Nationwide, blacks have been concentrated in the inner city, far away from where new jobs are created. Yet the case of Milwaukee is extreme: 90 percent of the metro area’s black population lives in the city. Making matters worse, suburban whites are notably hostile to building any form of public transit to connect city people to suburban jobs, further exacerbating segregation’s ill effects.Oh, and it keeps getting worse:
If you’re wondering if this can somehow, some way, be blamed on union-busting Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, the answer is yes. Walker took the lead in a campaign against public transit to connect the suburbs to the city during his time as county executive. He thought the funds would be better spent on highways.
“There is virulent opposition in these exurban counties to any kind of regional transit system, particularly a regional rail system. There have been proposals over the years, but they’re always DOA,” says Levine. “Governor Walker’s big issue as state representative and county executive was ‘Over my dead body light rail,’ and he fought with Milwaukee’s mayor over funds for regional rail. He very much represents that suburban and exurban base.”
Milwaukee sticks out in another way: Civic boosters have mounted a major campaign to deny the city’s segregation. In 2002, a group of job training researchers at the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, released a study contending that nationally recognized measures of segregation are “racially biased” and, using a new measure, argued that Milwaukee was actually the tenth most integrated of the largest 50 cities.And for the reading impaired, they have included this graphic showing just how segregated the Milwaukee area is:
While people everywhere — especially whites — find it hard to talk about race, the methodological contortions undertaken in Milwaukee are striking.
“It’s not really controversial in Milwaukee. No one seriously doubts we’re a highly segregated place. It’s only controversial because this work, which has never been published, never been peer reviewed, and isn’t taken seriously by any academic experts, purported to show something that some local political leaders wanted to tout in order to make Milwaukee look better,” says Levine. “These non-faculty contract researchers got a grant from a local foundation whose president said, ‘I don’t think Milwaukee is really as segregated as all these studies have shown. Can you run some numbers that show that?’”
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel covered the findings extensively, despite their lack of academic rigor.
“Milwaukee ranks across the board as among the most segregated metropolises in the nation. It has among the highest rates of racial inequality across a whole range of indicators: black-white joblessness, black-white poverty and black-white ownership of businesses. There’s a bit of civic embarrassment and sensitivity to it,” says Levine.
To be fair though, Scott Walker didn't invent the segregation and underlying racism in Milwaukee. He only enhanced it.
As mentioned in the article, Walker did indeed do his best to decimate the transit system, cutting it by more than 20% in his time as county executive, cutting off many people from jobs. Of course, Walker also didn't want "those people" bothering the good folks in Brookfield and other suburbs.
Walker's separate and unequal approach was apparent in other areas as well. Many years ago, lefty bloggers, including myself, showed the disparity in the way parks in the inner city were being neglected while suburban parks were in much better shape.
It should also be pointed out that it's just not Walker that is trying to keep segregation intact. Milwaukee Alderman Bob Donovan is a good example of that. After an incident involving some black youths at State Fair, Donovan and fellow Alderman Joe Dudzik sent out a blatantly racist press release that blamed black people for everything but the clogs in their kitchen sinks. Not done being an ass, Donovan also proposed a plan where black kids would be gathered up and locked away in boarding schools and orphanages. The ultimate in segregation!
Don't look for the transit system in Milwaukee to get any better in the near future. Walker, as governor, as made transit funding much more scarce by moving it out of the transportation fund. Walker tried to justify this move by claiming that mass transit wasn't really transportation, but a social program like food stamps, energy assistance and Badger Care.
Locally, with the Milwaukee County Transit System on the verge of collapse, and with a long list of reasons why the community needs it, the current county executive, Chris Abele, would rather see a dedicated sales tax go to build a new arena instead of restoring and sustaining the transit system. Why should thousands of blacks have access to transportation to jobs when he can have his own court side seat to watch Bucks games?
And that is not to mention the hundreds of millions of dollars Abele is willing to spend on 44 story tall Bic Lighters and moving freeway ramps a few feet to make things easier for his fellow plutocrats. Then our dear elected leaders tell us that there is not enough money to fix the roads, provide decent education for our children or proper health care for our poor. They have to make sure that the right people get what they want and the wrong people get to stay put.
|Segregation was wrong then. It's even|
more wrong now.
It's not only geographically that people are trying to keep Milwaukee segregated. They are also attempting it politically as well, such as with AB 85/SB 95, the bill that would greatly reduce representative government in Milwaukee, effectively silencing the majority of minorities in Milwaukee County. As one might hope, it is being met with fierce resistance from local civic leaders, community groups and political leaders.
It should also be pointed out that Milwaukee is the home base for the Bradley Foundation. The Bradley Foundation has been involved with similar acts by trying to infringe the rights of blacks to even vote.
I have heard some say that Milwaukee will never make the "big time" unless we have all sorts of new buildings, arenas for our sports teams and other cultural attractions.
I say that we could have all those and still not hit the big time until we address the inherent racism and sexism that is still all too prevalent in our community.