OpEd: The reality of Black History Month in Wisconsin

Chester ToddIt’s that time again, yes you guessed it, Black History month! While most Black communities around the country may have reasons to celebrate, the Black population of Southeastern Wisconsin continues to suffer a myriad of social and economic injustices.

So how did we get here?

First, we live in the state that has the appalling distinction of having two cities, Milwaukee and Racine, ranked third and fourth, respectively in the top five worst places in America for Black folks, according to USA Today.

Our state also incarcerates Black people, especially males, at a rate higher than most other states in the Union, according to PrisonProject.org.

Black unemployment in Racine continues down the same road to greater indigence and poverty.

According to the United Way of Racine County:

  • In 2015, the Black unemployment rate in the City of Racine was 16 percent, twice the White unemployment rate of eight percent; the Hispanic unemployment rate was just over 13 percent.
  • The infant mortality rate for Black mothers in Racine County, 18.8 out of 1,000, still outpaces that of Hispanic and White mothers, 6.8 and 7 out of 1,000 respectively.
  • Locally, while graduation rates for Black and Hispanic students in Racine County­­­­—63% and 68% respectively—have improved over time, more work still needs to be done.

And last, but certainly not least, is the questions pertaining to the resurgence of police harassment and brutality suffered upon both Black communities, especially our younger population!

About four years ago, it was reported by BBC news investigators that 12.8 percent of Wisconsin’s Black male population was locked down in numerous jails and state prison facilities, at that time this was three percentage points higher than the nearest competitor, Oklahoma. Although I could not find up-to-date data pertaining to this travesty, it is highly doubtful much has changed since those figures were released because the same social ills and judicial discriminatory practices remain in place. As you will see below, this is not by accident but appears to be a conspiratorial enterprise to feed the school to prison pipeline.

There is also an overwhelming disparity that exists between white and Black high school suspensions. Let me post the astonishing details once more:

  • In 2015 2,207 Black students were suspended, equaling 65.30% of those suspended, while white numbers stood at 534=15.08%, and Hispanics 509=15.06%
  • In 2016 Blacks 3,183=94.32% Whites 762=22.54% Hispanics 739=21.86%
  • In 2017 Blacks 3,135=92.75% Whites 684=20.24% Hispanics 706=20.89%

Beyond the fact that these numbers help lead to the excessive imprisonment of Blacks, the inconsistency shown in these race-based comparisons could also indicate that the number of suspensions may coincide with some of the reasons of Black unemployment. It has been reported by various resources that local Black unemployment is hovering around 13.8%, way above the rate for whites, hardly noticeable at 2.7%, and that disparity will more than likely grow because the state and county governments made sure not to embrace goals of minority inclusion in the Foxconn contract.

Recently, police harassment in our community turned an avoidable confrontation into tragedy and like what seems to be an everyday occurrence in America, this conceivably could go by the wayside without having justice served.

In closing, I reflect on the years that I have spent in this community and strangely, issues of race have basically remained the same, in fact, it sometimes appears that the small but significant progressiveness of years gone past has slipped backward. Maybe, Dr. King’s dreams have turned into Malcolm’s worst nightmare.

Chester Todd, One Black Man’s Opinion OBMO