It would be easy to dismiss Representative Frank Lasee’s letter alleging widespread hallway sex among Brown Deer’s black students as simple nonsense. He is well known for bizarre ideas like arming principals and teachers to prevent school shootings.
But it would be a serious mistake to dismiss this letter as publicity seeking or nutty.
Mr. Lasee’s screed is the ugly tip of a racist Republican iceberg that demonizes the city of Milwaukee and its minority residents.
Lasee allegations, without any evidence except a crank letter, is an insult to Brown Deer's African American students, their parents and teachers for it implies they condone such behavior. It could only have been penned by someone who believes that our urban communities are dangerous places inhabited by immoral people.
Lasee comes from Green Bay where 38% of the public school students are now children of color, primarily Hmong and Latino children.
The New North initiative, an ambitious, regional economic development initiative, has embraced this growing diversity as a competitive, regional asset. It has even established the People, Possibilities and Progress Diversity Award "...intended to recognize and support New North businesses and organizations that embrace and celebrate diversity."
But, not Representative Lasee.
His response to Green Bay’s growing immigrant population was to craft legislation aimed at discouraging immigrant workers from coming to the New North despite the area’s aging population and worker shortage.
Rather than lead his community in adjusting to workforce and demographic changes, Lasee promoted a stereotype of immigrant workers on the dole. His efforts helped fuel anti-immigrant attitudes in Green Bay that culminated in the city’s notoriously restrictive anti-immigrant law.
It’s amazing that politicians like Lasee who claim to want to improve the business climate continue to promote anti-worker, anti-business legislation!
But are the sentiments underlying Lasee’s charges very different from the daily diatribes against Milwaukee's black community heard on local talk radio?
Mark Belling, mouthpiece for suburban conservatives (whatever happened for to standing up for Milwaukee?) and the right, right wing of the Republican Party routinely questions the morality of Milwaukee’s black residents, most of whom are hard working people trapped in low paying jobs and impoverished neighborhoods.
He and his counterpart at WTMJ, marching in lockstep with the national Republican Party, have waged a reckless campaign against the largely mythical boogie man of black voter fraud while ignoring their own party’s efforts, which may have been orchestrated from inside the White House, to suppress the votes of eligible voters, particularly black voters, from Florida to New Hampshire.
Closer to home, Republican leader Senator Glen Grothman (R-West Bend) was a participant in September’s Cedarburg Village Board meeting where the Milwaukee Area Technical College district board was ridiculed for have a majority of minority members (6 of 8).
Senator Grothman, elected to the Senate with Belling’s help, has distinguished himself as a opponent of racial justice. Not only did he oppose making Dr. Martin Luther King’s birthday a holiday, but more recently led legislative hearings aimed at dismantling affirmative action policies designed to increase the participation of Wisconsin’s racial minorities and women in jobs and schools where they have been excluded..
Milwaukee has had the nation’s worst black white unemployment ratio for 25 years. Unemployment and poverty rates in Milwaukee and Racine rival those of the Great Depression. Rather than calling for a New Deal for our poorest citizens in our poorest communities, Grothman, Lasee and Belling demonize them.
And who could forget Governor Thompson famous promise “to stick it to Milwaukee.”
Wisconsin’s Republican Party has come a long way from its anti-slavery roots.
Lasee’s letter reflects a decline into racial politics that would have made George Wallace and Bull Conner proud-a vision that is more old south, than new north!