For any casual observer of Milwaukee’s 2022 election season, the biggest topic of debate between candidates for Mayor has been the issue of crime, and by extension handguns. The subject has been a dog whistle used by White people for targeting the Black community, and blaming them for the problems created by White society. It is basically a metaphorical house fire designed by White institutions so it cannot be extinguished, while also offering the incentive of adding gasoline to earn more rewards.
Both candidates, Cavalier Johnson and Robert Donovan, have attended seemingly endless public forums where moderators or community members have demanded answers for solving Milwaukee’s crime problem. But never, in the deluge of repetitive questions, are the issues behind the problems given much oxygen.
To his credit, Johnson has tried to offer complex solutions for a complex problem. But the public reaction has been a form of denial, because they expect a quick fix – something history has never provided an example of.
Donovan has proposed a one-size fits all plan inline with a jackboot mentality, that Milwaukee can simply arrest its way to safety. His ideology claims that if every Black person gets arrested there can be no crime.
And the local Milwaukee media, in its self-inflated role as arbitrator, has shown an utter lack of awareness of the issue’s complexity. News reporting has not been focused on how to educate or promote ways of resolving the situation. Their soundbite narrative only stirs up public panic and amplifies irrational fears.
For two years Republicans used the false equivalent about COVID-19 to justify the death rates caused by their callous inaction. They pointed to statistics showing that people die annually from traffic accidents or the flu, so the fatality rate of the pandemic was only a fraction of the general population. No health crisis to be concerned with. To their selfish thinking, it was an acceptable loss especially since they felt immune from dying. And the deaths of minorities served their efforts to perpetuate the numerical superiority of White people.
By using that Republican statistical math, however, why in a city the size of Milwaukee with 600,000+ people do a small number of crimes and deaths matter? It is a very small percentage rate, and less than other statistics. By Republican logic, 2021 saw 14,032 deaths in Milwaukee due to COVID-19. The city’s homicide rate was less than 2% of that total by comparison.
To be clear, crime is terrible. It causes needless suffering, and the loss of life through crime is a trauma that no one should have to experience. The sad truth is, however, that many of the people and organizations who complain about crime also profit from it. In fact, it is in their financial interest for people to suffer. Fear is how bullies stay in power.
When there is a shooting, they are the people who shout about Milwaukee not having enough law enforcement. They point fingers of blame to everyone but themselves. They are all about punishment, never about prevention. They are the same people who want to ban abortions, but do nothing to help vulnerable girls from getting pregnant. Or punishing men for rape, because it is easier to blame the victim. Their ideology is predatory, because it only seeks to exploit the weak.
Imagine a White suburban community in the 1950s, the stereotype of consumerism. Residents see a house on fire and scream that the city should have more firemen. Yet, they never stop and ask why are children freely given cans of gasoline and matches. When houses in a neighborhood catch fire, for example, those people are never curious about how they started or if there is a connection. They just keep giving kids incendiary gear and complain about the lack of manpower to put out fires.
They are the same people who instigate near riots at town hall meetings over children wearing face masks during the pandemic, claiming such health safety policies are traumatic. But then remain silent about the daily trauma of gun violence in schools, as if active shooter drills are normal.
To these individuals, 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 station 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 wealthy for their corruption. Or even the lack of access to mental health services for those in need of help.
Wisconsin has allowed residents to carry concealed firearms. It has made obtaining guns easier. Why do Republicans scream about homicides in Milwaukee when they are doing everything possible to arm vulnerable people, fill them with despair, and provoke them to shoot at each other?
There is all sorts of data that explains how these problems are created. That information is either ignored, or manipulated to serve a distorted political purpose. In the Trump years, crime was on the decline but all Republicans did was talk about how bad crime was. They were not interested in making an effort to run our government, or lead a nation, only to milk the fear from the people who they lied to as a way to stay in power and for the sake of profit.
There are too many guns on the streets and people driven to desperation. Wisconsin has forced Milwaukee to follow a recipe that can only bake a cake of violent crime. Why then, when that cake comes out of the oven, is there any surprise? This is the result that Conservative ideology is based on, to elevate and maintain the dominance of wealthy White culture.
And the COVID-19 pandemic. A world altering health crisis plunged society into chaos, but there should be no inconvenience to 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 surrendered 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 came home. But the war was not over for them just because they were no longer in combat. They lived with the trauma of war for years after. It could be argued that in 2022, the Vietnam War has still not ended for some surviving veterans.
Yet in the rush to return to a dysfunctional idea of normal after the disruption of COVID-19, we have swept aside our grief. It is already as if Milwaukee had amnesia about the last two years. It is selfish and narcissistic, and a sadly American trait. Milwaukee cannot solve the problem of crime, 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 crime be solved? Crime that was created by a social imbalance cannot be eliminated until the imbalance is rectified. And the system is designed to protect that imbalance. It funnels money into the pockets of those who demand punishment instead of improvement.
There is real fear, and no one in Milwaukee should have to live in danger. But for most people, it is existential. They live in a bubble and worry about a world they remain minimally connected to. They hear politicians stoking fears, amplified by news media for profit.
They see a person falling from a cliff and complain that we do not have better resources to catch them. But they never ask, how did the person get 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 who profit from Milwaukee’s trauma. They put policies in place to starve the poor, then punish the poor when they steal bread to hold back starvation.
What will the next Mayor of Milwaukee do about crime? Instead we should be asking, what will the citizens of Milwaukee do about crime? What will the citizens of Wisconsin do about crime? Counties across the state are financially funded by Milwaukee tax dollars. The definition of that is Socialism. If the redistribution of wealth is so terrible, let Milwaukee keep its tax dollars and every other municipality across the Wisconsin can determine its own path with its own financial resources.
There is no hope for solving Milwaukee’s crime problem, so long as there is profit from its trauma. Many solutions can mitigate the issues. But at the end of the day, putting police on the street is profitable. Arresting the vulnerable is profitable. Building prisons is profitable. Enshrining fear into a faith that touts a Messiah who totes a gun is profitable.
Until the perpetuation of crime in Milwaukee becomes unprofitable to special interests, crime is the only terribly destructive avenue available to hopeless people who see no other way to navigate their oppressed conditions.