American Dream Blocked For Black Youth
Rep. Mandela Barnes offers his plan to address Wisconsin's racial disparities.
Wisconsin ranks number one in the country in racial disparities. Many of us live with that fact on a daily basis, but a new report by the Wisconsin Council on Children & Families paints a stark picture of inequality in Wisconsin for the rest of the nation to see.
The annual report from this respected non-partisan organization focuses on the well-being of children on a state-by-state basis, but for the first time, this year examined the well-being of children by race. Wisconsin ranked a respectable 10th for white children, an average 17th for Latino children, but a devastating 46th for black children. This gap between white children and black children is by far the worst in the country.
In addition to being last place overall for African-American child well-being, Wisconsin also ranked worst in the nation in teenage pregnancy, two-parent families, access to good schools and jobs, and individuals with associate’s degrees or higher.
Being the worst state in the country for racial disparities is also morally unacceptable. Our leaders must take responsibility, and voters should demand real, substantive plans to improve the condition of children of color during this election.
There is no magic trick that will solve these problems, but we must begin to offer real solutions. We have to make our communities safer, create jobs, and make sure our children are receiving a quality education. Policy solutions must be wide ranging, and include plans such as:
- Reversing Scott Walker’s drastic cuts to public education
- Ensuring all children have access to nutritious meals, including at school
- Providing comprehensive sex education and access to contraception for teenage women
- Investing in job training for long-term unemployed workers.
- Raising the minimum wage
- Improving public transportation to access jobs
- Requiring background checks for all gun purchases to make our communities safer
These solutions are both practical and simple steps forward for our kids, our families, our schools, and the future of our state. These policies will not come easy, but with a renewed commitment from our community leaders, parents, and all of us who call Wisconsin our home, we can make some big changes in the direction our state is headed, and what meaning our state motto, “Forward,” will have for the black youth in our communities.
I encourage you to read the full report online at www.wccf.org and make the issue of increasing opportunity for children of color a priority of yours in our communities.
Rep. Mandela Barnes, a member of the State Assembly, represents communities in Milwaukee and Glendale. A longtime advocate of social justice issues, Rep. Barnes sits on the committees on Workforce Development, Urban Education, and Urban & Local Affairs.