There is a vast professional literature demonstrating that the American descendents of enslaved Africans do not fully participate in the American economy, that they are less healthy, live shorter lives, receive inferior educations, have lower rates of educational attainment and higher rates of unemployment, are paid less for similar work and suffer astronomical rates of incarceration, in large part simply for being Black.
Gary Becker, the Nobel Prize-winning conservative economist, wrote The Economics of Discrimination in 1957, and laid out the costs of racism to the descendents of enslaved Africans and other residents of the United States. Victor Perlo, a Communist economist, published Economics of Racism USA: Roots of Black Inequality in 1975, updating it in 1996. I covered much the same ground last year in The Chains of Black America.
All this is well-known. The pertinent questions today are what is to be done and who is going to take personal responsibility for doing it.
It is time to name names.
We can begin with Milwaukee, that poster city for racial inequality, with its pitiful rates of educational achievement, antebellum rates of incarceration for Black men, radically inequitable enforcement of the laws, and carefully designed and enforced geographical segregation. There are seven officials who could fundamentally change the condition of the descendants of enslaved Africans now living in Milwaukee. It is something for which they have personal responsibility.
The first is the former Milwaukee County Executive, now Wisconsin governor (and Republican presidential candidate), Scott Walker.
The second is Tony Evers, Wisconsin’s longtime State Superintendent of Public Instruction. He is a longtime school leader and player in the state education agency.
Third is current Milwaukee County Executive Christopher Abele, a philanthropist from Massachusetts whom Walker is placing in charge of education in Milwaukee, in effect as boss of Superintendent Darienne Driver.
Finally, there are the overseers of the local criminal justice system: Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm, Milwaukee Chief of Police Edward Flynn and the Chief Judge of Milwaukee County, Maxine White.
With the support of Governor Walker, Evers, Abele, and Driver could improve educational opportunities for Milwaukee’s children. It would not take further research: Address teacher quality; provide early childhood education for three- and four-year-old; longer school days and school years; more-challenging curricula. [Other school reformers offer other approaches, including the expansion of high-quality charter schools serving Black children, which could also help.]
Together, these political leaders could address these issues. We are they going to do so? Why haven’t they done it as yet?
Governor Walker and County Chief Executive Abele could design a regional public transportation system that would make suburban jobs accessible for urban residents. They could implement planning to break-up the nearly totally segregated housing patterns of Milwaukee County. They could put in place effective job-training and other school reforms that can help adults poorly-served by public education gain the knowledge they need for economic success.
Walker and Abele, working together, could do this. When are they going to begin doing so? Why have they not done it as yet?
With the support of Gov. Walker, Judge White, Chief Flynn and District Attorney Chisholm could devise ways to bring equity to the Milwaukee County criminal justice system. They could reform police department policies concerning stops and arrests, prosecutorial policies concerning indictments, court policies on sentencing. Milwaukee sorely needs those reforms, as does the rest of Wisconsin.Walker does deserve credit for signing into a requirement that deaths at the hand of police officers are to be handled by independent investigators. But that’s not enough.
Walker, White, Flynn and Chisholm could do this. When are they going to begin doing so? Why have they not done it as yet?
Wisconsin is a wealthy state. The facts are well-known. These people have the authority needed to make it possible for Milwaukee’s children to have bright futures. It is their personal responsibility. Why have they not done it as yet? When are they going to do it?