All of a sudden, it seems, Madison has discovered race. What a shock for the good citizens of Four Lakes to wake up one morning to the news that this progressive bastion has been tagged as part of the problem, not the solution.
As reported in our cover story this week by Nathan J. Comp, County Executive Joe Parisi is taking notice and launching belated, but better late than never, initiatives to address the multifaceted problem. It's multifaceted because race, education, incarceration, poverty and employment, among other things, are part of the situation.
Madison and Dane County have taken their lumps recently for the state of minorities, especially African Americans, as compared to the majority. A real wake-up call was issued last October by the Wisconsin Council on Children and Families' "Race to Equity" report. It documented the vast gulf in circumstances with a cascade of damning data.
In our pages, Sasha Debevec-McKenney, a young black writer recently arrived in Wisconsin, wrote an opinion piece in issue 16 confirming, in her view, that "Yes, Madison Is a Racist City." The question is, what are we going to do about it?
Parisi's attention to the problems of racial disparity is an effort in the right direction. There seems at last to be some awareness among the school board that real action is needed. At United Way of Dane County, the fourth tenet of their Agenda for Change is being rewritten. Instead of concentrating on violence in the community, the inclination is to address poverty and unemployment. You could see this as attacking the problem rather than the symptom.
The road ahead is long, but may I be forgiven for looking down it with optimism. I think there are enough people of good will in this community to make a difference. The change in attitude should start right now.