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The NBA playoffs have brought a lot of national attention to Milwaukee. Most of the attention has been well-received. I mean who doesn’t want to be recognized for having one of the most dominant NBA teams?
However, when ESPN’s “First Take” crew was discussing playoff basketball and potential visits to the remaining contenders’ cities, we received some not-so-loving attention. They said they don’t want to visit “terrible” cities, including Milwaukee.
Since then, Milwaukeeans flooded social media to share their feelings. For a few days, it was hard to go on any social media platform without seeing someone post a response. I initially shared in this outrage, but I’ve had some time to reflect.
Let me start by sharing — I love Milwaukee. Milwaukee is and forever will be my home. Legend has it, I was born on April 14 as a testament to my love for the 414. The Allen-Bradley Clock Tower served as my timekeeper for most of my childhood. I’ve been to more tailgates at Miller Park (yes, MILLER PARK) than Sunday services, and I’m pretty sure my first words were probably “Bucks in 6.”
So hearing people talk bad about my city stung. It felt like a mosquito bite — a sting that wasn’t painful initially but has resulted in an itch that I haven’t been able to scratch away.
It’s something other Milwaukeeans haven’t been able to scratch away either. Many have responded to these “terrible city” comments with high-quality images of places like the Milwaukee Art Museum, lakefront and Hoan Bridge, as if to say we cannot be “terrible” if we have such beautiful places. Don’t get me wrong, we should always celebrate the beauty of our city, but we need to recognize (and do something about) the important reality that Milwaukee has a “terrible” side.
These beautiful images do not negate the fact that we are still one of the most segregated cities in America. We are ranked one of the worst places for men of color to live, and we have one of the highest infant mortality rates in the country . . . and don’t get me started on all these damn potholes! It’s fine for some to say we have a beautiful city, but we must recognize that the quality of life for many people who live in our city is, in fact, “terrible.”
Also many of the people that are the most offended by the idea of Milwaukee being “terrible” have a phobia of crossing the 16th Street Viaduct. Milwaukee is more than downtown. If you care about Milwaukee, you need to care about the Amani and Clarke Square neighborhoods the same way you care about the lakefront.
DONT CLAIM MILWAUKEE IF YOU DONT LOVE ALL OF MILWAUKEE!!!
Despite our challenges, I want to share some of what I find truly beautiful in my resilient city. We have neighborhoods that are engaging residents in reclaiming their streets. New, locally owned businesses are popping up. Artists are using their medium to tell the stories of the communities and organizations that are changing the lives of people in our city.
Let’s channel that anger and frustration we felt about our city being called “terrible” and use it to continue moving Milwaukee forward.
Francisco “Pancho” Sanchez is a lifelong Milwaukeean and community school coordinator at South Division High School.