Back when the government first started issuing quarters dedicated to each state, an email made the rounds featuring proposed designs and slogans for each state. North Dakota's said "Celebrating our first black guy." The South Dakota quarter said, "Did you hear about North Dakota's black guy?"
I know, it is funny. It probably wasn't too far from the truth back when those quarters first entered circulation in the late '90s, either. That's changed now, for one simple reason -- war. The various conflicts in Africa and the Middle East over the past couple decades have produced a lot of refugees, and no matter what the movies may imply to the contrary, they don't always end up in New York City. Thousands of Sudanese refugees have found their way to South Dakota, for example, to such a degree that there's actually a Miss Sudan beauty pageant in Sioux Falls every year.
You totally would've guessed that, right?
According to this database of refugee arrivals into the United States for 2012, of the 4,915 people who fled Somalia and came to America that year, the state that took in the most was Minnesota. In fact, Minneapolis/St. Paul has the highest concentration of Somali residents in the U.S.
Employment opportunities abound in the land of 10,000 lakes!
For the record, Columbus is number two on that list. Or how about Milwaukee, Wisconsin? Historically, racial diversity isn't the first thing that comes to mind when people think of the cheese state, but in that city, if you combine the black and Latino populations (as every racist does anyway), white people are the minority by a fairly wide margin. If that seems like a minor thing, keep in mind that we're talking about a state where people were still burning crosses on lawns as recently as 1992 less than 75 miles away in the town of Janesville.
Don't get me wrong -- you're still going to see a lot of white people on your average trip through the Midwest, but it's not quite like the Dakota state quarters made it out to be.
More than anything else, the Midwest is thought of as ground zero for conservative Christian types who yearn for the days when all abortions are illegal and who know in their hearts that, somewhere, Jesus has invented a cure for gay. While there are certainly pockets of that sect to be found in huge numbers, their line of thinking doesn't necessarily dictate the outcome of every election like the "Red State vs. Blue State" phenomenon might make it seem.
Oh, hey, speaking of that, remember when Ronald Reagan won damn near every state in the union on his way to re-election in 1984? Guess which state was the lone holdout?
That's Minnesota. You knew that, right?
Yes, I realize Mondale took Washington, D.C., also. That's not a state.
Anyway, since I mentioned it earlier and it's everyone's favorite subject, let's talk about abortion. Remember when South Dakota "outlawed abortion" in 2006? That was actually a law pushed through the state Senate by lawmakers only. As soon as it passed, a petition was started to force the state to put the matter to a public vote. It received 38,000 signatures, well above the required 16,000. When the abortion ban made its way onto the ballot in the November elections that year, the people of South Dakota voted to repeal it by a margin of 56-44.
Be careless at the only strip club in town without fear of ramifications, Sioux Falls!
Also, quick, name the first state to legalize same-sex marriage! That's right, it was Massachusetts! Iowa was fourth, though, and that ain't too shabby either. Besides, they've actually stuck to it. Iowa voters have defeated every attempt to have the law that legalized same-sex marriage overturned, which is a lot more than can be said for California. They voted the controversial Proposition 8 into law in 2008, and same-sex marriage has been illegal in California ever since. The measure passed mostly thanks to religious and black voters, who supported Proposition 8 in numbers ranging anywhere from 50 to 70 percent.
David McNew/Getty Images News/Getty Images
It's not like there's anything else to worry about in California, though, I guess.
Hey, you know what else religious types and black people hate with just as much passion as gay marriage? Abortion! Get angry all you want at the thought of some Midwestern shithole being the first state to truly challenge Roe vs. Wade, but, like so many other things, don't be surprised if it actually happens in California first.
Adam hosts a podcast called Unpopular Opinion that you should listen to on SoundCloud and a live stand-up comedy show of the same name that you should come see sometime if you're in the Los Angeles area. You should also be his friend on Twitter, Facebook, and Tumblr.