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Racial Justice

A Journalist Discusses What Has Changed In Iowa Since He Moved To The State

060721-Ty-Rushing.jpg
Matt Heinrichs
/
Dickinson County News
Rushing is a journalist and corporate communications professional.

In May, IPR asked Iowans to share their perspectives about how life in the state has changed since George Floyd was murdered one year ago. One response came from Ty Rushing, a freelance journalist and corporate communications professional who has had work published in a variety of Iowa publications.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity. The views and opinions expressed are those of the speaker and do not necessarily reflect the position of Iowa Public Radio or its staff.

"I'm Ty Rushing in Sioux City. I'm a freelance journalist, and I also work in corporate communications.

"In my first column for the then-Newton Daily News, I wrote about how pleasantly surprised I was to receive a warm welcome after moving to small-town Iowa. Moving to rural Iowa from Kansas City as a 26-year-old Black man, I honestly expected the worst, as did a lot of my friends and family back home. Hell, we expected the Klan to come knock down my door upon arrival. However, my time in Newton was incredibly pleasant. But it was also the first place I heard the coded term "people from Chicago." It doesn't take a rocket scientist to read between the lines on that.

"Cut to eight and a half years later, and I live primarily in the northwestern part of the state. But here, and in other places across Iowa, I've seen hatred, intolerance, lack of empathy, and othering grow significantly in the last few years. Those feelings and views have always been here, but maybe seeing them so openly expressed without much pushback has been jarring.

"The murder of George Floyd presented a turning point in that dynamic, almost like a 'red pill' or 'blue pill' situation. Red pill would mean Iowa was taking a real look in the mirror and addressing issues of inequality and systemic racism. And the blue pill would be doubling down while pretending everything is fine and dandy, and that racism is just something that people of color decided to collectively exaggerate.

"Following the widespread social justice protests in towns across the state, including in the most remote, rural and conservative parts, I foolishly thought Iowa was taking the red pill. The governor signed a unanimously supported racial justice bill, which turned out to be fool's gold. A year later, the same legislature proposed banning the 1619 Project in schools, which was edited by a Black woman who was born and raised in Waterloo and is a product of Iowa's public schools. It legalized hitting protesters with vehicles, changed the voting laws following the primary and general elections with the highest turnout in the state's history, and proposed or approved a slew of other legislation aimed at basically anyone who wasn't a white, conservative, hetero Christian.

"In the year since George Floyd was killed, Iowa has continued down a dark path. Sadly, it's becoming a place I feared it was when I moved here.”

You can record and share your own story with IPR by emailing iowaamplified@iowapublicradio.org. Find more information here.

Corrected: June 9, 2021 at 7:15 PM CDT
A previous version of this post omitted the photo credit. The photo was taken by Matt Heinrichs of the Dickinson County News.