Dr. Robert S. Smith, Harry G. John Professor of History and the director of the Center for Urban Research, Teaching & Outreach at Marquette University, challenges Milwaukee residents to read the Milwaukee Blueprint for Peace, calling it “informative” and “concise.”
Let’s make the goal of this piece clear up front. I dare you to read the Milwaukee Blueprint for Peace! Matter of fact, I double-dog dare you. (I hope that phrase isn’t offensive now.)
Trust me Family, as a so-called academic I know how hard it is to read through policy reports and other wonky documents. One of the reasons so many bills in state legislatures and Congress slide through with disastrous provisions is simply because nobody wants to read all that junk; except the overly ambitious intern who probably does a cursory skim at best.
The Office of Violence Prevention though deserves a shout-out for the Milwaukee Blueprint for Peace. It’s deeply informative, while also digestible and concise. It was informed by an exhaustive number of community experts leaning in to address a vexing problem, but does not absolve government of its roles and responsibilities. And, most importantly, it calls for a re-imagination of how to address the myriad forms of violence that weaken our families and communities, while also acknowledging how massive a job the Office of Violence Prevention is called upon to do.
Many of us are going to say, “I know that information already…” Maybe. Others of us won’t even bother making the false promise. Much appreciated. Nonetheless, here are three reasons why we each should take a few minutes and read or reread “The Blueprint.”
#1 – The Blueprint Educates
The Blueprint synthesizes and contextualizes data and information that explains – indeed complicates – our collective understanding of violence. The Blueprint defines and highlights the collective toll exacted by gun and gang violence, domestic violence, sexual violence, child abuse, drug-related violence, self-inflicted violence and structural violence. For many, the inclusion of structural violence alongside the other types is a welcomed, albeit longstanding, critique of our broader society.
Because structural violence “refers to harm that individuals, families and communities experience from economic and social structures.” The Blueprint is therefore implicating the very structure of government in which the Office of Violence Prevention rests. More so, The Blueprint states that “structural violence in Milwaukee includes institutional racism and other forms of oppression such as sexism and classism.” Props!
This more sophisticated understanding is profoundly important because the path to a healthier, less violent city requires the appropriate redress of issues that go well beyond demanding young people behave better or administering token reforms within the criminal justice apparatus. Explaining these disparate forms of violence as part of a larger social exhibition confirms this as a vast American problem and public health crisis. Few will disagree that “The injury, pain, and trauma that results from violence can severely impact the physical and mental well-being and sense of worth and safety of individuals and communities.” For those living in poverty, they know all too well that “Poverty is traumatic. Segregation is traumatic. Experiencing life as a ‘have not’ among ‘haves’ is traumatic.” The Blueprint outlines the depth of violence we experience in our lives, both seen and unseen, immediate and gradual, personal and structural.
#2 – Cross-Sector Implementation is the Only Way
No singular office or agency can address this hydra. Police forces have failed to significantly reduce violence despite the criminalization of masses of people and despite full scale militarization. Government has failed to undo patterns of structural violence, and will continue to double down on the practices that propel structural violence given its never-ending appetite for capital.
A defining value of The Blueprint is its commitment to mobilizing existing strategies while making space for emerging alliances and creative ideas to thrive. In this respect, The Blueprint maximizes the knowledge housed at the grassroots level, calling on the vast array of more imaginative community reservoirs. This approach allows it to be “a living guide that can be responsive and updated as issues, priorities, and effective ideas emerge.” The Blueprint also focuses its implementation efforts on priority neighborhoods, improving the likelihood of an impact.
#3 – Immediate Involvement
You can click here and join the effort. The OVP leadership team has and will remain open to collaborators, and we can each take part in the community programs and events currently underway. We can each make the decision to take part right now, in whatever ways we can contribute to the solution development process.
Look Fam’, our nation is deeply committed to violence. It is a defining narrative in the American experience beginning with examples like chattel slavery and even with our celebration of the American Revolution. Indeed, our nation’s commitment to violence is put on display every weekend throughout the fall and winter. So, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday as we boldly celebrate that bloodlust, it is possible for those truly interested, “…to join together to meet this moment of urgency and opportunity to make Milwaukee one of the safest cities in the country,” because we can read The Blueprint.