Joe Biden will not go to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, to accept the Democratic presidential nomination because of the coronavirus. He’s probably making the right decision. Most media are backing his campaign and the less he exposes himself, the better. At the same time, Mr. Biden’s chances of becoming president are better if as few people as possible see what’s happened in Milwaukee.
Until 1950, Milwaukee was almost entirely white, with a few blacks in an area called “Bronzeville.” During the New Deal, the Home Owners’ Loan Corporation, which helped people keep up with mortgages, “redlined” a black neighborhood, classifying it “hazardous” for investment. “This is the Negro and slum area of Milwaukee,” it said. “It is old and very ragged.” The black population increased by 600 percent from 1940 to 1960, mostly because blacks migrated from the South for manufacturing jobs.
Schools were mostly segregated because neighborhoods were segregated, and students attended local schools. In 1965, a black lawyer named Lloyd Barbee filed a school integration lawsuit in Amos et al. v the Board of School Directors of the City of Milwaukee. The case wasn’t decided until 1976, when Federal Judge John Reynolds ruled that segregation in Milwaukee public schools had been “intentionally created and maintained by the defendants.” In 1979, the Supreme Court upheld this decision and ordered integration through redistricting and busing.
A 1976 survey found more than 70 percent of white parents in Milwaukee wanted their children to attend integrated schools — in theory — but more than 60 percent opposed busing. Of those who opposed busing, half said they would rather put their children in private schools, and others said they would homeschool or leave the city. “[E]ven though many white Milwaukeeans publicly said they favored integration as long as their children were not bused, they privately did not want any integration at all,” wrote author James Nelson in Education Milwaukee.
Blacks began organizing against housing segregation as well. On July 30, 1967, blacks rioted and several people were killed over the next few days, including one police officer. In the weeks afterward, blacks marched more than 200 times to support an ordinance banning housing discrimination. Their efforts succeeded when President Lyndon Johnson signed the Fair Housing Act and the city passed a local ordinance that banned housing discrimination except in owner-occupied buildings with no more than two units.
The exodus began. “White flight bloated the counties surrounding Milwaukee County,” said ThinkProgress in 2016, “where the white population almost tripled between 1960 and 2010.” A 2019 Brookings Institute report said Milwaukee is the most segregated metro area in the country. “Today, the Milwaukee public schools are once again largely segregated,” says the Wisconsin Historical Society.
In 1960, Milwaukee was 91 percent white. In just 20 years — after desegregation, busing, and “fair housing” — the city was just 71 percent white. While the black population increased, the manufacturing jobs that had attracted them were leaving. The Encyclopedia of Wisconsin says that in 1970, almost 75 percent of black men were employed. By 2009, fewer than half were employed. Perhaps not coincidentally, by 2000, the city was less than half white.
Milwaukee is one of the worst cities in America for blacks, based on the educational, wealth, incarceration, and other racial gaps.
- “Report: Milwaukee, Racine Rank As Worst Cities For African Americans To Live, by Alana Watson, Wisconsin Public Radio, November 15, 2019
- “Why Is Milwaukee So Bad For Black People?,” by Kenya Downs, NPR, March 5, 2019
- “Study Ranks Milwaukee as worst city for African Americans,” by Shaun Gallagher, TMJ4, November 6, 2019
The city is highly segregated, and most of the crime is in black areas. One study blamed the crime on “segregation,” but it’s what comes with blacks. If Milwaukee’s dramatic decline in the white population shows anything, it’s that “integration” is just a phase between a white majority and a black majority.
Fox News reported in April 2019 that Milwaukee was the sixth-most dangerous city in America. Still, until recently, there was improvement. In January 2020, Mayor Tom Barrett proudly announced that violent crime was down 33 percent over the previous five years. That was before George Floyd. In May, the city reported a 96 percent increase in homicides compared to this time the previous year. By July, it was a 100 percent increase. Twenty-five federal agents are coming to the city as part of Operation Legend.