How the death of George Floyd changed the small town of Iowa

Malen Beard, shown with her dog Noche

Malen Bearn, shown with Noche, says local farmers sent food to protesters in Minneapolis

The death of George Floyd and the trial of Derek Chauvin shed light on racial issues in a small town. Still, accepting racism is difficult even for well-meaning people.

Guy Nave, a PhD scholar at Yale University, moved to Decora nearly 20 years ago.

The town of Iowa seemed idyllic. There were stone buildings, train stops, and Victorian homes that looked like Gingerbread homes. Then, shortly after starting work at a local university, he was locked out of his home.

He was rattling the patio door when the police appeared.

Nave recalls that the policeman received a phone call and was told that “someone who didn’t look like he was in the neighborhood was walking in the house.”

The person was black-the person was nave.

There were other incidents. He was pulled a dozen times for minor violations during his first year in town. He concentrated on his work and tried to ignore those cases.

The scholar Guy Nave shown in his garden says many townspeople are embracing the Black Lives Matter movement.

Guy Nave says many townspeople are embracing the Black Lives Matter movement

Then, in May 2020, George Floyd died in police detention, and the townspeople organized the first Black Lives Matter procession of this kind. The town was awake.

“We can’t end what’s happening.”

Small towns are slow to change. The pride here is that the glacier overlooked Decora in northeastern Iowa about 12,000 years ago, leaving behind rolling hills. This is an old terrain.

Culturally, I was too busy with time. Until recently, racism was rarely discussed.

However, Floyd’s death had a profound effect on the people here and caused a movement.

“It changed the decora in a way they couldn’t finish because of what’s happening around them,” says educator Maria Lights.

But not everyone responded in the same way.

“People were really sad about it,” says Leitz. “But I was really angry about it.”

Educators Maria Lights (right) and Nikki Battle are fighting for racial justice in town

Maria Lights, Right, and Nikki Battle are fighting for racial justice in town

When the trial of former police officer Derek Chauvin, accused of Floyd’s death, unfolds, she pays attention and monitors some of her testimony.

“I hear snippets,” she says. But she tried to limit the amount she saw: “It’s very emotional.”

People here are fighting racism with new energies as trials are underway and more protests take place in Minneapolis.

Rights is now part of a committee (Decora Human Rights Commission) established in 2006 to investigate housing and other complaints, but it was declining.

“We are organizing what decora can do,” she says. She and other members of the committee encouraged business owners to put a specially designed black and white “All Are Welcome” sticker on the windows to promote an acceptable environment.

In addition, Rights helped organize the procession of the town’s Black Lives Matter and created a poster: “My sign said:’Change’.”

Not everyone marched, but most people supported the idea, reflecting the trend of open-mindedness.

More than half of the rural people said they were sympathetic to those who protested after Floyd’s death., According to a Reuters / Ipsos poll.

While I was driving Iowa, the country song Undivided was played frequently: “Why does it have to be all white or all black?”

Rights was born in El Salvador and grew up in a town near Decora.

She says people called her a racial slur when she was a kid. She left town and lived abroad. One recent afternoon she stood in the field with her activist friend and saw the green hills, the landscape that brought her back.

One of the benefits of her work is her new friend, Nikki Battle, who works for an insurance assessor and has interracial children. The battle nodded, saying, “We have fallen into a really beautiful friendship.”

“These issues cannot be postponed.”

People here say their town embodies dignity. This is where someone digs your car out of the ditch as you slide off the road.

Railroad crossing sign of decora

In Decora, a town founded in the 1800s, locals are trying to promote diversity

School counselor Marnie Carlson describes it as a “really safe little community.” Recently, she chased her daughters Marit (4 years old) and Daphne (2.5 years old) and Old English Sheepdog Rosie in the park.

Still, the small town could be “quite isolated,” she says, and the protest march was a milestone.

“We need to say:” Hey, we’re mostly white, and that’s why we need to care about this move, “she says. “Less racial diversity does not mean that we isolate ourselves from what is happening around us.”

In a 93% white town full of Norwegian heritage, racial injustice has never been a problem for the majority.

School counselor Marnie Carlson

School counselor Marnie Carlson teaches children about racial equality: “It’s about respect.”

“Most people have never actually met a colored person,” says Jeremy Meyer, who is in charge of billing for logistics monitoring companies. “I think that’s something you didn’t think about.”

Then Floyd was killed, and people were watching him take his last breath.

Malen Beard and her husband Tom were drinking coffee at their farm when she clicked on the video.

Last morning, her border collie, nosh, chased sheep, and geese flew across the gray-blue sky. Floyd’s death changed her, she says. “Sure, I think it was a call for awakening. These issues cannot be put off.

& # 39; Decora newspaper & # 39; window sign logo

Decora, with its nearly white population, has its own Black Lives Matter movement.

Still, some people complain.

Construction workers say they are resentful at how store owners are asked to put black and white “welcome” stickers on windows, saying they shouldn’t use their name. Come to your business as you don’t have the Black Lives Matter flag. Something like that. “

But as athletic veterans know, change can take time, especially in small towns.

Guy Nave lives in the immediate vicinity of an old house in the neighborhood where he was once said to be unaffiliated.

The town still has a long way to go, but he sees a path made with love and concern for others.

“Without love, there is no way out of racism, pain and exacerbation of injustice,” he says.

He then barbeced jerk chicken on the garden grill. Funk music was played on nearby speakers that seemed to welcome everyone, at least that night.