Thursday, January 22, 2015

The Milwaukee streetcar 'dialogue' has hit bottom

Years ago, the late downtown china and tea shop owner George Watts warned as he helped kill a proposed light rail system for Milwaukee that "strangers" would ride the rails into nice neighborhoods to steal property and threaten children - - before, presumably, the strangers rode the light rail back to where they'd come from with your big screen TV under one arm and a sack full of kidnapped children slung over the other.
Banned in Milwaukee
Do these look like rape or killing chambers to you?
Today, nearly 20 years later we're still without city rail but back in that tired, old racialized craziness, as Southside Ald. Joe Dudzik channeled Watts-the-long-gone fear-monger by volunteering to a radio show program it was inevitable that people would ruin the proposed streetcar system he opposes by assaulting, shooting and raping streetcar passengers:
"There's going to be a couple of assaults, maybe a rape, or a shooting on one of these streetcars," Dudzik told WTMJ's Wisconsin's Afternoon News.  "The [millennials] that claim they're going to be riding this thing are going to be nowhere to be seen."

"I don't want to make it a racial thing but look what happened to Northridge and Grand Ave. Mall. I believe the same things will happen to the streetcar."
For the record: the Northridge Mall got its notoriety for violent crime when Jesse Anderson, a white man, stabbed and killed his wife in a restaurant parking lot there, and, until his story fell apart, falsely blamed the attack on two non-existent black assailants.

Anderson had planned the murder in detail, even finishing his dinner, walking his wife to the car, slaughtering her in the parking lot and throwing baseball cap he'd earlier bought from a teenager and brought to the crime scene just to bolster the racist, evil story he began shouting as he called for 'help.'

And, for the record, violent crime is a rarity at the Shoppes at Grand Avenue. What isn't a rarity: that there are African-American customers, and thank God for that, as their spending keeps many of the businesses in the Mall afloat. 

This stereotyping and feeding urban legends about Milwaukee makes me sick.

Do you need any more proof that the debate in Milwaukee about a transit system that operates routinely in cities across the country and globe has gone completely off the rails?

The inflammatory rhetoric is deeply damaging, and if it's what Dudzik hears in his district, I'd hope that as a city leader he would do his best to push back against it.

Regrettably, he's doing the opposite, but to what end?

I am embarrassed for our city. Have mercy on us. Pity doesn't quite get at it.

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