Again, southeastern Wisconsin is roiled by race.
While riveted by individual events, let's not lose sight of the bigger picture.
First, some of the events:
The beating of Frank Jude Jr., a bi-racial man, by current and former white Milwaukee cops, has moved to trial in Federal court.
Separately, Ald. Michael McGee, an African-American, has been charged with state and federal offenses, and sits jailed since Memorial Day with bail restrictions his supporters say are racist.
(Looked at objectively, if that is possible given the way race distorts so many things, the no-bail restrictions seem prudent, given the allegations against McGee of violent plotting and intimidation that extend beyond bad-enough financial extortion.
On the other hand, the people who are charged with the actual beating of Frank Jude Jr. were allowed bail.)
Nonetheless, juries will determine if McGee, and those charged with beating Jude and violating his civil rights, and those of a second victim, are innocent or guilty.
McGee led protests against the officers who evaded convictions on earlier state charges, in part through now-admitted perjured testimony.
Though the trials of McGee and the cops are unfolding in different courtrooms, the connections between them - - he led street protests in favor of justice for Jude - - are, if nothing else, deeply ironic.
Then there is the recent Supreme Court case restricting the use of race as a factor in school assignments, jeopardizing the Milwaukee school desegregation program, known as Chapter 220.
Assembly Republicans, eager to stir the racial pot to appease the base in heavily-white and segregated suburbs (more about that in a minute), immediately proposed a budget cutting Chapter 220 funding, confusing governing with pandering.
And there was the revelation through Open Records by transportation activist Gretchen Schuldt that, when faced with criticism of its minority hiring record, the regional planning commission created a $50,000, no-bid planning contract for a Milwaukee central city neighborhood - - in part to appease some of its minority critics.
More pandering; less leadership.
And the bigger picture?
Race is a stultifying blockade to economic progress for the region - - a fact emphasized by the Brookings Institution, a prestigious Washington, DC think tank.
The institution is trying to focus attention on the opportunities awaiting a more vibrant - - and equitable - - Great Lakes region, and has released The Vital Center, a blockbuster report on the issue.
The Vital Center argues that with a new attitude, and innovative solutions, the Great Lakes region, including Wisconsin, is poised to prosper, and to lead on a global scale.
But one of several things holding back the region, say the report's authors, is racial segregation.
The Great Lakes city-suburbs' residential segregation ranking follows.
St. Louis, MO-IL
Buffalo-Niagara Falls, NY
Minneapolis-St. Paul, MN-WI
(Note: The report says that residential segregation is measured across five dimensions: evenness, exposure, concentration, centralization, and clustering. The Census Bureau uses non-Hispanic whites as the reference group, and metropolitan areas as reasonable approximations of housing markets. There are 43 large metropolitan areas.
Source: John Iceland, Daniel H. Weinberg, and Erika Steinmetz, U.S. Census Bureau, Series CENSR-3, Racial and Ethnic Residential Segregation in the United States: 1980-2000, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, DC, 2002.)
And though this is merely the latest in a string of analyses that reached similar conclusions - - including some earlier Brookings date I included in a Journal Sentinel op-ed about Milwaukee's suburban segregation - - let's end with two questions:
Wouldn't you think that our regional planning commission, even if it is ensconced in Pewaukee, deep in the heart of virtually all-white Western Waukesha County, could address the racial realities of our surroundings with more intention than a $50,000 palliative (which, by the way, was awarded ultimately to two white consultants)?
And more to the point: shouldn't the planning commission have long ago faced the segregation issue head-on, fearlessly, by issuing a recommended housing plan for the region - - a plan it has not updated since 1975?
The commission says it doesn't have the money for such a study, but given its many subsequent studies on a variety of basic issues, that excuse is just that: an excuse, and given the findings of Brookings and other authorities, an embarrassment.