‘A New Generation Challenges the Heartland’

 Last July, Tim Craig and Aaron Williams reported A new generation challenges the heartland (‘Big changes in small towns are fueling a racial justice movement across the Midwest’). They wrote last summer that

The number of young people of color living in the Midwest has surged over the past decade, as the older white population has nearly stalled. Forty percent of the nation’s counties are experiencing such demographic transformations — a phenomenon fueling the Black Lives Matter protests that have swept the country and forced racial reckonings in communities, colleges and corporations nationwide.

A Washington Post review of census data released last month [June 2020] showed that minorities make up nearly half of the under-30 population nationwide compared to just 27 percent of the over-55 population, signaling that the United States is on the brink of seismic changes in culture, politics and values.

The protests reflect demographic changes that social scientists have long predicted would hit America around 2020 as the country moves closer toward becoming majority-minority. As this young, diverse cohort enters adulthood, it’s challenging the cultural norms and political views of older white Americans, said Stefan M. Bradley, a historian and professor of African American studies at Loyola Marymount University.

A few remarks —

The story from July strikes me as sad, as there is so much progress to be made, yet hopeful, as there’s a better chance for progress with national support now than there was last July.

I’m not part of a local organization advancing these issues (as it’s easier to write from a remove — different people play different roles in a community). Needless to say, I’ve watched with interest and attention the rise of racial justice organizations in Whitewater (as there’s more than one group oriented this way).

On language: of course Black Lives Matter, and the expression is plainly inclusive (that is, ‘Black lives matter as much as any other lives’). Opponents’ efforts to turn the expression into an exclusionary one are either semantic ignorance or bad-faith arguing.

Not every local Black Lives Matter group will advance the same goals. Within a local group, there will be differences in policy positions. Some local groups’ goals are ones with which one could agree, and others disagree.

Not all small towns will be as receptive as others. A first formula: the greater the grip of conspiracy theories & fears about radicals, antifa, socialists, etc., the less receptive the town. A second formula: the greater the grip of conspiracy theories & fears, the worse off the town.

The argument that small towns should not address national issues descends into divorcing small towns from the nation. Addressing national concerns only in code (where one uses euphemisms for fear of upsetting someone) or avoiding certain topics entirely sends the message that national concerns should be restricted from open local discussion. Repeated nebulous complaints about Whitewater as too political or too partisan cast aspersions not only on debate about trivial matters but on vital matters, too.

No, and no again: a free people should – and must – be able to advance their concerns about justice without officials’ hushing and shushing.

As for this new generation challenging the heartland, one hopes they keep going.

See also Local ‘Apolitical’ Isn’t Apolitical and Never Was.

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