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We Now Hate the Word Diversity

From our friends at the Ignorant Research Institute (MKE):

To say that the events of July 3rd were unprovoked is partially true. The victims seemingly did nothing to invite hostility on an individual level. However, to claim that race or class tensions are unprovoked – in other words, that there is no explanation for these events – is absurd. Milwaukee is the 4th poorest and most segregated major city in the United States, and the police are notoriously racist and brutal. All economic growth and opportunities take place in the white areas of town, while the nonwhite areas are left to fester. The Milwaukee Public School system (largely serving poor and nonwhite communities) has one of the lowest graduation rates of any city in the country.

Riverwest constitutes a border between the poor black neighborhood of Harambee (to the west) and the significantly better off college neighborhood of the East Side (to the east) and the well-to-do, white, somewhat liberal neighborhoods of Shorewood and Whitefish Bay (to the northeast). Demographically, Riverwest is diverse, and some sort of community seemingly exists here, but it should be acknowledged that the peaceful, tolerant, and diverse bubble of joy here is not immune to its place within the larger context of the city. (We have heard such frequent reference to the diversity of Riverwest as a supposed reason why the attacks should be considered senseless that we are pretty much done with the term. So far as we’re concerned, it seems mainly to mean, “Hey look, we live with black people! We’re so beyond racism.”)

Milwaukee would be thinking about race even if the attackers had not called the victims whitey, simply as a result of who was involved and that it took place on a border, as well the racial discourse in the city. Whether we make the claim that it was the fault of black people, refuse to discuss racial issues, or acknowledge that occasional chaotic violence is to be expected given race and class tensions in the city, every single discussion concerns race. We believe this is important to recognize as an essential component of the narratives and of the relations of power.

There seem to be two main factors fueling the outrage over this: that the police weren’t doing their job properly and that a large attack occurred on people who had individually done nothing to invite attack. That police ‘weren’t doing their job’ is an materialization of the fact that the police cannot protect us. Their jobs are to gather evidence, incarcerate, and use violence; their function is to maintain control and remove those who upset the social order. People in this area seem shocked that cops maybe don’t give a shit about them, and aren’t really here to protect them or to make things right. This sentiment also implies that there is an obvious sort of people from whom we want protection, the same sort of people who cross Riverwest from the west to go to the lakefront and watch the fireworks. I hope it is obvious how racist this attitude is.

The solutions being proposed tend to focus on cops doing their jobs better. At the Institute of Ignorant Research, we think this is a horrible idea. We also think this won’t actually work. Let’s look at its horribleness for a moment: We find it difficult to see how ‘cops doing their jobs better’ isn’t the same thing as ‘cops making sure that black bodies and poor bodies are policed more.’ The connection is denied, but following the logic of the desired results back, we see no other way to interpret this. It is a problematic situation that desire for better police (to effectively enforce segregation) and feelings of being let down by the police are being expressed while segregation is being accepted as an inescapable part of the scenery and (usually racist) police violence is not confronted.

Racial attitudes and racial tensions are being stirred up from their usual invisibility in this city. Their increasing visibility is exciting and perhaps useful. However, it is clear how race and racial tensions serve to mask and redirect class antagonisms. The lack of discussion both in terms of race and class is troubling.

An appropriation of goods combined with an attack making Riverwest appear dangerous for white people (a direct attack against gentrification) and elaborating race antagonisms is perhaps one of the most notable and radical actions to take place here for some time. It is irrelevant whether or not those involved had a revolutionary ideology, consciousness, or mindset. It must be admitted that over the last few days, having the racial tensions in this city further exposed by the openly racist and unconsciously racist dialogue, we have also fantasied about beating white people.

For those unfamiliar with the story:


7 Comments so far
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i am confused–the article on the hispanic news blog that is listed as “fairly accurate” says that the demographic of the “victims” consisted of: 1 Asian, 4 Hispanics, 8 Whites and 13 Blacks. that means 18 out of the 26 of the folk assaulted were people of color. if it is true that the majority of the people who were assaulted were POC–and i’m not saying it is–i am wondering about the framing of the incident as an attack on whiteness as well as the mainstream media’s framing of the incident as an attack on seemingly “innocent” white people. the sad aspect of this would be that both sides are effectively silencing a POC perspective while recentering whiteness and erasing class consideration. i’m am interested in hearing the class make-up of the people who were assaulted, whether they were targeted for being yuppies or just mostly other poor POC, whether or not folk feel like there is a connection between poverty and being susceptible to violence. as a cautionary warning, radical folk who want to politicize certain incidents in the service of POC might actually being erasing POC for the sake of making their argument. someone from Milwaukee fill me in. i’m not making any claims, as i am eager to find out more info….

Comment by jackie

also, i don’t think i made it clear enough that i find the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and the media’s framing of the incident to be totally egregious pieces of propaganda aimed at inciting fear about ‘the black menace’ and promoting the idea that reverse racism exists. the fact that the article opens with the story of the innocent white girl being attacked by a black male is obviously carefully selected to confirm the ole racist and colonialist narrative about brown men (they even use the world ‘barbaric’) invading the sacred and pure space of white femininity. no doubt—the framing of this story will be used to mobilize white racism against people of color. but if the newspaper is trying to say that the incident is solely motivated by black people’s hatred of whites, and black people constituted the largest group of people assaulted, i think it might be important to hear from the black folk (and other POC) who were assaulted, if nothing else to reveal the racist motivations of the media’s manipulation of the story.

Comment by Jackie

Although, this blog isn’t responsible for this text we nor our friends would ever use anything any local news wrote without the assumption that it will only tell its truth (the truth of capital) and we are very critical of this. Also I think you might be confused about the composition of the assaulted. None were black, through a few were asian and latino. It should not be shocking that their experience as POC would be erased for the sake of a greater white narrative in order to further separate the city and its populations – to prevent them from actually fighting the city.

Comment by toutniquer

i definitely wasn’t saying ya’ll are responsible for that new story…i was just clarifying my position. so the 13 black folk who were supposedly assaulted are just made up? the whole thing is confusing–the statistic undermines the media’s entire argument, which is that black people attacked innocent white people, not other black people. i am wondering what the motivation is for saying that half of the people assaulted were black (and that the majority were POC) if it is in their interest to claim that whites were the main target and that the incident was motivated by hatred of white people.

Comment by Jackie

It seems like the 13 black people is due to confusion on the part of the news. Not a single person has mentioned 13 black kids getting assaulted and it would conflict with the reports of there actually being 11 people who were assaulted by people who were there. So… not sure where 13 comes from.

The majority of the people in the crowd of people who were attacked were “white” and hanging out together after a hardcore show in the nearby. Not much has been reported about how the altercation started, or dialog between the groups that may have happened. But the composition of the crowds was mostly black versus mostly white, which seems to make it near to impossible to ignore the racial dynamic of the situation, yet neither the media nor most white people can come to understand why a bunch of disempowered people might be driven to such desperation.

Comment by toutniquer

The above post by toutniquer is correct.

Next time we will proofread cited material more carefully.

Comment by Ignorant Research Institute

good to know…it certainly makes the situation seem much more promising. is there a more accurate run-down of the situation? i didn’t read abt a hardcore show anywhere. i am still curious abt the non-black POC folk, what the motivation was assaulting them…were they just caught in the middle or was it due to attitudes toward latino/asian folk? in urban contexts POC are often pitted against other POC… which could weaken the possibility of a pan-POC race war. the issue is often bracketed because it complicates things and reveals that there isn’t only 1 POC perspective. (i often run up against this reductive mentality when trying to talk to white radical “allies” who want to have the right line.)

Comment by j

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