Project Milwaukee: Segregation Matters

For years, the Milwaukee metro area has had a reputation as one of the most segregated in the United States.

How did this complex problem come about, and why does it endure? How does it contribute to persistent poverty? Are there ways to break through the boundaries?

WUWM seeks answers to those questions in our Project Milwaukee: Segregation Matters series.

Help shape this series. What questions do you have about segregation? Submit your responses below.

_

Courtesy of The Milwaukee Journal

Segregation in metro Milwaukee can be traced back, in part, to discriminatory housing practices like redlining and racial restrictive covenants. During the Civil Rights movement, there was large-scale pushback against such practices.

What can I do to help decrease segregation? What is being done to alleviate the problem? What can we do to change how segregated metro Milwaukee is?

During WUWM's series, Project Milwaukee: Segregation Matters, the most common questions we received from YOU regarding segregation dealt with solutions.

Solving this issue will not be easy. However, several ways to help reduce segregation in metro Milwaukee did emerge during our coverage.

ART MONTES

It can be uncomfortable to discuss race relations. Discussions may be particularly minimal, in a region as segregated as metro Milwaukee. The group Ex Fabula relies on storytelling to make inroads. It invites its fellows to share personal tales about prejudice and misunderstandings.

A Milwaukee Judge's Perspective on Segregation

Mar 10, 2017
Andy Dean / Fotolia

Merriam-Webster defines the word “segregate” in two ways: “to separate or set apart from others or from the general mass,” and “to cause or force the separation of (as from the rest of society).” It defines “segregation” as the act of segregating; it gives a secondary definition of “segregation” as “the separation or isolation of a race, class or ethnic group by enforced of voluntary residence in a restricted area . . . .”

Susan Bence

WUWM has been taking a comprehensive look at some of the many issues caused by segregation in Milwaukee through our series, ​Project Milwaukee: Segregation MattersBetween reports on WUWM news and interviews on Lake Effect, we have looked at how segregation can be quantified, how it's perpetuated, and its costs and effects on the community.

Pat Rabinson

Milwaukee Water Commons was created four years ago to educate the community about water - its rivers, streams and Lake Michigan - to cultivate informed stewards.

“I came from a more traditional environmental effort, which was the Milwaukee River Greenway Coalition – working to make the river more beautiful, more accessible. There was already a ton of passion around that issue, but it was by and large a middle class and white group of people,” founder Ann Brummitt says.

David Flowers

Milwaukee native Davita Flowers-Shanklin brings a unique experience to the discussion of segregation, and its ripple effects.

“I remember being in high school and being really into science and biology. I was the co-director of Camp Everytown, which is a diversity camp for teenagers," Flowers-Shanklin says. "So my work even as a teenager was around anti-oppression."

Michelle Maternowski

Segregation comes with borders, whether they are manmade - 124th Street, the dividing line between Milwaukee and Waukesha counties, or natural - the Milwaukee River. Today, WUWM reports on one particular border, and how some people feel about crossing it.

Metro Milwaukee has a segregation problem. It's an issue prominently on display within area schools.

Some say, school segregation in Milwaukee as bad today as it was 60 years ago, at the height of the Civil Rights era.

How did we get here? Let’s take a look back...

Jim Moy for Sixteenth Street Community Health Centers

Segregation can impact a person's body, mind and health. Not everyone has the same opportunity to be healthy in a city like Milwaukee.

Dr. Julie Schuller says the lack of access to quality healthcare and environmental factors inhibit segregated African-American and Latino populations from living healthy lifestyles.

Courtesy of UWM, David Pate

The road to modern segregation has been a long one. "There's been 350 years of segregation in our country that was perpetuated by the government as well as by the social norms, based on race in particular," says David Pate

Pate studies the complex causes, effects and potential solutions of segregation in his role as an associate professor of social work at the Helen Bader School of Social Welfare at UW-Milwaukee. He says that after centuries of segregation, it's become normalized.  

Michelle Maternowski

It’s widely understood that Milwaukee is a segregated metropolitan area. But what’s less-appreciated is how segregation connects to other social issues the area faces.

Soon-to-be-released research by UW-Milwaukee professor Marc Levine links segregation to a key factor that overlays it – poverty. Levine is the director of UWM’s Center for Economic Development.

Courtesy of Milwaukee Public Library

Poverty is entrenched in some of Milwaukee's mainly black neighborhoods. People studying the issue say financial struggles piled up as employers left. So they say change only will come when more people are put to work, in family-supporting jobs.

Decades of racist policies and attitudes have led to entrenched segregation in metro Milwaukee. African-Americans remain concentrated in the city, including in its poorest neighborhoods.

Susan Bence / Milwaukee Public Radio

Segregation impacts many different areas of our lives in metro Milwaukee. One that may not be top of mind is its connection to environmental health and justice. WUWM found an intricate tapestry of challenge and hope -- starting with Antoine Carter.

His childhood started on East Chambers in Milwaukee.

“I remember drugs and gangs and outdoor football and people getting jumped and all sorts of stuff. Just living in this area in the 1990s, I was a little too young to understand everything that was going on, but I still could see that things weren’t right,” Carter says.

Joseph Ellwanger

For clergyman Joseph Ellwanger, the battle to end racial injustices across the U.S. involved overseeing the desegregation of the pews of his church.

Ellwanger is pastor emeritus of the Cross Lutheran Church in Milwaukee. During his stewardship, from 1967 to 2001, Cross Lutheran evolved from a predominately white congregation to an integrated one.

Pages