MADISON, Erase. (AP) – In this university city that sees itself as a bastion of progressive politics and inclusion, racing relationships are truly a two-city story.
Protesters who toppled statues of figures with no racist history this week said they went after the sculptures because they wanted to shatter a false story that the state and the city support black people and racial justice.
“The crowd in general was absolutely aware of the political motives,” protester Micah Le told The Associated Press in a text, referring to the statue of the Abolition of Civil War Hans Christian Heg and another image of a woman with sprawling arm in honor of the state the motto “Forward”.
People who were not yet familiar with the racist pro-Columbus, anti-indigenous history of the ‘Forward’ statue are now learning about it. Ever since the Heg statue came down, people have been learning that slavery has continued after the civil war in the form of the (prison) system, which is why the statue was meaningless, “Le said.
It is also possible that protesters simply wanted to cooperate with others across the country in erasing Southern figures and did not understand the symbolism of the statues. But despite Wisconsin’s progressive history – the state fought for the Union during the Civil War and was one of the first to endorse women’s suffrage – data suggests that racism is as prevalent here as it is everywhere in America.
Blacks make up only about 6.7% of the Wisconsin population, but make up 42% of the prisoners. The state has the largest performance gap between black and white students based on results of a 2019 test known as the country’s report card. A 2014 study by the Annie E. Casey Foundation on 12 key quality of life indicators, including education, income, and home, concluded that Wisconsin was the worst state in the country for black children.
The differences in Madison are huge. The capital is one of the wealthiest in the state and home to the University of Wisconsin-Madison, one of the country’s major research institutions. The city is a liberal bastion with a history of political activism dating back to the era of the Vietnam War. The prosecutor, Ismael Ozanne, is black. These are also some city councilors.
But much of the black community struggles here.
Nearly three-quarters of black children in Dane County lived in poverty in 2011, according to a 2013 report from the Wisconsin Council on Children and Families. Only about half graduated from high school on time in 2011 and were half as likely as whites to take the ACT entrance exam. Standardized tests in 2017-18 showed that only 9.8% of Madison blacks were proficient or advanced in reading and math compared to 59% of whites.
In 2010, Dane County police were six times more likely to arrest a young black person than a white counterpart. Black adults were arrested eight times more often than whites in 2012, twice as often as the state-wide black and white arrest.
“Madison is a beautiful place, but it’s a story about two cities,” said former Madison police chief Noble Wray, who is black. “There is frustration. Sometimes as a city official, we believe that if no one complains or if there is no tension, everything is fine. The systems do not allow their story to be heard. ‘
Tensions peaked in 2015, when white officer Matt Kenny shot and killed 19-year-old Tony Robinson. Kenny responded to reports of Robinson jumping in and out of traffic. According to Kenny’s account, he shot after Robinson attacked him. The prosecutor cleared Kenny, leading to protests blocking streets and the Black Lives Matter movement coming to the fore here.
Rage surfaced after George Floyd died last month at the hands of Minneapolis police.
Protesters demonstrate around the Capitol over and over, reflecting nationwide protests calling for police reform after Floyd’s death. Most protests were peaceful, although protesters clashed with the police and some shops were looted.
Alderman Samba Baldeh, who is black and running for the state assembly, called the police earlier this month claiming that his white opponent, Walter Stewart, was driving past his house with two other white men taking pictures. Baldeh said he confronted Stewart, who said he took photos for a campaign ad.
“I said,” Walter, what’s wrong with you? Do you know what’s going on in Black America right now? “It’s just scary in this environment. ‘
Stewart has said that Baldeh “misunderstood” the incident and did not want to disturb him.
On Tuesday, Madison police arrested a black man who entered a bar armed with a baseball bat and started yelling at customers through a megaphone. That night, crowds crushed the two images and attacked State Senator Tim Carpenter. They left him injured on the Capitol lawn and attempted to break into the Capitol. Someone threw a firebomb in a city province.
Questions about why the protesters still toppled the two statues over the city.
Heg was a Norwegian immigrant who became an anti-slavery activist and colonel in the 15th Wisconsin Regiment. He died at the battle of Chickamauga. The “Forward” image represented Wisconsin at the Chicago World’s Fair of 1893 in Chicago.
Demonstrator Ebony Anderson-Carter told the Wisconsin State Journal that the images were for charity, but create a “false representation of what this city is.”
Michael Johnson, executive director of the Dane County Boys and Girls Club, is one of the city’s leading black activists. He called the overthrow of the images a “setback” for the black rights movement, but said there is no racial inequality in Madison to deny.
“I love Madison. I think it’s a great city, “said Johnson.” But people who look like me don’t necessarily thrive in this city. There are huge differences across the board. ‘
Follow Todd Richmond on Twitter at https://twitter.com/trichmond1.
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