|76 percent Madison, Wisconsin: A city where the apocalypse has already happened|
“Someone’s gonna die tonight!” one of the robbers threatened as they entered the room. One of the attackers yanked the male victim from the bed and viciously beat him. According to an Associated Press report, the female victim pleaded that she was pregnant and told the robbers that they could take whatever they wanted.
But another burglar dragged her from the bed and into the hallway, pointed a gun at her stomach and grunted, “You’re going to die tonight.” She then had to allegedly endure all three men raping her, with one forcing her to commit oral sex during the attack.
The suspects stole electronics, credit cards and their wedding rings while they stuffed the bloodied couple in the house laundry room before fleeing the scene.“In my 27-plus years of policing in Madison, this is probably one of the most disturbing and heinous crimes I have ever seen,” interim Madison police Chief Randy Gaber said in a press conference announcing the arrest of all six involved in the crime on Monday.
Some of Dane County’s troubling problems with inequality in the criminal justice system could be offset by new initiatives to funnel more African-American suspects into special courts aimed at rehabilitation, officials say.
“Community courts” would take 17- to 25-year-olds from neighborhoods with high concentrations of racial minorities and place them in a restorative justice program where they can make amends for minor offenses without getting criminal records that would hurt them when looking for jobs and housing.
Meanwhile, the county’s drug court is looking to broaden access in an effort to include more racial minorities in the program in addition to the young whites who currently take almost all the openings.
The program allows drug offenders to be monitored through rehab programs instead of being locked up.
“The real key would be not giving somebody a free pass by any means,” said Dane County District Attorney Ismael Ozanne. “These would not be easy resolutions.”
he report by the Center for Effective Public Policy in Silver Spring, Md., urges officials to use objective assessment tools to make decisions about criminal suspects, and to improve computer systems so data can be extracted that will increase understanding of why so many minorities are arrested and prosecuted.
More than 40 percent of county jail inmates are black, but only 6 percent of the overall population is. In 2007, a black resident in Dane County was 97 times more likely to be incarcerated for a drug crime than a white resident — the widest racial disparity for that measure in the nation. And whites who are arrested have been much more likely to win admission to deferred prosecution programs that give people a second chance.
A community court for young men from minority neighborhoods could start with a pilot program in about a year if the County Board approves a $100,000 budget amendment proposed by board member Shelia Stubbs and if neighborhood leaders embrace the idea, Ozanne said.
It would be modeled after teen courts in high schools, Ozanne said. Instead of a judge and jury, respected local leaders — possibly a pastor or a neighborhood center director — would be in charge and the young person who was arrested for a minor charge would pay restitution and possibly perform a community service in exchange for court charges being dropped.
“The idea is to help them get through some of the bumps without a criminal history,” Ozanne said.
Second, we have to acknowledge white privilege: We white folk pretty much get to set the rules in Madison and establish the mainstream social norms and terms of debate.
David Foster Wallace told this story in a famous commencement speech: “There are these two young fish swimming along and they happen to meet an older fish swimming the other way, who nods at them and says ‘Morning, boys. How's the water?’ And the two young fish swim on for a bit, and then eventually one of them looks over at the other and goes, ‘What the hell is water?’"
We are all swimming in the water of white privilege. We white folk get to swim with the current. We also get to wonder why the people of color we see going in the other direction don’t swim faster.
Madison will never get a handle on its quality of life issues until it gets over its race guilt. That is some of the baggage that comes with professing the progressive faith. It results in its own kind of racism, the soft racism of low expectations, of excusing the inexcusable, of double standards that hurt both victim and aggressor.
A 10-year-old boy was mugged by a man who jumped out of a car, took the boy’s iPhone, and got back into the car driven by an accomplice. This occurred in the middle of the afternoon of Monday, July 23, near the intersection of Hammersley Road and Whitney Way on the city’s southwest side.
The Capital Newspapers report included a description of the two assailants, including age, height, hair style, tattoos, facial hair, gender, and race. The assailants were identified as members of a minority race.
When that report was shared with neighbors, the new president of the Meadowood neighborhood, Krista Ralston, objected:
It’s always better to be well informed and search for open-minded, holistic solutions than to simply complain, or jump to disturbing, unproductive and fear-mongering conclusions about perceived problems in our community. Obviously it is important to be aware of criminal behavior in our neighborhoods and take all necessary precautions, but let’s not over-blow the “problem.” [Her quotation marks]
Unfortunately crime happens, but...
Do you hear that? The “perceived problem.” If we can’t admit that there is a problem, how can we solve it?
Yes, let’s not “over-blow” the “problem.” But what about under-blowing the problem? If it was one stolen cell phone, she might have a point. Police Chief Noble Wray came to this part of town in 2009 to hold a press conference begging residents to stop the shooting. A week or two later, a 17-year-old kid was popped. On June 28 of this year, 75 residents of the Betty’s Lane/Theresa Terrace area of west Hammersley Road went at it with fists, rakes, rocks, brass knuckles, and other weapons. To the melee, 24 police and three ambulances responded. (The police report.) Hey, “crime happens.”
Go take a walk in the South Side of Chicago to see a future of Madison, Wisconsin if the waters of white privilege are allowed to be drained, ushering in a community where blackness reigns... large parts of Milwaukee are already there.