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Apartheid in Milwaukee: The Third World Inside America (The Hood Series)

 

Black Life in Milwaukee: The Third World Inside of America 

Surrounded in scenery of dilapidated houses, food and liquor stores;  crumbling infrastructure vandalized by RIP signs that pay tribute to the young victims of fratricidal gang warfare, Milwaukee rapper Gwapo Chapo from the neighborhood of Atkinson Ave spits  that his “Trynna Make it Out The Hood.”Chap’s lyrics represents a plea to transcend a life in wretched social conditions surrounded by economic deprivation, unemployment, poverty, gun violence, drug trafficking, high levels of infant mortality, food deserts, substandard education systems, dilapidated unaffordable housing, police brutality and continued forays with the criminal (in)justice system. To fully understand these wretched conditions that have imposed on black communities requires an examination of history which according to Malcolm X “is best qualified to reward our research.

A Historical Analysis of the Creation of Milwaukee’s Hoods 

In the city of Milwaukee, segregationist city planners placed African-Americans in The North Side  isolated from mainstream White America. In the early 20th century, most African Americans did not migrate to Milwaukee instead venturing to other cities such as Chicago and Detroit. After WWII, Milwaukee began to show a significant increase in its black population. As this happened, redlining and racial covenants only allowed African Americans to purchase homes in the inner city NorthSide “core” that was only limited to a small number of blocks.

As black leaders such as Vel Phillips protested these laws, the city later rioted in August of 1967 forcing a standoff between the black community and its allies and the European immigrant community along with the predominantly white city government. After the assassination of MLK, the Fair Housing Act was passed and racial covenants were declared unconstitutional.

Over the period of the next 50 years, Milwaukee’s black population increased to 40% due to migration from Mississippi and Chicago while a combination of mortgage discrimination, redlining, reverse redlining and white flight has lead the city to become more segregated with a common stereotype in the city “Black people live on the North Side, Latinos on the Southside and White people on the Eastside”. The inner core that black people were once confined to has now expanded in areas in which they were not able to purchase homes in.

Gentrification and Black Annihilation 

For those white people that don’t live in the suburbs of Milwaukee or the outskirts of the city such as West Allis or Greenfield Wisconsin, the main enclave is typically the East Side that is known as the most prosperous part of the city, home to numerous restaurants, tourist attractions, festivals, and art centers.

There is concern the building of the Bucks arena and street car is intended to displace many black communities near Downtown, in order to attract a more wealthier white populace. Riverwest and Harambee , two diverse communities in the Northeast have faced threat of gentrification.

African Americans were and are strategically placed in the region of the city known as “The North Side” 12 of the cities 14 most economically distressed zip codes have at least a population of 50% African Americans with the other two being primarily Hispanic.

Despite the passage of the Fair Housing Act, Milwaukee remains a hyper-segregated city that is reminiscent of a Third World Colony in many areas. Just recently it has been discovered that over 100,000 homes in the city have a problem with lead pipes and soil, primarily in near North Side zipcodes. 

Black Life in the Northside 

The North Side is known for its high levels of economic deprivation, unemployment, poverty, gun violence, drug trafficking, infant mortality, substandard education systems, dilapidated unaffordable housing,  forays with the criminal justice system, police brutality, food deserts, lack of mental health clinics, payday loan stores, and many more. It is not an exaggeration to say that every institution in Milwaukee has failed black people and is not designed for social mobility let alone humanity.

“There’s a difference in Milwaukee and Wisconsin, the state put us up for adoption” – For decades there has been an antagonistic relationship between Milwaukee and the state of Wisconsin. Blacks in Milwaukee were systematically denied from gaining mortgages and home loans to live in suburbs in Wisconsin leaving suburbs such as Waukesha, Wauwatosa and others to be almost exclusively white. Even on a personal note, these areas are often met with much social hostility when black people venture there whether it be through traffic stops, profiling at stores, etc. On a political level the GOP State Legislature at Governor Scott Walker has continued a negative relationship with Milwaukee to appeal to his Republican base. Through the usage of dog whistle politics, tough on crime measures, voting ID laws, disinvestment for public education, union busting, etc Scott Walker under the dominion of the Koch Brothers has worked tirelessly to further an environment that only benefits the elites and bigots of Wisconsin

Drug Trafficking to Prison 

“The illegal drug trade is the common way in the City of Milwaukee’s African American community of providing the basic financial needs of many residents, and its mere presence is creating instability that is directly related to our violent crime statistics.” said Alderman Joe Davis from Milwaukee

After the deindustrialization that occurred in the 1970s and 80s, the jobless rate for African American males in the city rose to over 50%. With the heroin and crack epidemic emerging, along with migrations from Chicago gangs such as the Gangster Disciples, Vice Lords, and Latin Kings to name a few, the drug economy became one of the predominant sources of income in many of Milwaukee’s oppressed neighborhoods. With it of course is the violence that followed.

Today in Milwaukee while open air drug markets are still in abundance another form of drug dealing that has emerged is that of mobile drug dealing in which dealers use cars with tinted windows that are either stolen or rented to make drug deals all over the city. These transactions are made possible through the use of flip phones (trap phones) that are cheap and not easily detectable by the police, that allows the dealer to communicate with his customer. Due to Milwaukee’s proximity to plentiful predominantly white suburbs, the opioid epidemic has become extremely lucrative with heroin now replacing crack cocaine once again.

In the midst of this, Chapo states that his “tired of getting locked up.” For Black people in Milwaukee, constant forays with the criminal (in)justice system is a frequent reality. A study from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee discovered that Wisconsin’s incarceration rates for Black males was double that of America’s  national average.  In particular, 1 of 8 Black men of working age in Milwaukee County has served some time in the state’s correctional facilities at some point in their lives. 

It is no surprise that Milwaukee is hailed as one of the worst cities for Black people in the United States; a city that has profiled and tazed one of its own basketball players. For African Americans and other oppressed populations in Milwaukee such as Puerto Ricans and Mexican Americans, the do for self messages of the Organization For Afro-American Unity, Muslim Mosque Incorporated, Black Liberation Army,  The Nation Of Islam, The Uhuru Movement, and The Black Panther Party must be heeded in the sense that black people will have to fight at all cost against racism and capitalism along with adhering to the philosophies of self determination and political, social and economic control of our communities.

Black people in Milwaukee must begin to develop unity and end the social dysfunction that is awry so that radical strategies can be developed to solve these complex issues. The problems in Milwaukee and other cities across the country will not be solved by just politicians or college educated youth from these communities with reformist poltiics. It will require the entire community from the grandma on the block to community activists to even the street soldiers. The struggle in Milwaukee is more than laws and rights as Americans. It’s a struggle for black people to be recognized as humans and not seeds for exploitation and degradation.

Authors:

Rahm’s Re-Election? Does Rahm care about black people?

Rahm Emanuel’s Re-election

rahmemanuel

I met Rahm Emanuel while I was in high-school along with the other mayoral candidates.   I told them that I wanted to be a social activist and they subsequently encouraged me to enter Law-School. Of course, Rahm Emanuel ended up winning the election but the critical question after his term is: does Rahm Emanuel care about black people?

Rahm Emanuel  speeches and policies have demonstrated a gross ignorance of the on-going plight of black youth chicagoin the the South-Side of Chicago.  In the face of gang violence that has been terrorizing Chicago, he had this to say,“Our streets are for our children and for our law-abiding parents. Our streets do not belong to gang-bangers.”

Yet, Rahm Emanuel never asks himself,”What created the gang-bangers?” Indeed, what about the children who are gang bangers such as Robert Sandifer who at only nine years old,  had already been in and out of jail multiple times, deeply involved in the South Chicago street life, committing a series of armed robberies and arson. Yummy, hadn’t even reached his teenage years before he began carrying out murders for his local gangs. Worse yet, he didn’t even live to reach his teenage years before he was shot and killed himself.

Chicago Gangs & Their Origins

chicagoChicago street gangs are a product of social conditions created by institutional racism, police brutality, and white vigilantism. Chicago’s state-sanctioned racism produces “thugs” and systematically strips the morality from people, replacing it with a stone cold heart that is seen as necessary to survive on these mean streets. The obstacles that were, and still are, put in place to halt black socioeconomic aspirations has resulted in black youth acquiring detrimental social, economic, and political habits that are exemplified in the gangs that roam Chicago’s streets.

The White Circle League, formed with the mission of “keeping white neighborhoods free from negroes,” regularly chicagoraceriotsterrorized African-Americans in Chicago.  Between 1917 and 1921, the bombing of African-American homes occurred once every twenty days on average. In 1919, an African-American boy who was swimming was killed as a result of whites throwing heavy rocks at him. When blacks sought to report the incident to police, they themselves were arrested while the white individuals who had killed this young man went unpunished.   As African-Americans began peacefully protesting, whites began to violently assault them, forming mobs that eventually sought to harm African-Americans through various avenues, from attacking patients in black hospitals to setting fire to the homes of blacks. The Irish Hamburg Athletic Club was among the groups who made an effort to kill many blacks; a man who would eventually become mayor decades later – Richard J. Daley – was an active member of this group. These violent attacks left many African-Americans homeless, causing them to lose the relatively small amount of wealth that they had come up north to accumulate. Furthermore, the Irish gangs who carried out these brutal attacks would in mass numbers be recruited to the Chicago Police Department.

The Chicago Housing Authority also implemented the “Neighborhood Composition Rule,” which ensured that blacks would be segregated and confined to housing in the black belt. The housing for black Americans lacked plumbing and was routinely neglected; the neighborhoods did not even receive the benefit of regular garbage disposal services. In addition to being near toxic waste dumps, the decrepit housing set aside for blacks drastically increased the levels of infant mortality.  Even after the neighborhood composition rule ended, whites would take to violence to ensure segregation.

In Englewood, the  birthplace of rappers Chief Keef & Lil Reese, was once a bastion of white supremacy. After lilrees2African-Americans had   merely visited the neighborhood, due to fears that a home was going to be “sold to niggers,” neighborhood associations campaigned with slogans like “America for whites, Africa is the onl y place for niggers.” One white person being interviewed argued that, “We don’t want them, we don’t want to live with them. I think they’re savages. ” With protest signs stating, ”Negroes Invading,” whites began the ‘Englewood Race Riots of 1949,’ not only carrying brutal acts of violence against African-American citizens, but also finding black residential homes to arson, which left many blacks dead, homeless, and losing all of their property. All of this set the precedence of the creation of the ghettos within the city due to the huge wealth loss that black families had struggled to gain. White Flight  took place and years later Lil reese would rap,”I lost so many niggas, turned into a savage. In real life, no movie shit, bitch we clap. Where I’m from? Chiraq.”

The linguistic choice to dub their areas of the city “Chiraq” by Chicago’s youth conveys a fundamental reality about the status of black Americans; it reveals that they constitute a segregated space in  the United states, effectively challenging the commonly held belief in the post-Civil Rights era of America in which  institutional racism is said to be gradually fading as we move towards a  more progressive society, heading more towards  accomplishing  Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream with every passing year. After the death of Chicago public school student Hadiya Pendleton, President Barack Obama made the tragic death a mere issue of “gun-violence” and utilized it to advocate tougher gun control legislation, without acknowledging the oppression that went into creating the violent conditions in her community.

The name Chiraq, which is frequently employed the black Chicagoans, has attracted much criticism, wjojoripeith some arguing that its utilization glorifies an urban culture of violence. Lil Reese, who grew up in the Englewood neighborhood of Chicago, describes his upbringing by forcefully testifying, “I lost so many niggas, turned into a savage […] Where I’m from? This Chiraq.” In numerous rap videos, these self-proclaimed savages residing within the enclave of Chiraq appear brandished with weapons that are suitable for military combat. Their T-shirts often have insignia that reads ”R.I.P______,” with the blank filled by the names of deceased peers.

  What has Rahm Emanuel done to address institutional racism?

He has not addressed institutional racism but only continued it. Rahm Emanuel  closed down numerous Chicago Public Schools with aims of pursuing his “neoliberal” school policies. The problem with that is the redistricting of the school zones will cause students to cross rival gang territory on their way to their new school. This means that for those whom have been lured into gangs through an oppressive economic system, and even for those not in gangs, traveling to school every day will be a life or death gamble as the gang members protect their territory and children abstinent of the gangs are caught in the crossfire.

These gang members have been systematically disenfranchised and instead of working to rehabilitate gang members into society, they have only responded through increased police occupation of black neighborhoods and have failed to implement policies of social justice that confront the legacy of past and systemic racism.  Rahm Emanuel’srahmmmmmhakeem decision to close and redistrict schools despite overwhelming evidence that it will increase violence  raises any interesting question. Does  he want to see black kids die? The continued segregated status of black Americans, which separates them from white America,  protects white Americans from the social problems, drugs, gang wars, and violence, which are a result of an unjust social order. The complicity and perpetration of this racial segregation includes both conservative right wing forces, many of whom deny racism is even a viable factor in the social mobility of blacks, often blaming “immoral black culture.” Also complicit are  liberal left wing forces seeking to liberalize America while  reinforcing the violence against African-American  by spreading the narrative of “steady progress” for blacks and thus obfuscating their true plight and the desperate living conditions they live within.

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 References

Racial Oppression in the Global Metropolis: A living Black in Chicago by Paul Street.

American Apartheid, Segregation and the making of the Underclass by Douglass S. Massey A. Denton

Making of the Second Ghetto, Race * Housing in Chicago 1940-1960 by Arnold R. Hirsch

Black Literature of Revolutionary Protest from Chicago’s South Side: A Local …By Michelle Yvonne Gordon