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
April 29, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Andrew Levine
What is the Democratic Party Good For? Absolutely Nothing
Roberto J. González – David Price
Anthropologists Marshalling History: the American Anthropological Association’s Vote on the Academic Boycott of Israeli Institutions
Robert Jacobs
Hanford, Not Fukushima, is the Big Radiological Threat to the West Coast
Ismael Hossein-Zadeh
US Presidential Election: Beyond Lesser Evilism
Dave Lindorff
The Push to Make Sanders the Green Party’s Candidate
Ian Fairlie
Chernobyl’s Ongoing Toll: 40,000 More Cancer Deaths?
Pete Dolack
Verizon Sticks it to its Workers Because $45 Billion isn’t Enough
Richard Falk
If Obama Visits Hiroshima
Margaret Kimberley
Dishonoring Harriet Tubman
Deepak Tripathi
The United States, Britain and the European Union
Peter Linebaugh
Marymount, Haymarket, Marikana: a Brief Note Towards ‘Completing’ May Day
Eva Golinger
My Country, My Love: a Conversation with Gerardo and Adriana of the Cuban Five
Moshe Adler
May Day: a Trade Agreement to Unite Third World and American Workers
Vijay Prashad
Political Violence in Honduras
Paul Krane
Where Gun Control Ought to Start: Disarming the Police
David Anderson
Al Jazeera America: Goodbye to All That Jazz
Rob Hager
Platform Perversity: More From the Campaign That Can’t Strategize
Pat Williams
FDR in Montana
Dave Marsh
Every Day I Read the Book (the Best Music Books of the Last Year)
David Rosen
Job Satisfaction Under Perpetual Stagnation
John Feffer
Big Oil isn’t Going Down Without a Fight
Murray Dobbin
The Canadian / Saudi Arms Deal: More Than Meets the Eye?
Gary Engler
The Devil Capitalism
Brian Cloughley
Is Washington Preparing for War Against Russia?
Manuel E. Yepe
The Big Lies and the Small Lies
Robert Fantina
Vice Presidents, Candidates and History
Mel Gurtov
Sanctions and Defiance in North Korea
Howard Lisnoff
Still the Litmus Test of Worth
Dean Baker
Big Business and the Overtime Rule: Irrational Complaints
Ulrich Heyden
Crimea as a Paradise for High-Class Tourism?
Ramzy Baroud
Did the Arabs Betray Palestine? – A Schism between the Ruling Classes and the Wider Society
Halyna Mokrushyna
The War on Ukrainian Scientists
Joseph Natoli
Who’s the Better Neoliberal?
Ron Jacobs
The Battle at Big Brown: Joe Allen’s The Package King
Wahid Azal
Class Struggle and Westoxication in Pahlavi Iran: a Review of the Iranian Series ‘Shahrzad’
David Crisp
After All These Years, Newspapers Still Needed
Graham Peebles
Hungry and Frightened: Famine in Ethiopia 2016
Robert Koehler
Opening the Closed Political Culture
Missy Comley Beattie
Waves of Nostalgia
Thomas Knapp
The Problem with Donald Trump’s Version of “America First”
Georgina Downs
Hillsborough and Beyond: Establishment Cover Ups, Lies & Corruption
Jeffrey St. Clair
Groove on the Tracks: the Magic Left Hand of Red Garland
Ben Debney
Kush Zombies: QELD’s Hat Tip to Old School Hip Hop
Charles R. Larson
Moby Dick on Steroids?
David Yearsley
Miles Davis: Ace of Baseness
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail