We may not want to admit it, but there is some truth in what the ESPN team said about Milwaukee. So what are we going to do about it?

Some of you may not want to admit it, but for many people of color, Milwaukee is a “terrible town”.

When ESPN’s “First Take” discussed the possibility of traveling to Milwaukee for the NBA Finals on Tuesday, Stephen A. Smith, Max Kellerman, Molly Qerim Rose and Damien Woody were quick to dismiss the town.

Woody, a former NFL player, asked Smith if he really wanted to go to Milwaukee and Smith replied with “hell no”.

The host Rose quickly intervened.

“Steven A, you know what I just thought. Which is actually quite funny. The only two times, the only time I haven’t been to the Super Bowl was in Minnesota and that’s the first year, I don’t know what our plans are for ‘First Take’, but I don’t think not that we’re okay Max and I, we’ll see. And it’s going to be terrible cities,” she said.

These harsh comments hurt some feelings in Milwaukee, and people responded by pointing out some of the city’s many conveniences.

RELATED: From ‘terrible town’ to ‘Bushville’, sports executives mock Milwaukee at their peril

RELATED: What if ESPN hosts think Milwaukee is “terrible”? Those are all the things we love about it.

Do not mistake yourself. I was born and raised here – I love this city too, but if you look at the stats on how people of color are doing in Milwaukee, it’s not hard to see why 80% of Black respondents rated the city as “fair” or “poor”. in a Suffolk University/USA TODAY poll conducted with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

That poll revealed deep racial disparities: More than half of white and Hispanic respondents said the city was “excellent” or “good.”

But consider:

Instead of a petition to ban the ESPN crew from coming to Milwaukee, maybe we should recognize the amount of work that still needs to be done.

Moving from Milwaukee was one of the best things I’ve done’

Antonio Daniels, 53, moved from Milwaukee to an Atlanta suburb because as a black man raising a family in Milwaukee, he felt there was no growth for him.

“To be honest with you, I’ve never looked back. Moving from Milwaukee was one of the best things I’ve done for my family and myself,” said church pastor Daniels. The Place of Promise in Duluth, Georgia.

Daniels’ family moved to Atlanta in 1999. Prior to the move, he lived in a house near North 30th Street and West Lisbon Avenue in the Washington Park area.

Over the years, the neighborhood has changed. Crime increased and there was no political will to meet the needs of African Americans.

“Year after year, things have gone downhill a bit. My mom moved first, and she convinced us to follow, and that was a big step, but we left with no regrets because Milwaukee isn’t progressive at all compared to Atlanta,” Daniels said.

Daniels, who now lives in Lawrenceville, Georgia, said one of the biggest changes he’s noticed is a bigger black middle class.

“I live in a suburb with mostly black people and nobody’s house is under $300,000,” he said. “The fact is, there are many areas like this here and not just one.”

Each time Daniels returns to visit family and friends, he leaves even more disappointed.

“Crime in Milwaukee is out of control in some communities and reckless driving is just crazy. I have to be honest with you, when I come back to visit you I will be ready to leave for my own safety,” he said.

Daniels said he wasn’t surprised by the statements from ESPN’s sportswriters.

“Milwaukee is in the national news a lot for the wrong reasons. What surprises me is that you still have some of the same political leaders in place and nothing is improving, but you are afraid to make changes. Ever since how long has (mayor) Tom Barrett been in office? It’s embarrassing,” he said.

Dozens of my friends and family members, like Daniels, left Milwaukee.

Head in the sand to defend Milwaukee

It didn’t take long for our local leaders to respond to ESPN broadcasters after criticizing the city.

Here’s what some of them had to say:

  • “Our eclectic and exciting neighborhoods, one of the best food scenes in the country, and our spectacular Lake Michigan waterfront, you’ll experience it all. … There’s a reason people are moving in record numbers to this welcoming gem of a city,” said Peter Feigin, president of the Milwaukee Bucks and Fiserv Forum.

  • “We don’t really care what you think of our city or any of the other possible cities for the NBA Finals. Please just talk about basketball, because that’s what we’re all about. we’re excited!” said Khalif Rainey, Milwaukee 7th District Ald.

  • “You know, we’re putting a lot of energy and effort into rebuilding this city and making it a vibrant place where people want to live, work, raise families,” Milwaukee City Council Speaker Cavalier Johnson said. .

I instinctively defend your city, but the reality is closer to these comments from the past two years — both from the Milwaukee Bucks organization.

Two years ago, Bucks player Malcolm Brogdon said he had never lived in such a segregated city.

“Milwaukee is way behind in terms of progress,” Brogdon said in a 2019 interview with The Guardian. “There are things that need to change quickly.”

In 2016, Feigin, speaking to a Rotary club in Madison, said, “Quite frankly, Milwaukee is the most segregated and racist place I’ve ever known in my life.

Milwaukee turns its back on good ideas

Racism and segregation are two chronic issues that hold Milwaukee back – preventing us from becoming a top city. My Milwaukee’s Promise project showed why everyone should be valued, regardless of race.

And yet, time and time again, political leaders fail to act on ideas that work in other cities.

In 2017, I wrote about Cleveland’s Evergreen Co-ops, which are a model for creating more sustainable regional economies where residents can earn a stake in a thriving business.

Anchor institutions in Cleveland worked together to help employ some of the hardest-to-employ people, giving them green jobs that paid living wages.

A Milwaukee councilman said he was interested in Cleveland’s idea, but the only thing that happened was a resolution promising to review the program.

We don’t need more resolutions. We need action.

And no more excuses.

Whether or not the Bucks bounce back from their Game 1 loss to Atlanta and advance to the NBA Finals, the real victory would be in shaping a city that works for all of its residents. Until then, there’s a good argument that Milwaukee really is a “terrible city” — at least for people of color.

James E. Causey began reporting on life in his city while still in Marshall High School through an internship at Milwaukee Sentinel High School. Since then, he has covered his hometown, writing and editing features, projects and opinion pieces on urban youth, mental health, employment, housing and incarceration. More recently, he wrote “What Happened to Us?” which followed the lives of his third-grade classmates, and “Cultivating a community”, about the bonds that are created around a neighborhood garden. Causey was a health researcher at the University of Southern California in 2018 and a Nieman Fellow at Harvard University in 2007.

Email him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter: @jecausey.

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This article originally appeared on Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: James Causey: Milwaukee really is a terrible city for people of color


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