Thursday, October 1, 2015

The Newfound Racial Sensitivity (?) of the DPW Old Guard

We are giddy!! For the first time ever, we at Data, Facts and Logic are seeing white DPW members-- especially past consultants, staff, and their closest friends-- up in arms about what they saw as a racist video. The video was taken at an event where DPW Chair Martha Laning spoke. She detailed how exciting it had been to be at a speech by President Obama, watching it with a largely African-American audience, imitating what she had heard David say and how he said it.

Never mind that the offense taken was mostly by white people. Never mind that most of these people have had years-- raking in hundreds of thousands of dollars of working people's money over that time-- without doing a thing to improve the lives of people of color who mostly vote a straight DPW ticket. Never mind that these people crying crocodile tears were some of the same who tried to sabotage the Laning/Bowen campaign and even the delegate nomination process in some counties so that their preferred candidate would win. Never mind that when Jason Rae stood up in front of a group of mostly African-American Milwaukeeans and said he knows exactly how they feel because he’s gay and experiences what they experience, none of these born-again crusaders for racial justice corrected him. (The comment did not go unnoticed by attendees. It definitely cost Rae votes.)

Former DPW staffer Graeme Zielinski suggested that the new DPW team should endorse the Black Lives Matter movement. At a safe distance, everybody previously connected with the party became an enlightened keyboard gangster on race, an all-white team advising the only DPW leadership team with an African-American man on it. Whitesplaining is real. Just think of the power these people could have wielded in the cause of challenging racism in Wisconsin if they had given one small damn about it prior to Dan Bice's release of the video (provided by Republicans). Maybe the highest incarceration rate for black men, the worst black infant mortality rate in the nation, the highest segregation rates, and some of the worst urban poverty rates in the nation could have gotten them worked up-- even once-- in the past five or six years? Nope.

The message was never clearer to us at DFL than it was when Mike Tate decided to share some words about Jennifer Epps-Addison leaving for California.
"I have to admit we don't know each other well, I don't think either would say we are friends. We've been in a number of meetings together, often on opposite sides of the room. I always sensed she felt I was too ‘establishment’ or that we didn't share the same values or goals. What I have always believed is that in general Jen and I have the same values, vision and hopes for our society. We may share different views on strategy and tactics. I'm not one for protesting in the streets or holding signs. After I gave my last speech as party chair in June Jen came up to me and asked where the Mike Tate had been that spoke that night about Black Lives Matter or the fight for 15. I felt like saying, hey I've always been here. We're fighting for the same things using different tactics.”
How is silence while an unarmed African-American man is gunned down in a public park, or not joining in the fight for a living wage for workers until you use it in your final speech using different "tactics?" How is doing nothing when you hold a position of power a helpful "strategy?" "Protesting in the streets or holding signs" may be something you can't be bothered to do as a white man, but they have given disenfranchised people a voice for decades, a way to confront racist authorities, a way to keep the narrative going. The total silence on these and countless other issues that are life-or-death matters to Wisconsinites of color did not go unnoticed. This trickle-down racial equality theory that the DPW operated under for years is no different than the right wingers passing off tax cuts for corporations as benefiting their lowest ranking employees.

The Martha Laning video will hurt her in these early days. We at DFL can’t excuse or explain Laning’s ignorance about why this imitation shouldn’t have been done. It’s still the first time we’ve seen a Wisconsin DPW leader get publicly enthusiastic about working with the African-American community in Wisconsin. So far, she seems to mean it. Most of us will take a sincere but stilted attempt at working together over no attempt at all. It's not tactics, it's not strategy, it's action. We’ve got work to do. Get out from behind your keyboards and do it, if you mean it, or at least get out of the way.


  1. I do not accuse Laning of racism. I do accuse her of being inexperienced and naive. I'm sure she is well meaning and probably really is sincere about being excited about having had her first exposure to someplace other than Sheboygan. The question is entirely whether she was (or still is) ready for prime time.

  2. This is something I don't have an issue with Martha Laning over, as David Bowen, whose accent Laning was trying to half-ass emulate, was not offended by her remarks or accent impression. Do I have problems with Laning over, among other things, her support of the Milwaukee Bucks corporate welfare giveaway and her trying to sabotage Russ Feingold's campaign with borderline anti-Semitic remarks about Feingold's last name? You're damn right I do. However, the fact that she's trying to do a half-ass impression of David Bowen's accent is not something I hold against her, in fact, it's something that shows that Laning isn't always a ultra-boring person (which is what she's often viewed as).

    1. Those are actually good points. This list is growing long isnt it? Reminds me a bit of Hilary, doesnt it? How are all the gaffes and errors of judgement working out for her campaign? You forget that I campaigned for her her in the 9th and it was in fact the most boring unexciting campaign imaginable. Her one and only TV spot centered around the quote "Republicans have good ideas too!" Yeah that will get the base fired up! She lost by 20 points. Nice job endorsing her BTW. :P

  3. I just want to point out that I reject the characterization of opposition the Laning as "old guard". Most of it is coming from Progressives of which I am one having opposed Tate for years prior. We will have success when we have leaders we do not have to write blog defending.

  4. Old guard refers to past consultants, staff, etc. who have only found their voices on matters of racial politics after they were off the payroll. In office/on payroll, they were inactive, silent.