I've spent a bit of time listening to public reaction to the charges against Michael McGee, Jr. on WMCS (and I will be on the station this afternoon from 4:30 to 6:00). While the response was not monolithic, there is a substantial body of opinion - perhaps even a consensus - that McGee is being treated unfairly, hasn't done anything that bad or that the "good" (which I am constantly told, without specifics, that he does) outweighs this. McGee, calling into WNOV this morning, apparently sang a battle hymn to his supporters. He apparently thinks that he - or whatever cause he is supposed to represent (no snitchin'? wig peeling? gatekeeping?) are worth dying for. Maybe there are folks who agree.
There is a pretty clear racial divide and my sympathies are with those that believe this view of McGee is wrongheaded, harmful and pretty much outside the boundaries of reason. It wouldn't be hard to conclude that there is no possibility of dialogue between two Milwaukees who see things so differently.
I'd like to imagine otherwise. McGee and those like him strike me as mirror images of the segregation demagogues of the south. Wallace, Faubus, and Maddox capitalized on the anger generated by the end of segregation. They appealed to group loyalties that were stronger than any rational assessment of what would or would not better everyday life. Although they claimed to be the leaders who would help the south rise again, the south did not rise until they fell (or, in Wallace's case, changed their ways.)
McGee capitalizes on the anger that flows from a history of racial injustice. He claims to be the leader who will help black Milwaukee rise, but, just as was the case with the white racial demagogues, it will not rise until McGee and his ilk go the way of Faubus and his.
To say that McGee makes a few legitimate points along the way - or to respond to his wrongdoing by dwelling on the faults of his critics - is simply to enable him and block the evolution of effective leadership. The poor whites that Bilbo and Barnett spoke for had legitimate grievances too and there was more than a little snobbery and hypocrisy among the "pointy-headed" liberals that opposed them