Friday, August 28th
Citizen Action of Wisconsin stands in solidarity with the family and friends of Jacob Blake, tens of thousands of protesters across the country fighting for racial justice and every person who loves humanity, in demanding that the officers involved in his shooting be brought to justice and meaningful actions against structural racism are immediately taken at the state, local and national levels.
We very much need the officer who shot Jacob Blake, and other officers who stood by and watched, to be prosecuted quickly. Before we can even begin to heal, justice must be brought to the police officers involved in this racist shooting and anyone else who tries to cover it up.
But the healing cannot stop there, because what happened to Jacob Blake, and all the other victims of publicly sanctioned racist violence, is ultimately caused not by a few bad apples, but the structural racism that is at the very core of the American criminal justice and policing system. The system of mass incarceration grew out of the backlash against the civil rights and black power movements of the 1960s and has made the U.S, the most incarcerated and over-policed country in the history of the free world. Only a massive shift in resources away from the publicly funded oppression of Black people, poor people, and all communities of color can begin to reverse structural racism. Ultimately structural racism cannot be addressed unless we deal with the unequal political power communities of color have in American society as a direct result of economic marginalization and inequality.
There is much that needs to be done in Wisconsin. Wisconsin’s racial inequality is among the worst in the nation, including the highest disparity in incarceration rates between African American men and whites. In July 2020, a new report from the UWM Center on Economic Development ranks Milwaukee as the worst major city in the country for African American wellness, which includes a series of 30 health and economic measures.
While we commend Governor Tony Evers for calling a special session of the Legislature and proposing some interim steps towards police reform, we urge the Governor to go further in addressing the root causes of structural racism and biased policing. We would like to see the Governor introduce his own major package of reforms up to the scale of the problem, including:
“First, let me send peace and blessing to Jacob Blake and his family. No one should have to go through what y’all did yesterday. I hope justice will be done,” said Rafael Smith, Climate and Equity Director for Citizen Action of Wisconsin. “Unfortunately, what happened in Kenosha is as American as apple pie. The killing of Black and Brown people by the state and it’s racist vigilantes has been a permanent feature of our democracy. It is in our national DNA. As a proud Black man, I am tired of all the talk and demand real, substantial policies that will lead to the free abolishment of these racist systems.”
“Our words are no longer enough. Our actions and deeds are how history will judge us in this moment,” said JoAnna Bautch, Movement Politics Director for Citizen Action of Wisconsin. “Be sure you can say you did all you could to make sure this never happens again.”
“It is hard for us to believe that anyone other than a police officer would be able to avoid immediate arrest when such damning video evidence of a crime is available,” said Robert Kraig, Executive Director of Citizen Action of Wisconsin. “Jacob Blake should be with his family today, not fighting for his life in an intensive care unit, and prosecuting officers for his shooting is the start, not to the attainment of justice.”
Citizen Action of Wisconsin Executive Director Robert Kraig released the following statement on the arrest of the white supremacist militia member who murdered two Black Lives Matter protesters and injured a third in Kenosha, and law enforcement’s apparent lax response to him before and after he shot his victims. See Citizen Action’s statement Monday here.
As a white and gay man, I am struggling like many of you to figure out what I can best do to support our African American friends and neighbors in this horrific moment. I did not make a new statement yesterday because I am trying, as many of you are, to gather my thoughts and listen to the people of color leaders within Citizen Action, my network, and in the media. In the eloquent statements and actions of so many Black Americans, from Marquette alum Doc Rivers, the professional sports strike begun by our own Milwaukee Bucks, Jacob Blake’s parents, scholars such as Princeton’s Eddie Glaude, and so many across the land, they are pleading for all of us to do more. If we are not Black Americans we can never fully understand the depths of their feelings, but we can listen with an open heart and act on their moral appeals.
I believe that each and every person with love in their hearts must look into their souls and decide what they can do to immediately interrupt and begin to unwind systemic racism. If we are being honest with ourselves, most of us, myself included, are not doing enough. Merely sympathizing or signalling that you are on the right side is inadequate. Merely voting for the better candidates is not enough. The scary thing is that despite the progress against overt Jim Crow racism since the 1960s, we seem to be reliving the same pattern of events which led to its re-imposition by other means. The depressing pattern is all too familiar:
Taking real and appropriate action is hard in real time, it is only easy from the safety of history. It is too painless now to signal support for Black Americans today by identifying with liberation movements and their heroic leaders of the past. But the truth is that the bloody march over the Edmund Pettus Bridge or the 6th Street Viaduct, the Mason-Dixon line of Milwaukee in the 1960s, would not have been necessary if all people of conscience had stepped forward to make the hard and costly decisions required of them. Martin Luther King made an eloquent statement on this theme in his justly famous Letter from the Birmingham Jail.
The ugly truth is that the people just like us in the past did not act because there were costs. Elected leaders could lose votes, organizational leaders could risk their positions, corporate leaders fear a lose of customers or standing with their peers, and average people worry about offending friends, neighbors, and family members, or losing privileges. It is cost free to stand with MLK and John Lewis now, it is not so to really and truly stand with Blacks Lives Matter.
While empathy and individual efforts to increase racial consciousness are useful enterprises, a much deeper and more challenging level of commitment is called for by the leaders of modern Black liberation. In fact, far too many corporations and elected officials are embracing opposition to structural racism and giving symbolic support to Black Lives Matter and yet at the same time draining these terms of their actual content, as if saying the words or putting them on a sign or a website is enough. The same has been done to Martin Luther King, who fought and died for true economic equality, not merely the technical right to vote or a mythical “colorblind” society that has never existed. For the real MLK, people with vastly unequal economic means could never have the power to be truly free. One of the reasons white people are not slaughtered on suburban streets by their own police is both race and the economic power they have to fight back.
The most compelling African American thought leaders I have read on the subject, Michelle Alexander’s penetratingly eloquent The New Jim Crow and Ibram X. Kendi’s brilliant pair of books Stamped from the Beginning and How to Be an Antiracist, call for every moral person to use their power to disrupt and unwind structural racism. For Kendi, you can’t meet his definition of antiracist without both recognizing the deep racism in our society and in each of us, and taking effective action to replace racist structures. For him the defining mark of antracism is effective deeds, not words or personal reflection. A perfect example of this is the professional athletes who have gone beyond words to withdraw their labor until meaningful action is taken. They have used their power to disrupt the system and create a crisis of conscience. The same is called for from all those with substantial power such as our political leaders, corporate leaders, and at a lesser level of power nonprofit leaders such as myself and every person with love in their hearts for all humanity.
There are some immediate policy actions in our Monday statement, but consider these more of a rough draft than all that needs to be done to create a true antiracist America.
On Saturday August 22nd Citizen Action of Wisconsin members were joined by members of Our Wisconsin Revolution, Coulee Progressives and SEIU Healthcare to demand that our leaders stand up and save the USPS. Over 50 protesters wrapped around the La Crosse post office and were cheered on by hundreds of cars passing by.
You can read about the rally here.
On Thursday August 20th the La Crosse County Board of Supervisors unanimously passed a resolution committing the county to 100% clean, renewable energy by 2050. This resolution, unlike other messaging resolutions, actually includes actionable steps to be taken to reach this goal. The resolution covers not just county buildings and resources it is a commitment to having the entire county carbon neutral.
The passage of this resolution is the result of months of organizing by Citizen Action of Wisconsin, the Sierra Club, Wisconsin Conservation Voters and other area progressive groups. Over 900 emails were generated to county board members in support of this effort. It was also made possible thanks to the efforts of Monica Kruse, Citizen Action member and La Crosse County Board chair. This is a huge victory and a testament to our organizing, our members, our allies and our movement politics program. You can read more about this resolution here.
The passage of this resolution and with the passage of a La Crosse County resolution in support of Medicare for All are a testament to the impact Citizen Action is having on the Driftless Region. Be sure to join us August 29th from 1-3 for our one year anniversary meeting to learn more about the work we have been doing to make Southwest Wisconsin a better, more progressive place. You can RSVP for that meeting here.
The Southeastern Wisconsin Co-op’s Virtual Summer Assembly
Learn about all the work we’ve been doing to expand healthcare, fight the climate crisis and elect progressive candidates – despite the Trump pandemic! And hear our plans for the rest of the year. We’ ve invited some amazing local activists as guest speakers, so be sure to join us for this very special virtual meeting.
RSVP and get the Zoom details. Space is limited, so do it today!
For more information, email me [email protected]
On August 29th the Citizen Action of Wisconsin Driftless Co-op will have its one year anniversary of organizing in the area. In honor of the big day we will be hosting a virtual meeting for all our members, friends and allies.
This will be a chance to hear about all the work we have done to expand healthcare, protect voting rights, fight climate change and elect progressive candidates. We will also be laying out our plans for the rest of the year. Several members will be presenting on projects they have been working on with Citizen Action.
We encourage everyone to come out for this very special virtual meeting. Please use the link below to RSVP. Space is limited so RSVP today! Details on how to join this Zoom meeting will be sent once you RSVP.
Citizen Action of Wisconsin endorsed candidate and Driftless Co-op member Joni Anderson for Senate 14 is hosting a virtual fundraiser next Monday! RSVP for this very special event by visiting https://bit.ly/2EnKITE.
Joni is a former vice president of her union and a champion for progressive values. She is running for an open seat in the Wisconsin state senate. When Joni is elected she will stand up for healthcare for all and fight against climate change. We must do everything we can to help Joni get to Madison!
Join us on September 3rd from 6:30pm – 8:00pm as we host a meet and greet with endorsed state legislative candidate, Kim Butler. Kim is a co-op member and is running in Assembly District 28.
Please have questions prepared ahead of time.
Register for our Meet and Greet:
Citizen Action’s Robert Kraig was on the Jeff Santos Show talking about the Jacob Blake shooting in Kenosha and the fascist theater masquerading as a Republican National Convention. Listen to the first 30 minutes here and continuation of the interview here.
The program is replayed weekdays on the leading commercial progressive radio stations in the Madison and Milwaukee media markets. Citizen Action’s Battleground Wisconsin podcast/radio show is also featured on these stations every Saturday and Monday.
We are on tape from last week’s from the Democratic National Convention, in our long planned counter programming to the proto-fascist Republican National Convention. Will not be able to comment on the latest racist atrocity in Kenosha until next week (our statements are above). For this week’s program, on radio row at the Democratic National Convention we taped 4 interviews about a central question for the future of racial justice, economic equality, and the future of the planet: will a future Biden Administration, if we can elect him, be boldly progressive? The alliance between Biden and Bernie Sanders on policy is a great sign, but there are huge challenges to making this alliance between moderates and progressives really happen after the election. We ask two moderates and two progressives for their views. We start the moderates, leading off with Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, whose storied political career in state and national politics has made him a very well informed player within the Democratic Party. Next we talk to Jason Rae, the Secretary of the Democratic National Committee, who knows the inner workings of the party as well as anyone. Then, we talk to two progressives with national reputations. John Nichols the National Affairs Correspondent for The Nation, and one of the most prolific writers in the entire progressive media and a large following in his native Wisconsin. Finally George Goehl, Executive Director of People’s Action (Citizen Action’s national network), bats clean up on our powerhouse panel. George is one of the most respected and strategic progressives organizers in the country.