African Americans are a unique community in Milwaukee County.
We are a large part of the County’s population, yet we face problems that are distinct to the community. Quality of life indicators are a reflection of a community in crisis, a community that has not kept up with the rest of the County in jobs, a community afflicted by violence, and a community where health disparities are the norm.
With the largest concentration of African Americans in the state – 27 percent of Milwaukee County’s population is African American – the fact is that Milwaukee County is just not a good place for African Americans to live and work.
We have been isolated by segregation, we have been hampered by racism, and we have been imprisoned by injustice.
It’s something we need to change – now.
That is why I proposed an Office on African American Affairs, and that is why I am grateful to my colleagues on the County Board for passing the resolution creating the office. Although I had hoped for an independent office, it has been placed under the auspices of the office of the County Executive. That is the reality, but I am confident that this placement will not impede our ability to make progress.
This is not a time for political grandstanding. It is a time for action, and the Office on African American Affairs reflects a step toward delivering on the promise of the American Dream for all Milwaukee County residents.
For too long we have listened to platitudes about helping African Americans in Milwaukee County, but the time for mere talk is over.
It is no longer enough for our leaders, especially elected officials, to simply re-state the problems and make idle promises. It is time that we actually begin to aggressively concentrate our efforts to address these issues and actually do something about them.
The creation of a Milwaukee County Office on African American Affairs includes as its objectives: the examination and definition of issues central to the rights and needs of African Americans; recommendations for changes in programs and laws that disproportionately impact African Americans; development and implementation of policies, plans, and programs related to the special needs of African Americans; and promotion of equal opportunities for African Americans.
What will the Office on African American Affairs do?
Not only will it identify the problems of African Americans, it will look at the roots of those problems and seek solutions. Once those solutions have been identified, we can aggressively work toward their implementation.
The Office will provide on-going guidance to public officials so that they can act proactively to address problems that specifically affect African Americans.
The Office on African American Affairs is not a panacea. There are some deeply ingrained problems in the community – not the least of which are racism and segregation – that contribute to what has become a community headed for catastrophe, if it has not already arrived at that point. No office or commission can eliminate racial prejudice or economic injustice.
But the Office on African American Affairs will generate and will continue the discussion of the state of African Americans in Milwaukee County. It will lead to answers.
It is solutions that we need, not talk. The Office on African American Affairs will help bring about those solutions.
It will be up to us as a community to implement them.