I am approaching my second anniversary as a Milwaukee resident. All in all, I have been extremely happy here. I love my neighborhood and the pedestrian lifestyle I am able to lead. I love the never ending supply of bars, restaurants, festivals, and other events. I love living near the lake–even though I’m not sure […]
I am approaching my second anniversary as a Milwaukee resident. All in all, I have been extremely happy here. I love my neighborhood and the pedestrian lifestyle I am able to lead. I love the never ending supply of bars, restaurants, festivals, and other events. I love living near the lake–even though I’m not sure I should swim in it, so I don’t. In fact, between the sports, the arts, the parks, and all the rest, I could not ask for much more.
Yet, there are things that really trouble me. Milwaukee is clearly a divided place, with areas of great wealth but even greater poverty. These divisions are often marked by geography as well as race and ethnicity. Every day, I read the paper and usually watch a bit of the local news. Every day, I am reminded that Milwaukee, despite many great things, is also a struggling city.
To be honest, I’ve never lived in a place with such dramatic segregation. I’ve lived most of my life near one or more major universities and I’ve spent more than a decade working in higher education. My experience has been that universities promote diversity, often bringing in students, faculty and staff from all over the US and even the world. That richness is one of the things I really enjoy about working in higher education.
While UWM is certainly diverse and Milwaukee is very diverse, it seems to lack integration and it definitely lacks equality with respect to education, housing, and other resources. I’ve wondered why Milwaukee seems different from other “college towns” where I’ve lived. I think my question contains the answer. Milwaukee isn’t exactly a college town; it’s a city with many colleges and universities. The east side feels a bit like a college town, but only represents one aspect of Milwaukee.
Milwaukee, like many other cities, struggles with things related to poverty—crime, equal access to quality health care and education, and the continual reduction of funding for many important social programs. The current political climate will only make things worse for many people. For a place with so much, and a place I really like, it’s tough to watch things going in the wrong direction.
Despite the current politics, I am hopeful here. I have seen a lot of grass roots activity and I think the power of people, not just the power of some people, can push back enough to make a difference.
I plan to be here when that happens.