Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Suburban Milwaukee Crossroads Author Unafraid To Say "Apartheid"

I don't know Dr. John Ridley, a retired surgeon living in Mequon, but I appreciate his Sunday Crossroads op-ed's straight-forwardness:

I have relatives who live in Whitefish Bay near Hampton Ave., and I have relatives who live in Milwaukee's central city near Hampton Ave. Only a few miles separate their neighborhoods, but they live worlds apart...

It's currently fashionable to assert that folks are mired in poverty due to an unwillingness to assume personal responsibility. It should be equally stressed that in Milwaukee's case, the practice of apartheid as public policy systematically created the distressed environment that sculpts such lives.
People yell at me sometimes for using the word "apartheid" to describe our region's policy-driven reality - - an example, here - - but it's the truth, as I see it.

And, alas, the analysis is not new.

The Brookings Institution, Washington DC, and the Journal Sentinel analyzed these matters, collected in this one posting, while The Public Policy Forum looked at Southeastern Wisconsin's self-defeating struggle with race and public policy in 2002. 

To finish the thought, let me reprint another of my posts, because the data backs up the observations, and again, thanks to Dr. Ridley for a thought-provoking essay:

Monday, May 11, 2009

Apartheid In Milwaukee Suburbs: Again

The Journal Sentinel has a story that is both shocking and not: Of the 600 firefighters in Milwaukee County suburbs, one is African-American, and he was hired only nine months ago.

Suburban chiefs, while denying racist hiring - - and let's hope that the US Justice Department Civil Rights Division goes a little deeper into the issue than that - - say they cannot remember ever having an African-American in the fire service.

The story says that there are 12,000 African-Americans living in the eighteen suburban Milwaukee County communities - - you know the names: Franklin and River Hills, Greenfield and Oak Creek, and so on - - and their African-American residents make up 3.3% of those suburban communities' population.

You get into the surrounding counties, and the African-American population shrinks below that paltry 3.3% percentage.

Ozaukee County: 1.4%.

Waukesha County: 1.3%.

Washington County: 1.1%.

Go deeper into the US Census Bureau website date, and the effects are apparent of certain public, non-market factors, like legally preventing Milwaukee in 1955 from expanding by annexation, and disconnecting job centers, like the City of New Berlin's industrial park in Waukesha County, from direct bus service.

City of Waukesha: 1.3%

City of New Berlin: 0.4%.

Keeping going west but still in neighboring Waukesha County (using a different census website):

City of Oconomowoc: 0.3%. (Remember a few years ago when an off-duty volunteer fire chief and another off-duty firefighter in that general area chased an African-American fisherman off a public bridge? With a pistol and a German Shepherd. True story.)

City of Delafield: 0.1% - - six African-American residents of 6,472.

And some of you are still wondering why others of us been appalled at the ongoing, 34-year-delay by the Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission (SEWRPC) in writing a regional housing plan that would address and give credibility to affordability and expose discriminatory housing practices.

(Yes, SEWRPC has created, after years of delay, broken promises and pressure, a committee to begin a roughly two-year study. The committee not long ago had its first meeting. More are scheduled.)

SEWRPC would be perfectly within its statutory mandate to assertively investigate the region's racial and economic segregation, but it chooses not to.

In 2007, SEWRPC grudgingly created an Environmental Justice Task Force, and only last week hired an outreach manager: both are supposed to facilitate communication with low-income and minority communities.

Little wonder that civil rights complaints have been filed over transportation and SEWRPC decision-making, policy planning, hiring, spending or appointing members to advisory committees that favor the suburbs with public dollars and other resources.

Or that some, including myself, have urged Milwaukee to withdraw from SEWRPC so that public agendas that include minority communities can get real study and action in a new, urban-focused body.

And why selling diverted Great Lakes water to growing Waukesha County communities like Waukesha and New Berlin will intensify the racial and income separation between the City of Milwaukee - - with its majority population of minority residents - - and the surrounding, sprawl-happy communities and counties?

Had SEWRPC included these socio-economic issues and others in its draft regional water supply study, its pro-diversion analysis and recommendations might have been different, or at least more fully-informed and useful.


Jim Bouman said...

Go to the Journal Sentinel link and read the comments. The great divide is clearly evident in the range of those responses--shared concern side-by-side with seething hatred/contempt.

James Rowen said...

Yes, those ugly comments, again.

Ironic, isn't it? The piece is entitled "The covert price of Apartheid."

For the author, the price now includes overt racism, from anonymous sources. In capital letters.

Proving the essayist's point, in full, but should he have to take that kind of pounding?