Cultural Caviar

Why, Oh Why is Iowa so Iowhite?

January 07, 2012

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Why, Oh Why is Iowa so Iowhite?

On New Year’s Day, NBC honking head Andrea Mitchell tried making America hip to the Hawkeye State’s unforgivable lack of hipness:

The rap on Iowa: it doesn’t represent the rest of the country—too white, too evangelical, too rural.

This isn’t the first time Ms. Mitchell—presumably a reporter rather than some wacked-out urban-supremacist sockpuppet—has made such a statement. In 2008 she chuckled while wondering why Barack Obama would bother to campaign in Southwest Virginia:

This is real [laughs] redneck, sort of, um, bordering on Appalachia country.

Mitchell’s recent comments about Iowa echo those made by New York Times publisher Arthur “Pinch” Sulzberger in a December 17 column:

Iowa has long been criticized as too much of an outlier to be permanently endowed such an outsize influence in shaping the presidential field. Too small, critics say. Too rural. Too white.

“Maybe they really mean it’s too German.”

Iowa ranks 26th in the USA for area and 30th for population, so rather than being “too small,” it’s pretty average. We’re also not sure what’s meant by “too rural,” but it apparently means that 61% urban simply isn’t urban enough for snooty coast-huggers such as Sulzberger and Mitchell. And the Washington Examiner recently cited a Pew survey pegging Iowa as slightly less evangelical than the national norm. So in truth, Iowa isn’t all that freakishly small, evangelical, or rural.

Which leaves us with “too white.”

While Mitchell and Sulzberger were careful not to call Iowa “too white” themselves—they used such responsibility-deflecting phrases as “the rap on” and “critics say”—we’ve yet to see them depict Mississippi as “too black” or the relatively tiny isle of Manhattan—where, as luck would have it, Sulzberger, Mitchell, and her husband, ex-Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan were all born—as being too, you know, “Armenian” or whatever.

This ain’t to say that Iowa ain’t white. The state is currently around 91% white—not terribly different than America as a whole was in 1960. But by modern standards, it’s now a little extra-white. Compared to the current national average (63.7% in 2010) Iowa is roughly “over-white” to the same degree that New York City is “under-white” (33% in 2010).

Washington Post writer Courtland Milloy—a black man whose skin tone is somewhat over-white compared to the national Black Mean Hue, not that we ever notice such things—recently found Iowa to be far too white for his tastes:

I noticed that nearly everybody was white: white people smiling over coffee, white people applauding at candidate forums, white people singing praise songs at church.

Why, it sounds like the apocalypse!


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