As Milwaukee burns and Baton Rouge floods, I wrote about the abandonment of the heartland for Quartz:
They come for the chaos. They don’t stay for the banal brutality of the time in between, the slow erosion of opportunities that structure daily living.
Dramatic events in these regions—a shooting, an environmental catastrophe—are cast, in the media, as moments of crisis. But the actual crisis is a collective refusal to examine systemic failures and understand the long-standing local problems that culminated in these tragedies. At the heart of this blindness is racism. It is hard to imagine an epidemic of poisoned white children, or white teenage boys killed regularly by black police, or white inner city residents living in poverty for decades while black suburbanites happily thrive, without media and political outrage surrounding it.
In the Midwest and South, racism is compounded by regionalism. When a politician wants votes, these regions are “the heartland” or “the real America” (unless, of course, they’re referring to non-white residents). Most of the time, however, it is “flyover country”—the immense swath of land that coastal media and political elites ignore. The region’s invisibility has increased, like its hardship, since the 2008 recession. As of 2014, one out of four journalists lived in three expensive coastal cities–a significant change from one out of eight in 2004, a number already disproportionate to the population. Meanwhile, Midwestern and Southern media is steadily being bought out and bankrupted, leaving its stories untold by the people best qualified to tell them.