I have been reading the written hypotheses of several people, who appear to have solid credentials, extolling the problems as they see those in the Sherman Park area of Milwaukee. Those appear in the morning Sunday Journal Sentinel and each is most probably under 500 words.
Among the most riveting were the statements made by the father of Sylville Smith, the young man who was shot and killed by police when he drew down on them during the riots in that area of Milwaukee. His father recognized, too late, unfortunately, that him being in prison and jail, repeatedly, was doing his son no good in the process of becoming a young man. In this case, the father admitted that he was a bad role model since he was on the street dealing drugs, pimping and ‘entertaining’ whatever that term means in the ‘hood’. His son emulated his father, whether knowingly or instinctively, and is now dead. Unfortunately, the son, in death, is serving as the rallying cause for further disruption by many in the Sherman Park area.
Multiply this story by a hundred or a thousand and you find the thread of truth in his death too often revealed only after it is too late for one or more people. Ashanti Hamilton, President of the Milwaukee Common Council, in his piece titled “A call to action for the Milwaukee community”, hits on multiple points that he contends will help in curing the disease that has overrun many inner cities across our country. Those points include “organizing broader coalitions of people and resources to address the underlying causes of violence and lawlessness” and replacing the “police presence with community policing strategy that creates a partnership based on mutual understanding, trust and respect between people in the neighborhoods and our police department”. He says “we must improve access to jobs, job readiness training, education and community resources that help create stable families and neighborhoods”. Hamilton went on at some length to lay out what he believes will be necessary to bring an end to this lawlessness. The list is lengthy and sounds like it consists of things we’ve heard before, several times before. He finishes by telling readers that the Common Council, of which he is president, plans to show the community what this could look like, and says “we’re not just making the call to action, we’re ready to do our part.” We have heard all this before; maybe he can help to make it a reality but the odds are weighted heavily against his success.
I applaud Hamilton and pray that he will be able to lead the Council through this maze of initiatives, find the funding and implement positive programs leading to the necessary change. How much chance does this initiative have in reality? In my opinion, based on past such initiatives, there is very little chance of Hamilton succeeding, at least to the point of realizing major positive changes in the neighborhood.
This part of Milwaukee, once a beautiful residential neighborhood, has become a classic ghetto with all the bad stuff that word connotes. Drugs, prostitution, auto theft, robberies, burglaries, killings, arsons, beatings and taunting of police officers seemingly trying to goad them into behaving badly for the cameras. There are fewer and fewer effective functioning families left in this area. Many fathers have been arrested and are incarcerated; mothers turn to prostitution to keep food on the table; young men and women are heavy into gangs rather than school and essentially have sealed the deal that they have virtually no future other than addiction, crime and prospective early death. There are some faith-based bright spots but those seem too few and too far between.
I fear this will be a generational change if it occurs and, thus, will require decades to really affect change. The essence of the problem is this: generations are succumbing to the current environment and making things worse rather than better. These young men and women know nothing else and see no alternatives other than to become part of the toughest gang around. And the devolution of society in this chunk of the world continues to carry many lives swirling down the drain of life.
Milwaukeeans, in the inner city, seem powerless to change the direction and velocity of the changes visited upon them. I suspect that tipping points have long ago been reached. How do you go about uncracking an egg? How do you go about erasing criminal ‘careers’ that rob families of fathers? Milwaukee seems to be heading into the storm rather than away from the storm. Unless the Common Council can wave a magic wand, this is not the last of these kinds of conflagrations we’ll be seeing, and the road ahead appears bleak…and tragic.
Tying the hands of police officers is not the solution. Those brave souls are doing their very best in a very bad situation. Tough love seems maybe the only workable tool and elected/appointed officials hate having to make those calls. Prayer is definitely called for and we have to trust that the Lord is working throughout all this apparent disarray…even if we cannot fathom that. Faith is required.