Yes, Iowans appear to express hearty friendliness and offers of assistance to complete strangers without seeming to want anything in return. But they quietly expect a quid pro quo.
Iowa Nice is less good manners and more of a social contract to uphold white supremacy. The state’s Black population is only 4% yet the prison population is 25% Black. Iowa’s overall population is 90% white. Cedar Falls was a suspected sundown town. Although sundown towns are believed to be a thing of the past, the Black population in Cedar Falls is 2.5% today. In the past few years, state and national headlines covered multiple violent incidents in Iowa that were racially motivated. The Cedar Falls School System is still facing the same problems on race and inequality I saw when I attended 30 years ago.
As long as one overlooks these ugly facts with a smile, Iowa Nice is abundant. No wonder not much changes.
Although I haven’t lived in Iowa for over 20 years, I get asked about Iowa Nice frequently. I give a firm reminder that authentic goodwill doesn’t come with a caveat.
Maria Reppas, formerly of Cedar Falls