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.