So many thoughts can come to mind when one hears the word “Wisconsin.”
Between being the land of beer and cheese and home to some of the best professional and college football teams in the world, Wisconsin has a pretty decent rep if you ask most people. But as someone who went to school there for four years, I was exposed to how toxic the state can be for people of color.
Therefore, when the body camera footage of Milwaukee Bucks player Sterling Brown’s arrest was released, I sadly was not surprised. While my college years were undoubtedly some of the most formative years of my life, the “forward” state has a dark track record of not supporting its Black citizens.
Here are some stats that demonstrate just how far Wisconsin has to go when it comes to becoming a safe space for Black folks:
- A 2014 study by the Annie E. Casey Foundation found that Wisconsin was the worst place to raise a Black child, taking into account reading scores, graduation rates, and children in two-parent families.
- In a study done in 2015, Black people in the state were nearly four times more likely to be unemployed than white people. Only Connecticut and Minnesota have a higher level of racial disparity in unemployment.
- The median African-American household’s annual income is around $29,200, about half the white level. Only Minnesota and Louisiana have a greater Black/white inequality in household income.
- Black families in Wisconsin are 5.3 times more likely than white families to live in poverty— that’s the second highest rate in the nation.
- The state is worst in the country in eighth-grade math standardized test scores for Black kids, with white students being five times more likely to be proficient on the test.
- Only 64 percent of Black students graduate high school in comparison to 93 percent of white students—that’s the highest gap in the nation.
- Wisconsin has the second-highest ratio of Black to white incarceration in the country, with 11.5 Black prisoners to one white prisoner.
During the four years that I lived in Wisconsin, my eyes were opened to stories of third graders from the state who barely knew how to write their own names. The children of color who lived in the capital city of Madison often considered a college campus that was a mere 15-minute drive from their homes an unattainable place, where only the wealthy went. I watched the friends and family of Tony Robinson cry tears of sorrow and rage at the state capitol the night that their loved one was shot down by a police officer. I consoled my Black partner daily as she faced disgustingly casual racism on the street on a daily basis.
So while it might have taken a scandal with an NBA player to bring the state’s problems to the forefront of mainstream media, I have one thing to say to the state and its officials: do better.