Reflections · Social Justice

Response to last night.

I woke up this morning to a flooded newsfeed with articles and statuses about violence breaking out in response to the shooting of another black man by a police officer, this time in Milwaukee, my city.  All of the reports I saw were lacking in details, and all of those will come out, but I still feel the need to respond to this.  As I write I hardly know what I’m going to say, but I want to give it a shot.  As a high schooler I often drove past the area where the events took place on the way to or from school.  This happened in my home, and it breaks my heart that things in Milwaukee have gotten to the point where the racial injustice in this city is dividing and segregating us even more.  While I can’t remember where I saw this, Wisconsin was ranked as the worst state for black people, with fewer services, a failing education system, and arguably the most segregated city in the nation.  Honestly, I can barely say I’m disappointed in how my fellow Milwaukeeans responded because they have every right to be angry and tired and frustrated with the systems of injustice that have fallen upon them for all their lives.  I saw a CBS 58 interview with the brother of the police shooting victim, and he explained that when those who are supposed to protect us don’t, then the result it chaos when the people need to try to protect themselves.

I am thankful that the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel went deeper into the real issues than the Fox article did (not that it was a huge surprise).  It talked about people calling to rectify the injustices that face our city.  Khalif Rainy said: “Do we continue – continue with the inequities, the injustice, the unemployment, the under-education, that creates these byproducts that we see this evening?”  The root of the events that transpired last night were the product of social injustice, something that the city sorely needs to improve.  These are issues that directly affect our College Possible students, and I can hardly imagine what could be going through the minds of my college students or the students that we have going to inner city public schools who could very well live within blocks of Sherman and Auer, and that’s what breaks my heart even more.  These are people that I have grown to care about deeply and who have inspired me to be better not only for them, but for Milwaukee, for Wisconsin, and for this country.  No one deserves to have to think about these things or go through them.  No one deserves to feel unsafe for any reason.  And no one has any right to condemn people completely for their actions.  I wish last night had never happened and I don’t condone setting fires and rioting.  But it’s always more important to understand why it happened.

The Journal Sentinel did another thing that I really appreciated.  While the man who was shot by police did have a criminal record and the gun he had on him was stolen, someone who knew him said that “He was a nice, good person. He was really respected. That’s why everyone came out. They’re angry.”  This reminds me of something I realized awhile ago: desperation does not make someone a bad person.  We’re talking about a poor neighborhood with people who are struggling to get by.  I understand that sometimes people need to do what they must to simply survive, something that the majority of us have never had to deal with.  Not that I’m in support of criminal activity, but again, it’s always more important to understand why things like that happen and work towards finding a solution to make sure it never happens again.  And that can only be brought about through collaborative efforts of neighborhoods, organizations, and governments, including police.

I can’t tell how coherent I’ve been.  I didn’t think about this post very much, but I felt the need to respond to the events of last night.  This is the first post where I have literally broken down in tears while writing it.  And once more I find myself in that awkward position of not knowing what exactly I have the right to say as a white man.  But I can only hope I’ve done right by my friends, my students, and Milwaukee.  I still have faith things will get better eventually.  Stay strong.

Journal Sentinel article: http://www.jsonline.com/story/news/crime/2016/08/13/report-1-dead-officer-involved-shooting/88689152/

Fox article: http://fox6now.com/2016/08/13/milwaukee-police-sheriffs-office-responding-to-disturbance-near-n-sherman-auer/

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