Heard on Detroit Today with Stephen Henderson

Is Detroit Part of The Midwest? A Tweet Sparks Furor

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Washington Post Correspondent Philip Bump weighs in on the racial and social implications of the tweet that set off a big online debate last week.

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Last Wednesday, a tweet shared by the New York Times’ Jonathan Weisman sparked a furor online. 

It essentially said that Detroit’s Rashida Tlaib and Minneapolis’ Ilhan Omar aren’t Midwesterners — so much so that calling them Midwesterners would be like saying a congressional representative from Austin is from Texas, or that one from Atlanta was from Georgia. The tweet was erased after a backlash that accused the author of being racist, and indulging the idea that the word Midwestern is associated with rural and white, rather than urban and black.

Philip Bump/Twitter
Philip Bump/Twitter

The Washington Post’s Philip Bump joins host Stephen Henderson after writing a piece analyzing how stereotypes of the Midwest being rural and white aren’t accurately depicting the full reality of life here. 

The way that political reporters nationally, myself included at times, use ‘the Midwest’ is to refer to a very particular subset of Midwesterners. We generally use it to refer to white people who live in Midwestern states, however Midtwestern states are defined, which is its own debate, tend to be more rural and or tend to be working outside of Youngstown having been laid off from jobs at auto factories or steel plants — that’s the way that Midwest is used as a descriptor,” says Bump.

He adds that “the fascinating thing about what Weisman did in his Tweet was he sort of elevated the extent to which that is the narrow descriptor that political reporters use,” but Bump points out that “he made a massive mistake, which is to assume that was an accurate way of describing what the Midwest was, but he did do a service in a way by saying ‘here’s how political reporters think of the Midwest.’” 

Click on the audio player above to hear the full conversation.


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