-Franklin D. Roosevelt
For many years, I have heard an emphasis on the importance of “fighting for the preservation of democracy.” In fact, democracy is, by definition, for the people, by the people. In a democracy, every citizen is on the same level playing field and has access to the same opportunities, regardless of race, color, creed, gender orientation, etc.
Unfortunately, we have been sold a utopian dream, only to wake up in a divided society where some voices are rarely heard. For example, the soon-to-be constructed Milwaukee Bucks arena has been a polarizing issue among public officials and citizens for the past few months. My issue with this plan is two-fold:
- The use of $250 million in taxpayer dollarsMilwaukee is the second poorest city in the nation, yet there is an expectation for residents to cover the arena’s cost. The billionaire owners are more than capable of covering this cost. And, according to a recent Bloomberg report, taxpayers nationwide end up spending $10 billion more on new sports arenas than what is initially forecasted. So Milwaukee taxpayers can expect to spend more on this arena than what has been initially discussed.
- Job GuaranteesMilwaukee has a 57 percent unemployment rate for African-American men. Where does this law guarantee that jobs will be given to those who need them the most?
Given that this has a direct effect on us as taxpayers, there should have been a more democratic process created so that our voices can be heard. This was State Rep. David Bowen’s position when he voted “no” for the Bucks arena and was lambasted for it. The fact that many state lawmakers feel comfortable enough to circumvent the democratic process on a subject that has caused so much divisiveness is disconcerting in itself.
Another aspect of the attack on democracy relates to public education. Many public schools in Milwaukee communities are the polling places for the residents who live in the area. Public school proponents such as School Board Director Mark Sain and former MTEA President Bob Peterson have discussed the possibility that these schools, if privatized, may no longer be voting polls for community members. NAACP President Fred Royal compared this action to the poll tax used 50 years ago to disenfranchise minorities. Like gerrymandering, this is just another form of voter suppression.
It is no coincidence that most of the schools targeted by Republicans and private corporations are in the heart of the black communities. So, not only are you auctioning the future of our children to the highest bidder, but the voices of thousands could potentially be muffled to a mere whisper in a society where the power of the ballot speaks volumes.
How can you expect people to believe in a so-called democracy when it is not democratic? We have fallen into a plutocratic era in which those who don’t meet the financial requirements are expected to sit back and “stay out of grown folks business.” This is why you have tension in cities such as Milwaukee, Ferguson, New York City and Cleveland. There are only so many times you can treat a person as less than a human being before that behavior comes out!
Mahatma Ghandi said, “Civic disobedience becomes a sacred duty when the state becomes lawless and corrupt,” so, until changes are made, expect to see more of these inevitable outbreaks.