What you should think about before tweeting about the Milwaukee riots

Having lived in one of the most diverse neighborhoods in Milwaukee for the most recent 6 years of my life, I was not surprised when I woke up yesterday morning (in a different city, in a different country) to the news of riots in Milwaukee. I was not surprised when the world took to social media to condemn the actions of the rioters, especially given the current worldwide trend towards conservatism. But as a transplant first from New Jersey to Milwaukee in 2010 and most recently from Milwaukee to Germany in May, I was surprised by the stream of vitriol from my personal social media network outside of Milwaukee.

Every time I read something new I forgot that they didn’t live in Milwaukee — that they didn’t know Milwaukee and the unique set of conditions that led to this moment. In my head — I kept thinking “Don’t they know about mass incarceration in Wisconsin?” or “Haven’t they read about the gutting of the public school system in Milwaukee?”. So I sat paralyzed in my place of extreme privilege worrying about writing something that would divert attention from voices that needed to be heard.

So in an effort to amplify others’ voices rather than provide my own, here are a list of resources I think everyone should think about before making a statement on the state of Milwaukee:

  1. Milwaukee is one of the worst places in the United States to live as a black person.
  2. Milwaukee is among the most segregated cities in a fairly segregated nation. When you include the metropolitan areas surrounding Milwaukee, it is the most segregated city in the nation.
  3. Racial tension in Milwaukee has been building for decades.
  4. Milwaukee is no stranger to police brutality. Long before the recent spate of highly publicized incidents including Dontre Hamilton, Milwaukee was acquitting police officers for torture.
  5. More people, including two aldermen, showed up to clean up after the riots on Saturday night than to the riots themselves.
  6. Martin Luther King Jr. — On riots in his speech called “The Other America”.

Full disclaimer: As a white female citizen of the United States, I am privileged. Privilege allows me to write this. It allows me to use the riots in Milwaukee as a weeding mechanism for my Facebook based on the number of times my friends use the word “thug” in an ill-informed statement about a place that I love. I try to interrogate my privilege regularly, but the very fact that I am privileged allows me to do so. Then came a moment when I realized that my likely insignificant contribution to a social media discussion isn’t a zero-sum game, my writing something doesn’t preclude me from sharing the voices of others. So I am writing this from my place of privilege and I apologize if I say the wrong thing in the wrong way.