By Mrinal Gokhale
Police brutality has been controversial in the United States during the past year. The United Nations Working Group of Experts visited the United State in January 2016, releasing a statement about the excessive use of lethal force by law enforcement officials as well as the oppression against people of African descent.
The League of Women Voters of Milwaukee County hosted A Conversation on Matters of Race to discuss this report on Sat. April 16 at the Washington Park Library.
“The report was disheartening because it shows that the system that supported slavery is the same one supporting structural racism in public education,” said Ylonda Glover, founder of TriSuccess Management Institute and owner of YlondaDee, LLC. “Black and brown people aren’t treated too differently now than in the past.” Lois Quinn, senior scientist at the UW Milwaukee Employment and Training Institute, discussed the disparity in the criminal justice system in Wisconsin. She said that she was asked by the NAACP to look at statewide statistics when it comes to incarceration.
“This was the most disturbing research in Milwaukee I’ve done,” she said. “Nearly half of young black men in their thirties living in Milwaukee are serving time in state prisons, or have previously served time in state prisons.”
Furthermore, she said almost a quarter of young black men in their twenties are on their way to getting locked up. Senator Lena Taylor attended, and mentioned Wisconsin’s Ban the Box legislation, which pushes for employers to avoid asking applicants about criminal histories on job applications. She said the box has been banned on a state level so far, but there’s still work to be done.
“The box isn’t banned on a school board level, meaning that if parents want to volunteer at their kid’s school, they can’t if they have a felony,” she began.
She also deemed it important to help people once they’re out of the criminal justice system. “We have one of a few jails in the nation that has a job center.
We have to make the pipeline functional for those coming back in by helping them get housing, jobs and skills.”
In between the speakers, attendees were allowed to ask questions and make comments. One woman introduced herself by saying she worked for University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee’s Children’s Environmental Health Sciences Core Center. She was very familiar with the dangers of lead contamination, and said Wisconsin’s water was more contaminated with lead than Michigan.
“This is a public health issue and we must look at the root cause. I study what happens when people are lead poisoned, and nothing is done. It alters brain patterns and causes certain behaviors like aggression, particularly with the African American male.”
Paru Shah, a political science professor at University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, also felt it’s a public health issue, and she feels the voter ID law that passed in Wisconsin is detrimental.
“This report is about public health and education. People who vote must have resources like jobs and an education,” she began.
“Voter ID law is the most recent way to disenfranchise groups under the rubric of fraud. Reports show there is a low likelihood of people committing fraud when voting, and this law has decreased the minority vote five to ten percent.” The discussion ended at 12:30 p.m. and the moderator announced that they hope to meet again in May.