Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes

American Dream Blocked For Black Youth

Rep. Mandela Barnes offers his plan to address Wisconsin's racial disparities.

By - Sep 11th, 2014 01:37 pm
Get a daily rundown of the top stories on Urban Milwaukee

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.

These are major problems that affect all of us, black and white, urban and suburban. When our children of color are trapped in a cycle that prevents them from achieving a good education, or getting a good job, we are all forced to live with the consequences: higher unemployment, more crime, and fewer consumers and entrepreneurs to drive our economy.

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 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.

Categories: Op-Ed, Politics

4 thoughts on “Op-Ed: American Dream Blocked For Black Youth”

  1. Chris Byhre says:

    How about we start by demanding that the black community take responsibility first before we look for even more government assistance? Barnes should focus on the fact that more then 70% of black kids are born out of wedlock and the scourge of “parents” who play little or no role in the lives of their children. Barnes had a chance to stand up for inner city children who are not getting a proper education at MPS by supporting the highly successful St Marcus School but instead he chose politics and the teachers union over children in his own community. This is just more political theater from a “leader” that is out to score some political points while accomplishing nothing.

  2. John G. says:

    I don’t think anyone would argue that more accountability can be taken by everyone. But no one can try and claim that not in my backyard Midwestern racism doesn’t have a huge part to play in all this. White flight and the loss of lower tier manufacturing jobs hollowed out the inner city, and most African American’s did not have the support structure to up and move in the same way that whites did. Hard to build much of anything when still fighting for equal rights under the law in the 60s.

    In my time at UWM I became friends with many affluent white kids from the suburbs, and the NIMBY racism I mentioned previously was alive in every one of them, there parents and friends. It’s passive, but exists and the state legislature we see in action as it pertains to Milwaukee is total evidence of this.

    The common thing for whites like myself to do is first admit prejudice exists in heaping amounts and how it affects people and especially the children who are at no fault of there own.

  3. jerry person says:

    “The colored man looms large in the Communist plan to take over America.”
    — Fred Koch, 1960
    founder, The John Birch Society
    founder, Koch Industries
    scott walkers owners who hired KKK kinpin walker to champion wisconsin truth in sentencing
    the KKK is alive and well in the tea baggers

  4. Chris Byhre says:

    Yeah….racism caused all of this….Why not start with accountability and personal responsibility? Let’s get more kids into great schools like St. Marcus. Let’s hold people accountable for their actions such as the killing of babies in “co-sleeping” murders like the one last night. Let’s actually charge criminals who commit violent crime instead of plea bargaining them down and unleashing dangerous people back into our neighborhoods. Your vile and inflammatory rhetoric solves nothing. In less than 2 months you can bring your ID with you and vote for whomever you choose for Governor. Present some solutions rather then your hateful rants if you really want to help with the problem.

Leave a Reply

You must be an Urban Milwaukee member to leave a comment. Membership, which includes a host of perks, including an ad-free website, tickets to marquee events like Summerfest, the Wisconsin State Fair and the Florentine Opera, a better photo browser and access to members-only, behind-the-scenes tours, starts at $9/month. Learn more.

Join now and cancel anytime.

If you are an existing member, sign-in to leave a comment.

Have questions? Need to report an error? Contact Us