milwaukee’s struggle: the riots effect every neighborhood

I haven’t slept in two weeks. And not for the reasons you would expect. Yes,  I am a mother if a baby, but no, it’s not her nightly feeding that keeps me up all night. I live in Milwaukee. We are struggling.

Two weeks ago, I was going through my morning routine. My dog needs to go out first thing, so I opened our back door, put him on the leash and sent him on his way to hang out in the yard. I then returned into the house to get some dishes cleaned in the sink when I heard a loud BANG BANG BANG on the back door.

There was an officer standing on the stoop, and more officers were walking along our yard in search of something (or someone, as it turned out). The first thing the officer said was “Don’t leave your door open like this anymore. It’s a bad idea.” He filled us in on why. Two houses over in what has been a great neighborhood for at least a decade, a young mom like myself woke up with a young man over her. Her boy was in the next room. The man had his face covered, was holding a sharp object, and yelled at the woman “Don’t make a noise, don’t move or I will kill you.” That brave woman kicked and screamed and flailed and the man took off running.

His intention was probably just to steal her laptop, which he touched, but he couldn’t help himself, he went into her room at 5:30 am, and tried to hurt her. Thanks to that awful ambition, the cops were able to lift prints and find out who this guy is.

The thing is, Jay and I picked our neighborhood with good intentions. We love it. Our neighbors are salt of the earth, we get to live near the sea (Lake Michigan), small businesses reign supreme, and we are minutes from downtown. It is a sort of haven. The neighborhood had been on the rise as a whole, but especially on the blocks where we live, it has been known as a good and safe place to raise kids in the city.

All of that has changed in the matter of a few weeks. And especially the last couple of days. You are reading about it no doubt, or hearing about it on the news. You are hearing about two cities, us and them. Here, in the city, it feels uncomfortable to talk about this subject. I find that I am “not allowed” to have opinions on the subject, that the color of my skin renders me incapable and unprivileged regarding thinking about the Milwaukee Riots of 2016. I saw my city on fire. 3 blocks from family, on the street where we were house hunting, this is my city, too.

There are a lot of apologists, friends of mine, who say that this problem is so great because of unemployment, black incarceration, and on… the list is long. One friend wanted me to read this piece in order to understand better what the situation is. “What most people don’t understand is that many of the young people in this part of Milwaukee feel no attachment to the community due to lack of opportunities. Unemployment among 16-19 year-old blacks is a huge issue in Milwaukee. In addition to this a principal in psychology called displaced aggression explains some of this as well. When a person or community feel powerless to strike out at those it deems a threat, they find safer more convenient targets. Young people in the central part of Milwaukee complain constantly of being mistreated and disrespected by the police officers that are in their neighborhoods.” Reggie Jackson, opines that one can justify the last 2 days of violence. That I need to sympathize with it.

Meantime, opportunists hit my neighborhood the last 2 nights because the police are all busy in Sherman Park. Neighbors are on high alert for a criminal with a lengthy rap sheet trying to commit rape in my neighborhood nearly nightly.  We sleep light in my Milwaukee, not because we fear oppression from the government, not because we think police are going to kill us. We sleep Bad stuff is happening everywhere here… Every single corner is affected by criminals being able to bypass jail and re offend.

Thinking about these two cities that my apologist friends keep on telling me about, I cannot help but remember back at a charismatic candidate in 2004. Our President, who has been silent, a black hole since the fires began, told us ALL that we would not have to live like this.

“Now even as we speak, there are those who are preparing to divide us, the spin masters, the negative ad peddlers who embrace the politics of anything goes.  Well, I say to them tonight, there is not a liberal America and a conservative America—there is the United States of America.  There is not a black America and white America and Latino America and Asian America; there is the United States of America.  The pundits like to slice-and-dice our country into Red States and Blue States; Red States for Republicans, Blue States for Democrats.  But I’ve got news for them, too.  We worship an awesome God in the Blue States, and we don’t like federal agents poking around our libraries in the Red States.  We coach Little League in the Blue States, and yes we’ve got some gay friends in the Red States. There are patriots who opposed the war in Iraq and there are patriots who supported the war in Iraq.  We are one people, all of us pledging allegiance to the stars and stripes, all of us defending the United States of America.”– President Obama at the Democratic National Convention

Now, there are a lot of problems in my fair city that I love. The city where people can come together in a beer garden after voting in last week’s primary. The city where people can come together at a brewer game, or a State Fair Park. This city is exceptional. The problem in this city is the revolving door policy for offenders. There is no way that we should expect our police to arrest, investigate, charge, and then watch the guy walk. We have just re-elected a DA who is responsible for this judiciary incompetence, we have  a mayor who is so out of his league and we are in a democratic mess.

We do have a bright spot.  We have a Sheriff named David Clarke, a man who has become a poster-boy for Fox News, unfortunately. A man who has had a target on his back for being the epitome of exceptionalism. He is dangerous for it. He gave a press conference in which he showed sympathy, empathy, and told the truth. Our sheriff has taken an oath to protect our lives and our property, and I believe he takes that oath very seriously, unlike our politicians. Our black sheriff, our black officer, my neighbors, and the ones I trust with my life. That’s Milwaukee.


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