FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

A City With Latinos

by CHRISTOPHER FONS

March 23, 2006 was a historic day for Milwaukee. It was a day with Latinos in a city that still thinks of itself stereotypically as either a German/Polish Old World European enclave or a post-industrial, predominantly African-American ghetto, plagued with violence and urban blight. It was a day that thousands of Latino workers and their families took their children across the 6th Street Bridge from the once mostly Polish Southside to downtown’s Ziedler Park (named after German-American Socialist Mayor Frank Ziedler), where Milwaukee’s predominantly white political and economic elite work, to demand that they not be treated as criminals in a land settled and built by immigrants. They demanded that the state and federal governments not pass laws, like H.R. 4477, sponsored by Wisconsin’s own James Sensenbrenner, which would criminalize them for wanting to make a better life for themselves and their families. Symbolically, this march was historic because just by their presence Milwaukee’s Latino community showed, in a dignified way, that they are part of this community and are not willing to be taken for granted anymore.

During the 1960’s and 1970’s Milwaukee’s civil rights movement, led by Italian-American Father James Groppi, marched across the 16th Street Bridge to demand equal housing and dignity for all of Milwaukee’s citizens. An old racist joke named Milwaukee’s 16th Street Viaduct the longest bridge in the world because it linked Poland to Africa. But after March 23, 2006 the newly-renovated, David Kahler-designed 6th Street Bridge should become a symbol for a new Milwaukee that is being revitalized by the Southside’s increasingly confident Latino community, one that is emerging as a center for cultural and entrepreneurial activity.

Although many Milwaukeeans in the last 20 years have had more and more interaction with Latinos at work, in churches, at entertainment venues and in schools, the community’s 12% Latinos have been virtually invisible in the dominant media, that spends more and more of its time pandering to the suburbs. Except for a constant xenophobic drumbeat about the hordes of foreigners coming across the border on by late-night AM radio shows and regular racial slurs by our local wannabee Rush Limbaughs- Mark Belling and Charlie Sykes- Milwaukee’s coverage of what is actually an American story of immigrant struggle and success ­ an urban-American story ­ has been appalling.

As Milwaukee’s Latino population has almost doubled in the last ten years Latino radio, newspapers, entertainment and businesses of all types have mushroomed with barely a peep from a press that has historically been a cheerleader for the Anglo-Saxon business class. The success of Milwaukee’s Latino workers and entrepreneurs in light of an almost total collapse of the industrial base in the 1970’s and 1980’s, which traditionally was an entry into a living wage for Milwaukee’s immigrants, has been astonishing. This is not to say that we have reached a utopian Atzlan on the banks of the Menomonee River given the educational achievement gap, lower incomes, unemployment and poverty that exist in Milwaukee’s minority communities. However, we should recognize that the Southside has certainly had a resurgence, based on the energy of our now second-largest minority population.

What the march suggests for Milwaukee and the United States is that we have a choice between two worlds. In one the world that Representative Sensenbrenner’s bill would create children and workers are denied emergency health care, kept from having driver licenses, indefinitely detained by border agents and lumped together with criminal terrorists and generally treated as outcasts. Or we have a choice to travel the bridge from the south to the north like Milwaukee’s Latino’s to create the promise of an America as a place that welcomes people who want to live in a country that has as its foundational principles a society of tolerance, a sense of justice and equal opportunity.

CHRISTOPHER FONS teaches US history in Milwaukee and runs the Red and the Black website. He can be reached at: fonscy@yahoo.com

 

 

 

Weekend Edition
February 5-7, 2016
Jeffrey St. Clair
When Chivalry Fails: St. Bernard and the Machine
Leonard Peltier
My 40 Years in Prison
John Pilger
Freeing Julian Assange: the Final Chapter
Garry Leech
Terrifying Ted and His Ultra-Conservative Vision for America
Andrew Levine
Smash Clintonism: Why Democrats, Not Republicans, are the Problem
William Blum
Is Bernie Sanders a “Socialist”?
Daniel Raventós - Julie Wark
We Can’t Afford These Billionaires
Enrique C. Ochoa
Super Bowl 50: American Inequality on Display
Jonathan Cook
The Liberal Hounding of Julian Assange: From Alex Gibney to The Guardian
George Wuerthner
How the Bundy Gang Won
Mike Whitney
Peace Talks “Paused” After Putin’s Triumph in Aleppo 
Ted Rall
Hillary Clinton: the Good, the Bad and the Ugly
Gary Leupp
Is a “Socialist” Really Unelectable? The Potential Significance of the Sanders Campaign
Vijay Prashad
The Fault Line of Race in America
Eoin Higgins
Please Clap: the Jeb Bush Campaign Pre-Mortem
Joseph Mangano – Janette D. Sherman
The Invisible Epidemic: Radiation and Rising Rates of Thyroid Cancer
Andre Vltchek
Europe is Built on Corpses and Plunder
Jack Smith
Obama Readies to Fight in Libya, Again
Robert Fantina
As Goes Iowa, So Goes the Nation?
Dean Baker
Market Turmoil, the Fed and the Presidential Election
John Grant
Israel Moves to Check Its Artists
John Wight
Who Was Cecil Rhodes?
David Macaray
Will There Ever Be Anyone Better Than Bernie Sanders?
Christopher Brauchli
Suffer Little Children: From Brazil to Flint
JP Sottile
Did Fox News Help the GOP Establishment Get Its Groove Back?
Binoy Kampmark
Legalizing Cruelties: the Australian High Court and Indefinite Offshore Detention
John Feffer
Wrestling With Iran
Rob Prince – Ibrahim Kazerooni
Syria Again
Louisa Willcox
Park Service Finally Stands Up for Grizzlies and Us
Farzana Versey
Of Beyoncé, Trudeau and Culture Predators
Pete Dolack
Fanaticism and Fantasy Drive Purported TPP ‘Benefits’
Murray Dobbin
Canada and the TPP
Steve Horn
Army of Lobbyists Push LNG Exports, Methane Hydrates, Coal in Senate Energy Bill
Colin Todhunter
“Lies, Lies and More Lies” – GMOs, Poisoned Agriculture and Toxic Rants
Franklin Lamb
ISIS Erasing Our Cultural Heritage in Syria
David Mihalyfy
#realacademicbios Deserve Real Reform
Graham Peebles
Unjust and Dysfunctional: Asylum in the UK
Yves Engler
On Unions and Class Struggle
Alfredo Lopez
The ‘Bern’ and the Internet
Missy Comley Beattie
Super Propaganda
Ed Rampell
Great Caesar’s Ghost!: A Specter Haunts Hollywood in the Coen’s Anti-Anti-Commie Goofball Comedy
Cesar Chelala
The Public Health Impact of Domestic Violence
Ron Jacobs
Cold Weather Comforts of a Certain Sort
Charles Komanoff
On the Passing of the Jefferson Airplane
Charles R. Larson
Can One Survive the Holocaust?
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail