Friday, August 19, 2016

Sherman Park: The Days After

The recent “incident” in Milwaukee’s Sherman Park area sparked three emotion in me: sadness, anger and happiness.

The sadness came from empathy with the area’s residents.  The loss of property and injuries were one thing.  The terror and fear caused by a mob out of control in the night’s darkness was just as bad.  And the aftermath in the community continued the fear and apprehension. 

Anger came from the fact that so little was done prior to the event.  Milwaukee has lost large numbers of good paying jobs and an adequate transition support for those who lost these jobs was not provided.  The general area around Sherman Park  (I still wish someone in the media would say what they mean by “Sherman Park  area”) has experienced lower and lower household incomes.  The area has become increasingly black.  The newer “globalization” of the economy and older racial segregation have combined for a one two punch.  And I remain angry that there is little I can do about these two major drivers of the outbreak near Sherman Park, only being able to nip around the edges and those who could help have done little.

And then there is happiness—in a perverse way.  I have long anticipated an incident and my expectations have been confirmed.  All of the economic, political, and social factors point to a situation that would only need a catalyst to set off a riotous event.  While the exact time and place were not predictable, an event such as this predictable. Given the time in which we live, that the incident was sparked by police action was somewhat expected. (We still only know that a black man with a gun was shot by the police; the details of the incident are still a week later unclear.) 

In a not so perverse way, this event also brought out and brought together the business, political, law enforcement, religious and foundation community to seek to improve things—if only for a short time and, I fear, not to address the causes. At least we can expect a few things that might improve the lives of the people of the area.

My sadness, anger and happiness remain—and fortunately a little hope.

George Gerharz is the former director of the Social Development Commission in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

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