Who is here?
White science students are here. White science interns are here. White naturalists are here. White administrative staff is here. A few Black science students are here. One staff member of color is here. I, a white artist, am here. Three other white artists and writers are here.
Who is not?
No native people are here. 𝖭̶𝗈̶ ̶𝖠̶𝗌̶𝗂̶𝖺̶𝗇̶ ̶𝗇̶𝗈̶𝗋̶ ̶𝖬̶𝗂̶𝖽̶𝖽̶𝗅̶𝖾̶ ̶𝖤̶𝖺̶𝗌̶𝗍̶𝖾̶𝗋̶𝗇̶ ̶𝗉̶𝖾̶𝗈̶𝗉̶𝗅̶𝖾̶ ̶𝖺̶𝗋̶𝖾̶ ̶𝗁̶𝖾̶𝗋̶𝖾̶.̶ Few Black people are here.
Edit: I was gently corrected by a member of the Lakeside Lab community on the above. They are a member of a racial and ethnic minority whose identity was erased by this comment. I apologized to them, and thanked them for their gracious correction. The interaction led me to reflect on my own biases, and ways that I use assumptions to oversimplify identity by assigning white or non-white status to others. Ultimately, I see how such assumptions are a tool of white supremacy from which I benefit. Leaving this here to document my learning process. More on politics of visibility in a future post?
Wealth in Iowa has been extracted from the land in the form of big agriculture. This has been a historically white endeavor.
Before the mid-1800s, European colonial violence pushed eastern-dwelling Indigenous groups into the Midwest, including members of the Iroquois Confederacy. Violent, forcible relocation of tribes in the 1800s contributed to this migration as well.
In 1830, the Indian Removal Act was passed, formalizing this violent displacement under the militarized state.
In 1851, the Sioux cession removed the final Sioux claim to land in Iowa.
European colonists in the Iowa area continued to decimate the Indigenous people in the area through disease (cholera, smallpox, influenza, measles); murder; enslavement and exploitation. This mostly happened after the 1862 Homestead Act which expanded the American frontier to settlers.
In 1882 the Dawes Act broke up large reservations and allowed the further sale of Native land to white colonists.
Native Americans weren’t fully counted as American citizens until 1969.
Because of federal and state policies that made it impossible or extraordinarily difficult for Native or Black folks to buy or own land, ability to generate wealth was excluded to only white landowners. Because of these restrictions, it is mostly white folks who have the ability to access higher education opportunities in this area, and to afford tuition for Lakeside Lab (which is not prohibitive and also not cheap).
Additionally, recent immigrants to the United States from Asian or Middle Eastern countries are more likely to find home in urban areas where other family members may be located. The challenges of cultural adjustment, language transition, and bureaucratic glass ceilings may make it difficult for immigrant folks to secure meaningful work outside of urban centers. Coupled with mental health risks associated with immigrant status, not the least of which may be trauma incurred in country of origin or as collateral of white supremacy, these issues may deter immigrant folks from venturing far beyond urban centers to find home.
I don’t know why most of the artists here are white, because it is a curated open call that is sent out to multiple arts organizations in multiple cities. Perhaps because the art world operates under its own dictum of white supremacy, inherited from American culture at large? Perhaps because people are most likely to hear about Lakeside Lab who have access to the institutions that mostly populate it (Iowa State University and University of Iowa)?
Statistically, white people are unlikely to have many non-white friends. Yet another toxic aspect of white supremacy is the incestuous feedback cycle that this exlusionary phenomenon creates. For a small residency like this, likely the greatest publicity opportunity is word of mouth. Which means that white folks like me maybe only promote it to other white folks in their life.
Feedback cycles like this contribute to the deep divides that have become the unfortunate signature of Americanness - thought-cancelling clichés and gaslight-y oxymorons that demolish nuance and polarize us.