Podcast | What outsiders don’t get about being Black in the Midwest

Terrion Williamson, the director of the Black Midwest Initiative, discusses what news outlets miss when they only focus on crisis in Black communities.

Protesters kneeling in the street

Protesters kneel in the middle of the street to block traffic as they protest the death of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, May 29, 2020, in Louisville, Kentucky. (Darron Cummings/AP)

When the video of Minneapolis police officers killing George Floyd went viral in the spring, the Minnesota metropolis quickly transformed into a theater of discontent, as the nation’s battle over race and policing unfolded in its streets.

The center of that conflict has shifted throughout the summer as it fueled partisan rancor, but it has often returned to Midwestern cities, where Black Americans have been shot by police in questionable circumstances.

These news items are just the latest example of national media descending on a Midwestern city to tell a story of Black Americans in distress. Whether it is gun violence in Chicago, economic collapse in Detroit or the water crisis in Flint, Michigan, Americans on the coasts and throughout the country are shown over and over a picture of Black life in the heartland that is devastating. But that life is both more vibrant and more complex than these stories let on, says Terrion Williamson.

On this week’s episode of the Crosscut Talks podcast, the director of the Black Midwest Initiative discusses the harm that is caused when we only pay attention to Black Midwesterners in crisis and what that means for our nation's politics and its future.

Plus, Crosscut reporter Emily McCarty tells us how college towns are coping during the pandemic.

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