the fillmmaker made to get a comprehensive picture of some of the issues. 

    I thought Ms.  Wilson's comments could be interpreted in several ways.  My initial reaction was....does she realize that larger urban areas in Iowa have had long established African American and/or Hispanic communities, and have actually done a much better job than our oh so liberal Iowa City in dealing with the issues that diversity might bring.
    I'm a resident of the southeast side.  My children attend one of the most diverse elementaries in the district.  You might disagree, but our district could absolutely do much better in serving the families that have children in these schools.  Almost immediately upon moving to Iowa City I noticed there seemed to be a sort of soft racism in how issues with the schools were viewed or acted upon, when I compared it to a previous, more urban commuity I had lived in.

  2. First, thanks for visiting and commenting! 

    I totally agree that there is soft racism that occurs in our community--especially when it comes to our school district. During last year's redistricting forums I was really disturbed by some of the comments made by community members.  I was even more upset by the way the school board catered to those community members, refusing to make any changes that could make our schools more equitable. I heard many, many people start sentences with the phrase, "I am all for diversity in schools, BUT..." they don't want their kids to move to a different school to get it, they don't want to be inconvenienced by driving a few more blocks--even if it makes our schools more equitable, etc. It's all okay if it's NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard.) The school board will never make everybody happy. But I do wish they would try to do what's best for more kids. They need to stop trying to cater to the more well-to-do and start doing what could level the playing field so that ALL kids in the district get the highest quality education--not just those who live in the whitest neighborhoods. Some big changes would be required, though, and IC is soooo resistant to change (kind of ironic for a town that considers itself so liberal/progressive!)


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