The State of Black Wisconsin

All Black residents deserve the freedom to thrive, yet Wisconsin’s Black residents have been robbed of their tax dollars to fund their own oppression.

From birth to death, Wisconsin’s Black residents face compounding systematic discrimination. As a result, Wisconsin’s racial disparities have widened, and it is now reportedly the worst state in the country for Black people to live. The impacts of these systems designed to fail can be seen at every stage of life for people of color.

This is highlighted by the recent Wallethub study that found Wisconsin is the most segregated state in the nation, between Black and White residents due to massive gaps in health indicators. 

  • Median Income Gap: 48th

  • Labor Force Participation: 50th

  • Unemployment Rate Gap: 48th

  • Poverty Rate Gap: 50th

  • High School Diploma Gap: 47th

  • Standardized-Test Scores Gap: 45th

  • Voter Turnout Gap: 33rd

  • Infant-Mortality Rate Gap: 39th, our infant mortality rate for infants of non-Latinx black women is the highest in the nation.

  • The life expectancy of Black Wisconsin residents is six years lower than that of white residents. Wisconsin was only state in the nation, to see this gap widen.

Simply this is unacceptable and rooted in racism. Racism causes persistent racial discrimination in housing, education, employment and criminal justice; and an emerging body of research demonstrates that racism is a social determinant of health. 

Last night, January 22, 2019, Governor Tony Evers gave his first State of the State where announced that direct Attorney General Josh Kaul to withdraw from the Affordable Care Act, declared 2019 as the year of clean drinking water in Wisconsin, and returning two-thirds of funding to schools across Wisconsin.

Governor Evers acknowledged last night “But today, we are also a state among the worst to raise a black family, and we are a state that’s spending more on corrections than our entire UW System.” But unfortunately, he failed to lay out of a plan or concrete steps on how to turn Wisconsin around from its Birth to Death pipeline, that has led Wisconsin to be named the worst place to raise a Black child.

One of the reasons Wisconsin is the worst place to raise a Black child is due to, as Governor Evers said “It is urgent that we increase support for our low-income students and students of color. The longer we wait to invest in closing our achievement gap, the wider the gap will get, and the more it will cost us in the long-run.” Not only is there is an achievement gap in test scores, but Black students trail their White counterparts by 30% in graduation rates.

This is directly tied to schools in Wisconsin suspending black high school students at a higher rate than anywhere else in the country and having the second-highest disparity in suspension rates between white and black students.  

Though Governor Evers inherited a state with centuries of abuse towards communities of color, it is now his job to put Wisconsin on a path forward in racial equity.

Governor Evers can start with his budget proposal by showing strong investments into communities of color by

  • Increasing funding to public schools, with mandates around ethnic studies, hiring more counselors, social workers, and therapist, and investing into a pipeline of teachers & staff of color in Wisconsin schools.

  • End suspensions and expulsions, keep students in school and put a major dent in the school to prison pipeline.

  • Decreasing the prison population and budget, and reinvest those dollars back into the communities most impacted by over policing. Additionally ban solitary confinement.

  • Investing into a jobs training and placement program that trains, develops, and retain Black talent and labor in Wisconsin.

  • Reinvesting into social programs that focus on social determinants to health for Black residents.

  • Expand access to publicly funded health care centers through the state, and drastically increase Wisconsin’s investment into Public Health departments.

  • Reinvest into public transportation.

  • Commit to banning all police seizures and redirecting any repossessions to a community controlled crime prevention fund.

  • Commit to the immediate demilitarization of all police departments in the State by removing military surplus equipment, banning of further purchases.

  • Legalize marijuana use, and use those tax dollars to reinvest into communities most impacted by over policing & incarceration.

  • Invest into public higher education by making all public universities & technical college tuition free.

  • Pass a wide range of democracy reforms including automatic voter registration, pre-registration for 16 & 17 year old, restore the right to vote to those convicted of felonies, and expand early voting through the state.

Congressman John Lewis said “We may not have chosen the time, but the time has chosen us”, and Governor Evers has been chosen at a time of great need for Black residents in Wisconsin. A time where shift action must be taken.

Wisconsin must address persistent racial disparities in health outcomes, and the social, economic, educational and environmental inequities that contribute to them. 

There is no hiding from the fact that there is two Wisconsins, one that sees White communities thrive, and one that sees Black communities deprived.

The State of Black Wisconsin is neglected. 

 

 

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