Monday, August 05, 2019

Midwestern Americans

These Minnesota refugee communities exist in a strange kind of quantum superposition: Invisible to the Beltway journalists who imagine (and frequently give voice to the imagined needs and desires of) a monolithically white Midwest, they also exist as a terrifying caricature in the minds of the people who consume conservative media. Your average Meet the Press panel member could probably tell you next to nothing about the country’s largest Somali community, in the heart of the much-venerated heartland. The average American consumer of right-wing media could probably tell you a thousand false things about it. Republican politicians know precisely how to exploit this selective ignorance. When a senator rails against “elite cosmopolitans,” he knows the longtime political reporter will think, Upper East Side snobs, while another audience thinks of George Soros conspiring with the United Nations to turn Minnesota brown. As the intensity of anti-Muslim and anti-refugee rhetoric has increased on the right, the nonpartisan press has mainly concerned itself with how that rhetoric affects white turnout, not how it affects communities like Omar’s. And when the next worst thing happens, they’ll all ask How We Got Here in the manner of a tipsy student awakening on the last stop of an unfamiliar subway line.