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Last week I was watching as police chief Edward Flynn struggled to hold his emotions in check after the fatal shooting of 5-year-old Laylah Petersen, who was struck while sitting on her grandfather’s lap.
Flynn sounded angry and frustrated and even a little hopeless as he talked about gun violence in Milwaukee. He said 80 percent of homicide victims were black, 80 percent of the non-fatal shootings were black, and 80 percent of the shooters were black.
You can see him talking about this here in a very moving video.
The biggest need we have in this city is to find a way to have some kind of honest dialog about race and the violence that seems so unchecked in Milwaukee. There is a strong racial component to the violence we see so often, and there is no way to talk about this with any kind of productive honesty without facing some harsh racial truths.
If we want to figure out what’s going on we have to examine the culture of the black community in Milwaukee. Clearly we are not talking about all about all black people or even most black people. but we have to talk about some of them and the predilection for some kinds of violence.
I regularly shop in a store that aims to serve black customers and is in a largely black neighborhood. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve seen a black mother with children violently yelling at her children, sometimes slapping them with a measure of violence and using a bitter kind of profanity to discipline. Every time I see this I step in and suggest that a milder form of discipline might teach a better lesson. And almost every time I get the F word and instructions to butt out.
Certainly I don’t have all the answers to solving this problem but I do have some ideas about the problem. And I am sick and tired of all the conservative wackos talking about how we should all live together and strive in unity to solve these problems.
We are not a unified city now, and we aren’t going to be a unified city in the near future. We are horribly divided and the most severe division is between blacks and whites. This right wing claptrap about concealed carry and the right to protect yourself and how wonderful school choice is for some black kids and the "liberal" judges and a district attorney who are colluding to let dangerous criminals out on the streets is so counterproductive.
This comes from a side of the political spectrum that wants poor people to have to get an ID to vote and be tested for drugs as a condition of their receipt of public assistance. This is from people who think it’s just fine to take millions and millions of dollars from public schools and put it into private and religious schools. This group is largely responsible for deepening the divisions that exist.
These people, largely white, are not really interested in making things better for poor people. As long as they are untouched they remain unconcerned.
Nobody slips away without having to face responsibility.
There is a listlessness to part of the black community in Milwaukee. Decades of living without can take its toll on any desires to improve things. If someone keeps calling you an outcast, pretty soon you start to believe you are an outcast. If time after time you can’t get a job, pretty soon the only way to survive is to stop looking.
If I had one wish for the black community in this city it would be for a charismatic, smart, tough, passionate leader to speak up and fight for equality for poor children. That’s not going to stop the violence, but it’s something.
The other thing I’d do is get rid of all guns except hunting rifles. It’s not just background checks and things like that. Let’s do away with the guns so that when my 3-year-old grandson Casey is a man, he stands a chance of living in a city where guns are not a way of life for so many people. Nobody needs all these guns.
And if you want to have choice schools, OK, but let’s not bankrupt the public schools to fund them. The overwhelming majority of poor children in this city go to the public schools. And they need more resources, not less.
A lot of conservatives, almost exclusively white, talk about blame. How we should blame this group or shouldn’t blame that group.
But blame is not the issue. Responsibility is. It’s more than having a prayer vigil or dropping stuffed animals off at a shooting site. It’s more than giving money to the United Way and then turning your back until the next fund drive. It’s more than being a mentor. It’s more than demonstrating at a hearing and shouting so loud nobody has any idea what the ruckus is all about. It’s a lot more than just complaining.
It’s about finding a place and a way where we might be able to talk frankly to each other. Where a white man can say he thinks all blacks are lazy and where a black woman can say she thinks white people have a foot on her throat.
I don’t know where that place is. And I don’t know if it will happen. But this young generation taking control better wake up and do something besides hosting networking cocktail parties. If they don’t get going on this, there isn’t going to be much of a city to network in.
I have always hated whining, and I have always hated people who think they have all the answers. We have way too many people with answers and most of them don’t even have a clue what the questions are.
With a history in Milwaukee stretching back decades, Dave tries to bring a unique perspective to his writing, whether it's sports, politics, theater or any other issue.
He's seen Milwaukee grow, suffer pangs of growth, strive for success and has been involved in many efforts to both shape and re-shape the city. He's a happy man, now that he's quit playing golf, and enjoys music, his children and grandchildren and the myriad of sports in this state. He loves great food and hates bullies and people who think they are smarter than everyone else.
This whole Internet thing continues to baffle him, but he's willing to play the game as long as OnMilwaukee.com keeps lending him a helping hand. He is constantly amazed that just a few dedicated people can provide so much news and information to a hungry public.
Despite some opinions to the contrary, Dave likes most stuff. But he is a skeptic who constantly wonders about the world around him. So many questions, so few answers.