Dear Editor,

I’m responding to: “Writer responds to Protester” sound off, which asks “How long do you think you’d stay alive if you walked at night ... on Milwaukee’s north side. Come on people, they, ‘Blacks’, hate us. We are the cause of all their problems. They refuse to admit that they themselves are the problem. Us, terrible, evil white people.”

I grew up in beautiful old Milwaukee of the 1950s. I have stories of how I witnessed egregious racism, however, there’s no room in this writing to share them. Instead, I offer the following:

In the late 1960s, Milwaukee’s housing laws were set up so that the black population was relegated to live on the northside — called the inner core. It was a dilapidated area with high rents for poor quality housing, low quality public schools, few recreational resources and poor job accessibility. Ninety percent of subdivisions in Milwaukee had agreements that forbade the sale or lease of property to people of color. By the ‘60s, young black people organized demonstrations against segregation. A catholic priest, Father James Groppi, noticed the plight of these residents, joined them and became their leader.

The Menominee River Factory district separated the black neighborhood on the northside from the southside. The 16th street viaduct connected these communities. In August 1967, roughly 250 protesters led by Father Groppi marched across that bridge toward a park on the southside to protest segregation and demand fair housing laws. While a march the night before had remained peaceful, this Aug. 29 protest was greeted by 13,000 white residents carrying clubs, hurling glass bottles and shouting profane racial slurs and profanities. Police fired tear gas. The black protesters, returning to the northside, found their headquarters burnt to the ground by police. There were 200 consecutive days of marches calling for an open housing ordinance. Although an open housing ordinance passed in 1968, 52 years later, Milwaukee is the most segregated city in the U.S.

Someone recently asked me, why blame me for what happened to African Americans. And I think, why do you keep voting for people who are anchored in racist ideology. Just think about what the great man said, “I take no responsibility.” You voted for him, he’s clearly a racist and you’ll vote for him again.

The initial assault on African Americans began with the slave trade in 1619. Their culture and language was taken from them, which is the heart of a tribe’s strength, and the black man has been deeply affected by this.

Milwaukee has been hit the hardest with racism, poverty and inequality. Its tight-knit enclaves of Germans, Poles and Jewish people have resisted housing and school integration. Now you’ve got one big northside ghetto.

 

Holly Granquist

Marinette