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COLUMN: Fishers, IN, is not the best city in the country



Fishers, Indiana, was recently named the best place to live in the United States by Time’s Money magazine. The ranking was based on criteria such as economic health, cost of living, crime rate and public education. 

On paper, Fishers looks like a suburban utopia and scores exceedingly well in all of those categories. But these are not the only criteria to use when judging the quality of a community. 

At a closer look, Fishers fails in providing a livable community for marginalized people, and therefore it is certainly not the best place to live in the U.S. regardless of its many successes.

In August, a black resident of Fishers, Chris Sullivan, was racially harassed to the point he felt he had to move. He received racist and hostile notes from his neighbors immediately after moving in that told him to mow his lawn because “this isn’t the ghetto.”  

The Fishers Police Department unfairly targeted him when officers questioned him about a case of domestic abuse. The crime was claimed to have been perpetrated by a white man. 

The officers were aggressive and reached for their guns when Sullivan reached to get his identification from his bag. In an interview, he said, “Maybe (officers of the Fishers Police Department) don't have a lot of experience dealing with people of color.”

This statement is likely correct, as Fishers’ population is 82 percent white. Such little diversity in a community leads to the ostracization of people of color. While the city may have a booming economy and low crime rates, the community seems less welcoming of a multicultural landscape.

In addition to having a low level of racial diversity, the community has a startlingly low level of religious diversity. Approximately 30 percent of the population is Protestant or Catholic, while only 0.38 percent are Muslim and 0.15 percent are Jewish. 

Perhaps Fishers feels like the best place in the U.S. for white Christians seeking to be surrounded by other white Christians who have very little exposure to marginalized people.

A study conducted by the University of Oxford found that living in areas of high ethnic diversity leads people to become more tolerant of other races. 

The obvious explanation would be that tolerant people are already more likely to live in highly diverse areas, but the social psychologists in charge of the study took this into account and studied levels of tolerance over time, finding that they increased in those formerly less tolerant.

If anything, living in a diverse area leads to a more open-minded perspective about people different from you — no matter their race or religion. 

Living, working and interacting with a diverse group of people opens your eyes to different experiences and allows white Christians to empathize with the adversities of minorities and marginalized people. 

While it cannot be denied that Fishers is a safe and economically stable city deserving of praise, racially homogeneous areas limit perspective and should not be considered the “best” place to live for those who do not fit into the majority – especially if the city has episodes of racism and discrimination. 

There are many different criteria for what makes a community good, and social factors like multiculturalism should definitely come into play.

emmagetz@indiana.edu
@emmaagetz

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