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Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Why Allied Drive IS about race

It is often relayed in race relation circles that the best way to overcome racism is to oversee the differences of race and simply look at people for who they are. As Dr. Martin Luther King said, judge individuals by the content of their character, not by the color of their skin. That is all great in principle; however generally, people do not have such discipline. So often we assess people based on what they look like, and once you go there, you can’t backtrack and defend statements without re-connecting it to race.

As much as I would like to talk about all the great people that live on Allied Drive and all the potential that residents here hold on their own, it is nearly impossible to talk about (and often defend) Allied Drive without addressing Madison’s divides relating to race.

I wish the following people didn’t go there:

"For the person shocked at the racial divide in this city all I want to say is that the white community has been bending over backwards to help black people. We are building them community centers, giving them their own personal community police station, giving them practically free housing and intregrating them into our neighborhoods, promoting equal opportunity at the expense of more qualified white candidates etc..etc..etc..etc... And the black community is showing their appreciation for our generosity by filling up the local jails, making the entire city unsafe, ruining the public school system so badly that parents are taking their children to the suburbs or sending them to private schools and putting enormous pressure on the hard working tax payer. Twenty or thiry years ago, at least we were rewarded with a few good comedians, good barabues and some quality music from black people, but we don't even get that from them anymore. The black community now takes much more than they return. I think most native Madisonians would have perferred if they just stayed in Milwaukee or Chicago instead of moving to Madison and bringing the ghetto here with them."

"It's the black people who are causing the problems. they are predisposed to violence. get rid of the black people, and you will get rid of the crime. there is no disputing this."

"I also lived on Allied Drive circa 1967 and it was a perfectly safe neighborhood. Even back in 1967 it was one of the poorer parts of the city, but there was absolutely NO CRIME. The only difference between then and now is the demographics of the neighborhood. Back in 1967 it was all white and now it is all black. I find it quite interesting that many people blame crime on poverty, but back in 1967 none of the poor whites were causing a problem."

Source for all above comments: Channel 3000 Forums

These sorts of comments are endless. For me, the icing on the cake is when a reputed newspaper publishes editorials that defend such ignorance, as the Fitchburg Star published the words of Kurt Getknecht:
"Fitchburg's no leader in the struggle for racial equality, but it's probably no worse than most areas of the country. We're a heavily segregated community, mostly by economic status and class, which is also characteristic of much of the country, including Madison. It was mighty galling it was to listen to Lorri Wendorf's discourse on how Fitchburg residents should embrace differences, which assumed that their concerns about traffic weren't valid. Mind you, I'm not a huge defender of all things Fitchburg, but I felt surprisingly defensive of our fair city. It's difficult to fathom how funneling more traffic through a neighborhood fosters understanding and racial equality, but I probably don't understand the lofty precepts of Madison's elite. Pity the poor Fitchburg resident who had a car end up in his bedroom, a few feet from his bed. He's probably confused to learn that his attempt to prevent this from happening again is a reflection of bias."

Racism is a form of abuse and as with any other abuse, it is not up to the perpetrator to define when abuse is taking place. Furthermore, being "probably no worse than anyone else" is not a valid defense. If you are honestly thinking that you are "probably no worse than anyone else", maybe it is time to venture out and see how you really fare with the rest of the country, and maybe even the rest of the world.

Look at Madison's disproportionate rates of incarceration, home ownership and per-capita income, all among which Wisconsin and Dane County lead in racial disparities when compared to other states and counties in the US. For three years of my life, I had a job that required travel for 120 days out of the year through which I have repeatedly visited nearly every major city in the United States and I can say hands down, I have never felt the levels of unspoken discomfort about race until I came to Madison.

Allied Drive is the most disconnected area of the city when you look at bus routes and accessibility, and we have to actually fight to open up a street? I’ve sat in and observed a lot of meetings about Allied Drive and I remember hearing Fitchburg residents say that they do not want the people of Allied Drive walking up and down the streets of their community, so to back track and shift the focus to traffic safety is like listening to a rapist blame short skirts. You have got to be kidding me.

I have not written in my blog for some time because it has to be known that these issues are very tolling. It is similar to being in a difficult relationship. Sometimes you come to the conclusion that your partner is not going to change so futile efforts may be better spent toward something more constructive. Like a condo downtown. In a city that embraces differences, away from all this madness.