Color is not incriminating, so don’t speak as if it is

Jim Baumgart  Sheboygan County Supervisor

We live in a world that is not perfect; in a country that still needs to improve over time; in a state that must continue to move forward; and in a county and community that most of us like and enjoy, but it also has its needs.

Locally, we have a large number of citizens who give and share with others what and when they can. Most help neighbors and many volunteer their services. It’s a good place to live and work but, like this writer, is not perfect.

It brings me to a concern that I need to discuss. That we make sure what we say and do is as correct as possible. To do otherwise is a disservice to everyone and can be very harmful. I point to a number of recent comments I have heard about the shooting and rioting in Ferguson Missouri that I find unacceptable.

I support those who are angry about the rioting and burning that recently took place in Ferguson or of any damage done there and elsewhere and have spoken out on the issue. It is unacceptable and wrong and people need to stand together against such anti social behavior.

That said, some of the comments I heard recently did not fairly separate rioters from the community. It was the “blacks” and a type of general grouping of the black community that is unacceptable and needs to stop.

The black population in this country, as of the 2000 United States Census was just over 42 million people, 13.6 percent of the total population. It is a growing population, up 15 percent from 1990 to 2000 while overall United States population grew 9.7 percent.

African-Americans serve our country in many ways. In the military, including fighting in Korea, Viet Nam and through today’s wars they have proudly served. The United States Department of Defense list blacks as representing 17.3 percent of the armed forces (2010 data): Army - 105,199; Navy - 64,841; Airforce - 50,211; Marine Corps - 18,925 and Coast Guard - 2,494.

Black families, their local churches, businesses and schools, in some of the poorest communities in the country, provide a stabling force under some of the nation’s harshest conditions.

They are often the forgotten community heros until a major crises irrupts. Outsiders, too often, will paint all blacks with an unfair brush.

Because of their color, blacks do stand out. They understand that but they also understand it’s often not fair. One might want to read Gene Demby’s April 24, 2013 column “Why does Wisconsin lock up more black men than any other state.”

It’s a complex issue but it is real and should be understood. It lists rates of black males incarcerated in Wisconsin (2012 figures) as 12.8% (US National Average 6.7%), white Wisconsin males 1.2 %. Or maybe one should read the April 1, 2014 The Capitol Times story, “No state is worse than Wisconsin for black children, says a new national study.”

If these are issues blacks face in Wisconsin, they are certainly issues they face nationwide.

Many in the black community often feel attacked. In recent legislation in Wisconsin and this nation, their voting rights were made harder. That the “hate” and “attacks” shown to the first black president and his efforts to succeed, is also an indirect attack on them. The list of their concerns, of course, is much longer.

Abraham Lincoln once wrote, “A house divided against itself cannot stand”.

We should not accept what is wrong but we should also speak out for what is right. We divide ourselves as a nation to do otherwise.

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