Monday, June 25, 2007

Explaining the "racist tripe"

Mike Plaisted wants to know why I - and some others - haven't written about gunplay at a country music festival in Oshkosh:

But, nothing. Not from Sykes, McBride, Robinson – even the often-thoughtful Esenberg. Forget the weekend – if this had happened with black people in Milwaukee on Saturday, they would have all left their Sunday picnics to wring their hands over their keyboards about the sad community in which they don’t live. All of the above had a field day over the attack on a motorist by stupid kids after the Juneteenth celebration on Thursday. That unfortunate event played right into their – yes – racist tripe about how bad things are in the City and how only Clarence Thomas wannabees like Sheriff Clarke and the newly-anointed OK-black-guy James Harris can save us, er, them.

Well. I had not heard about the Oshkosh incident and I was not at a picnic. I spent Sunday afternoon taking down some Christmas lights (really) from two trees in my backyard, trying (unsuccessfully) to get a motor scooter started and reading about the 1908 baseball season. I doubt that there is much that could have pried me away from that.

But there is a bit of an obvious difference between this and the stuff that I have been concerned about. Oshkosh and its residents are not dodging bullets on an almost nightly basis. If the problem following Juneteenth Day was an isolated incident, it wouldn't be so newsworthy. Unfortunately it is not and, objectively, it seems to me to be a larger racial insult to ignore it than to acknowledge that there is a real crisis in which real people (almost all of whom are black) are being killed and injured.

If what happens nearly every weekend in the inner city of Milwaukee happened over any two days in Oshkosh (or Mequon), there would be a police mobilization of biblical proportions. Why do people in the central city deserve less?


Mike Plaisted said...


My point is that some people will jump on any turmoil in the inner city and proclaim a crisis, with the ultimate point always being that, if Black Milwaukee refuses to follow "our" sage advice (which they never will or should), the situation is hopeless and there is no point in any one else worrying about it. The claim is that "they" get the representation [enter McGee reference here] and the dangerous streets "they" deserve.

These same people refuse to acknowledge the legacy of poverty and (yes) slavery and the growing sense of economic hopelessness in the inner city. There is a growing underclass that has simply dropped out. Some of them bought the dream of a high school diploma and still cannot get a decent job, or they know someone in their family that bought the same lie. They get chased around by the cops for expired plates and get arrested for some unpaid loitering ticket (people in my part of town don't get such tickets).

They have a sense of injustice, not as educated revolutionaries (although we could use a few of those), but as people. Eugene Kane hit it right on the nose -- they don't care what we think. I would add one word: They don't care what we think anymore.

And, still, no broad claims of social dysfunction in white Wisconsin because of recent events in Portage, Delavan or Oshkosh. Nor should there be. But neither is there a "crisis" in Milwaukee just because a crowd of young people decide to act like fools.

Milwaukee's inner city residents have problems and have to deal with too much violence, to be sure. But sanctimonious hang-wringing by opportunistic politicians like David Clarke and radio wing-nuts like Sykes and Belling looking for higher ratings with their angry-white-male demographic -- who they know want to think the worst of Black Milwaukee in the first place -- only serve to divide us where we need to be united. As I have written in your comment section before, I assume no good will in those who have shown no inclination to get serious about systemic poverty and the legacy of slavery. They claim to see injury in the inner city, and yet, they cause more.


Anonymous said...

So white on white violence is not a part of a larger problem? hmm.

jp said...

”Why do people in the central city deserve less?” That is a thought provoking question.
According to Merriam-Webster, the word deserve suggests something is earned or received as a return for effort. Could effort be the difference between Oshkosh (or Mequon) and the central city?

Anonymous said...

JP's got a point, work harder or we don't care if you are slaughtered.

Dude, you are ridiculous. Seriously, see a neurologist.

Anonymous said...

Anon 10:25

jp never said "we don't care if you are slaughtered". I'm sure that he does. People such as yourself, love to read things into statements that are not there; it gives you a supposed reason to insult people that you don't agree with...dude.

Anonymous said...

Once again MP lets us all know how much he hates himself.

elliot said...

First, Rick you've got to turn off anonymous comments.

Second, I hate when people use poverty as an excuse for bad behavior.

The first place I ever lived was government housing.

I'm the first person in my family to graduate from high school. (I really went above and beyond when I graduated from college, too.)

When you present poverty as an excuse, you are insulting everyone who has ever worked two jobs for the benefit of their children, or started a business with nothing but muscle and sweat, or worked their way through college.

Poverty doesn't lead to failure.

The soft racism of low expectations, willful ignorance, and victim-mongering does.

Other Side said...

Elliot: As Leonard Pitts recently said so eloquently ... "Cry me a river."

Rick Esenberg said...


A little late from me, but I just don't think it's plausible to deny that there is a crisis of violence in Milwaukee. It's not because some people "acted the fool" (not really the term I'd use for dragging a guy from his car and beating him) after Juneteenth Day, but because of what happens day after day.

While I would not want to say that this is unrelated to poverty and the legacy of slavery, I think that it and the culture from which it springs is the now the larger problem. Anti-poverty measures that don't address that (or attempt to reduce violence now and not come the revolution) won't work because it is this culture which is the biggest cause of poverty.

So when Sykes and Clarke talk about this stuff, they are very serious about a solution.

I agree that lots of black people may not care what I - or we - think. My snarky response is to say then don't ask me to participate in the solution. Taxation and representation and all that. The idea that it is the role of the larger society to pay for what the "communty" dictates didn't survive 1971.

My better response is that it would be an abdication of responsibility to believe that you see the truth but fail to speak it. I might be wrong but I am not indifferent.