Both candidates, Cavalier Johnson and Robert Donovan, attended seemingly endless public forums where moderators or community members demanded answers to solve Milwaukee’s crime problem. But never, in the deluge of repetitive questions, do the issues behind the problems receive so much oxygen.
To his credit, Johnson tried to offer complex solutions for a complex problem. But the reaction from the public has been one of denial, as they expect a quick fix – something history has never provided an example of.
Donovan came up with a one-line plan with a jackboot mentality that Milwaukee can just stop on its way to safety. If every black man is arrested, there can be no crime.
And local Milwaukee media, in their self-inflated role as arbiter, showed a complete lack of awareness of the complexity of the issue. The stories did not focus on how to educate or promote ways to resolve the situation. Their sonic narrative only stokes public panic and amplifies irrational fears.
For two years, Republicans have used the bogus equivalent of COVID-19 to justify the death rates caused by their ruthless inaction. They pointed to statistics showing that people die every year from traffic accidents or the flu, so the death rate from the pandemic was only a fraction of the general population. No health crisis to fear. For their selfish thinking, it was an acceptable loss, especially since they felt safe from death. And the deaths of minorities have served their efforts to perpetuate white numerical superiority.
Using these Republican statistical calculations, however, why in a city the size of Milwaukee with over 600,000 people does a small number of crimes and deaths matter? This is a very low percentage rate, and less than other statistics. By Republican logic, 2021 saw 14,032 deaths in Milwaukee from COVID-19. The city’s homicide rate was less than 2% of that total by comparison.
To be clear, the crime is terrible. It causes unnecessary suffering and the loss of life through crime is a trauma that no one should have to experience. The sad truth, however, is that many of the people and organizations who complain about crime also profit from it. In fact, it is in their financial interest that people suffer. Fear is how bullies stay in power.
When there’s a shooting, it’s people screaming that Milwaukee doesn’t have enough law enforcement. They point fingers at everyone but themselves. They are all about punishment, never about prevention. These are the same people who want to ban abortions, but do nothing to help vulnerable girls get pregnant. Or punish men for rape, because it’s easier to blame the victim. Their ideology is linked, and it is purely harmful.
They see a house on fire and shout that Milwaukee should have more firefighters. Yet they never stop to ask why the kids are giving away free gas cans and matches, for example. When houses in a neighborhood catch fire, these people are never curious as to how it started or if there is a connection. They continue to give the children incendiary material and complain about the lack of manpower to put out the fires.
These are the same people who are sparking riots at town hall meetings over children wearing face masks during the pandemic, saying such health safety policies are traumatic. But keep quiet about the daily trauma of gun violence in schools, as if active-fire drills were normal.
For these people, crime is a mystery. It has nothing to do with generations of disenfranchised people who have been denied opportunity, equality and hope to improve their position in life. It has nothing to do with how our society has different standards of laws, punishing the poor for their poverty and rewarding the rich for their corruption. Or even the lack of access to mental health services for those who need help.
Wisconsin has allowed residents to carry concealed firearms. He made it easier to get guns. Why are Republicans crying homicides in Milwaukee when they’re doing everything they can to arm the vulnerable, despair them, and incite them to shoot themselves?
There are all kinds of data that explain how these problems are created. This information is either ignored or manipulated to serve a distorted political purpose. During the Trump years, crime was on the decline, but all Republicans did was talk about how bad crime is. They weren’t interested in making an effort to lead our government or lead a nation, only to exploit the fear of the people they lied to as a way to stay in power and for profit.
There are too many guns on the streets and people are desperate. Wisconsin forced Milwaukee to follow a recipe that can only bake a violent crime cake. Why then, when this cake comes out of the oven, is there a surprise? This is the outcome on which conservative ideology is based, to elevate and maintain the dominance of rich white culture.
And the COVID-19 pandemic. A world-altering health crisis has thrown society into chaos, but there should be no downside for white society.
The Vietnam War ended for America on March 29, 1973, when the last military troops left the country. The Vietnam War for the South Vietnamese ended on April 29, 1975 when they returned the city of Saigon to North Vietnamese troops. But the Vietnam War continued for many years after those dates. On paper, for American veterans, their war ended when they returned home. But the war was not over for them simply because they were no longer in combat. They lived with the trauma of war for years afterwards. One could argue that in 2022, the Vietnam War is still not over for some surviving veterans.
Yet, in the rush to return to a dysfunctional idea of normal after the disruption of COVID-19, we swept away our grief. It’s already like Milwaukee has had amnesia for two years. It’s selfish and narcissistic, and a sadly American trait. Milwaukee cannot solve the crime problem until it addresses the situations that cause crime. And white society can never accept its role in the foundations of institutional racism.
So how can the crime be solved? Crime that has been created by social imbalance cannot be eliminated until the imbalance is rectified. And the system is designed to protect this imbalance. It funnels money into the pockets of those who demand punishment instead of improvement.
The fear is real and no one in Milwaukee should have to live in danger. But for most people, it’s existential. They live in a bubble and worry about a world to which they remain little connected. They hear politicians stoking fears, amplified by the news media for profit.
They see a person fall off a cliff and complain that we have no better way to catch them. But they never ask how the person got into the position where they could fall, or if someone pushed them.
It is exhausting to listen to the insecurities and consternations of these self-centered people profiting from the trauma of Milwaukee. They implement policies to starve the poor, then punish the poor when they steal bread to prevent starvation.
What will Milwaukee’s next mayor do about crime? Instead, we should ask ourselves, what will the citizens of Milwaukee do about the crime? What will Wisconsin citizens do against crime? State counties are funded by Milwaukee taxpayer dollars. The definition of this is socialism. If wealth redistribution is so terrible, let Milwaukee keep its tax dollars and all other municipalities in Wisconsin can determine their own course with their own financial resources.
There is no hope of solving Milwaukee’s crime problem, as long as there is profit from its trauma. Many solutions can alleviate the problems. But at the end of the day, putting the police on the streets pays off. Arresting vulnerable people pays off. Building prisons is profitable. Enshrining fear in a faith that touts a Messiah who carries a gun pays off.
Until the perpetuation of crime in Milwaukee becomes unprofitable for special interests, crime is the only terribly destructive avenue available to desperate people who see no other way to navigate their conditions of oppression.