Have you heard of the idea of “Midwestern Nice”? It is the idea that Midwesterners are uniquely polite and gracious: greeting strangers on the street, overly apologizing for minor inconveniences, avoiding conflict. “Hoosier Hospitality” is a similar notion, specific to Indiana, and defined in 2020 by long-time late-night host and Indianapolis-native David Letterman as “the way people are supposed to be . . . a manifestation of the golden rule: Treat people the way you would like to be treated.”
Evidence of the existence of "Midwestern Niceness" is mostly anecdotal, but there has been some research into the concept. A 2013 Cambridge University study found that certain personality traits, such as friendliness and agreeableness, are more common in Midwestern states.
Yet the Golden Rule has all too often been disregarded throughout Indiana's history. As scholars including Sujey Vega (Arizona State University) have proposed, this niceness sometimes serves as a cloak for aggression, racism, and acts of violence.
The stops on this tour challenge the notion of "Midwestern Nice" by exploring the ways in which white Hoosiers, who have been the majority group in Indiana since the early nineteenth century, have sought to control Native peoples, Black citizens, lower-class workers of many races and ethnicities, and members of the LGBTQ+ community through expulsion, intimidation, segregation, arrest, violence, and murder.
Other Hoosiers have protested and resisted these injustices throughout the state's history and their stories can be learned about throughout Discover Indiana. On this tour, however, look closely for a little while at the ways in which the midwest can be anything but nice.