Posted by: joshjasper | January 19, 2011

Fear and Loathing in Dubuque

71% of the people polled in a Dubuque survey stated that they do not feel safe in the downtown area at night.  Interestingly, another poll was conducted and found that the people who actually live downtown do not feel the same fear.  As we as a community sift through the recent findings of a 782 page research study on crime and poverty in Dubuque, we must make every effort to look past the answers we hope to find, and be able to take a good look inward if we ever hope to effect real change.

Growing up in Farley, IA. population 1,200, I never once met a black man or woman.  It wasn’t until I was fearing for my life in Marine Corps boot camp that I got to know a black man by name.  The only thing I knew about black people growing up was what I learned on MTV.  Listening to NWA and Ice-T gave me a very specific, skewed view of the African-American culture.  According to the videos, black men wanted nothing more than to kill white men, specifically police officers, and have sex with white women.  Couple that with the cross burnings that were going on in Dubuque at the time and I had myself a prejudice formed based solely on ignorance, and sadly, that bias was never challenged.

I get the feeling that much of the fear that people have for downtown Dubuque has much to do with the color of skin that the people have in that area more than anything else.  Last weekend I spoke at a vigil for a black child that was murdered and afterwards heard many stories that made me question my community.  Black men and women shared examples in which they felt targeted, discriminated against, and harassed by white members of our city.  I could hear the anger in their voice and see the disappointment in their eyes.  They wanted to understand what they had done to deserve this treatment, but more importantly, they wanted to know what they could do to make it stop.

I talk a lot about how violence is a learned behavior.  I share with anyone that will listen that people are not born to be rapists nor are they born to abuse their spouses and children.  Racism works the same way.  You’re not born to hate.  You learn it from your parents, your friends, your peers, and in the media, to name just a few.

Recognize that we ALL have our own biases.  Please do not say that you “don’t see color,” because you do.  Be honest with yourself and challenge the norm.  The moment we do away with our own hate will be the very same moment that we realize the community that we all so desperately want and need.



  1. I agree. People call downtown Dubuque a “ghetto,” and it’s just not true. I think it has a LOT to do with negative assumptions about African Americans in general, but that everyone in Dubuque who is African American is some sort of invading criminal shipped in from out of state – the classic fear of the other.

  2. Carla-
    I completely agree with you regarding the negative assumptions. And it is apparent that the fear that many have only fuels the hatred.

    Thanks for the comment.


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