Filed under: Milwaukee area, war-machine | Tags: diversity, flashmob, ignorant research institute, july 3rd, milwaukee, police, race, racism, research, riverwest
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: