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‘Milwaukee Uprisings’ Reflect Wisconsin’s Terrible Treatment Of Black Lives

Wisconsin ranks as the worst state for black Americans, according to a special report from financial website 24/7 Wall St. For many of Wisconsin’s black residents, this news may be unsurprising; for others, perhaps confusing. Here are a few reasons to help explain why black lives don’t seem to matter very much to the state of Wisconsin.

Milwaukee is the most segregated city in the country.

The city’s north side is the historically African-American district and the site of much of the recent unrest. By being concentrated in the urban center, black residents find it tougher to get to jobs, partly due to a lack of public transportation. The issue isn’t as prevalent for white people in the area who have migrated to the suburbs, where job growth is higher. 

The economic landscape is bleak.

The unemployment gap is bigger here than in 70 other metro areas, according to a National Urban League report from May that analyzed data from 2015. Only 4.3 percent of whites were unemployed, compared to 17.3 percent of blacks, the study found.

Wisconsin’s education system is significantly unequal.

According to a study conducted by Wisconsin’s Council For Children and Families, black students rank lowest in every measure that factors into a child’s well-being in the state, including math and reading proficiency, family poverty levels and high school graduation rates.

The disturbances were not just about Smith’s shooting, said Milwaukee NAACP branch president Fred Royal. African Americans, who make up about 40 percent of the city, have higher levels of unemployment, higher incarceration rates and lower incomes than the white population. The recent upheaval may force city residents to have a long overdue reckoning about inequality, he said.

“Institutional racism creates these problems,” Royal said, adding, “When you have systems in place that have been used for their privilege for years and have failed to meet the needs of another community, it may be that they will only identify with that type of outcry.”

The institutional racism Wisconsin upholds has created deep divisions between its residents, and many of the state’s black men and women have felt marginalized and mistreated for too long.