Bruce Murphy
Murphy’s Law

The Real Meaning of the John Henson Affair

Does one racial profiling incident prove this is America’s most hypersegregated city?

By - Oct 21st, 2015 11:32 am
John Henson. Photo by Tom Lynn/NBAE via Getty Images courtesy of the Milwaukee Bucks.

John Henson. Photo by Tom Lynn/NBAE via Getty Images. Courtesy of the Milwaukee Bucks.

Across the nation the media has had a field day reporting the ugly incident involving Milwaukee Bucks player John Henson. But for all the stories, there are still many questions which haven’t been examined or answered — questions which might help us to better understand how in the world this happened.

The gist of the story we’ve heard repeatedly: Henson and a friend went to Schwanke-Kasten Jewelers in Whitefish Bay to look at some Rolex watches and the employees locked the door of the store. Henson then rang the store’s bell twice and the employees went to the back of the store and ignored him. They called the Whitefish Bay Police, who turned up, watched Henson for awhile and then approached him to ask about the Red Chevy Tahoe he was driving, which had dealer’s plates. Henson explained that he was a member of the Milwaukee Bucks and the players get vehicles from this dealership.

At this point the police called dispatch to ask the jewelry store employees to open the door and they refused. “The employee told the dispatcher to have the officer come to the back door,” according to Whitefish Bay Police Chief Michael D. Young, whose report was quoted verbatim by USA Today. “After my officer informed the Schwanke-Kasten Jewelers employee that it was a Milwaukee Buck, the employee came to the front door and let them in.” But even then, “the employee requested that an officer stand by as they looked at the Rolexes,” but the officers refused and left the store.

There are some discrepancies in this story. Henson says the employees locked the door, representatives of Schwanke-Kasten say their store is always kept locked and customers must ring to get in. The store’s representatives also say they had a suspicious incident (but no robbery) involving a Red Chevy Tahoe three days earlier and were on alert because of this. But Henson is 6 foot 11 inches tall and could have hardly have looked more different than than the previous drivers of the Chevy Tahoe. Shouldn’t that have told the employees this was no ordinary customer and might be a basketball player? How could the employees refuse to open the door to Henson even after the police arrived? And how in the world, after learning this was a wealthy NBA player, could the employee insist that police stay there to watch Henson?

These are dismaying questions, which seem to leave no answer but that this was blatant racial profiling. But perhaps these employees are simply bigoted airheads and aren’t reflective of the company for which they work. Tom Dixon, President of Schwanke-Kasten Jewelers, responded to the incident with a press release saying “We all agree that racial profiling is never acceptable and deeply regret how the circumstances unfolded.” The next day, Dixon went to the Bucks’ training center in St. Francis and apologized to Henson, who said, “He was sincere in his apology. He knew that shouldn’t have happened.”

Dixon told WISN 12 News the store had three armed robberies in 18 months, to help explain why employees might have been on edge. But that story doesn’t hold up so well. There was a robbery 18 months ago, but that was of a Schwanke Kasten store in downtown Milwaukee. The two suspects were “described as black or Hispanic men between 18 and 25 years of age.” When that robbery occurred, the story by WISN mentions there had been an earlier robbery of the company’s Whitefish Bay store, but the Whitefish Bay police chief said he didn’t think the two robberies were connected.

And with good reason. The robbery that occurred back in September 2013, of four Rolex watches valued at more than $40,000, was by a suspect “described as a male who fled in a silver car with out-of-state plates” Needless to say, if this suspect had been black the story would have said so.

Indeed, it would appear that Dixon’s concern was all about a white man from out of town. Three days before the Henson incident Whitefish Bay Police did observe a newer red Chevrolet Tahoe with dealer’s plates park in front of Schwanke-Kasten and four men get out of the car and approach the store, but they ended up driving away, and again, were not described as minorities. Two days later, Dixon “spoke with an officer to report that a Green Bay store that sells Rolex watches was burglarized overnight. He provided our officer with a surveillance photo from that incident of a white male in a mask.”

In short, what we have is just one robbery of the Whitefish Bay store, which happened two years ago and was probably by a white guy, and another suspected robber, a white male in a mask who robbed a store in Green Bay. If the store’s employees were looking to profile a possible thief in a Chevy Tahoe, you’d think they’d be profiling white guys, not a 6 foot 11 inch black man.

Then there is the matter of how the local press covered this. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel did a story which bizarrely enough ran in the sports section, as though this racial profiling incident was only of interest to sports fans. On its second day of coverage, reporting Dixon’s meeting with Henson, the story was buried on page 6 of the sports section. What in the world are the editors thinking?

The paper did offer helpful column of commentary by James Causey. Causey is black and periodically writes about race relations, but always in an understated way. He noted that “At 46, I still get racially profiled. I’m stopped an average of four or five times a year by police for driving while black.”

While racial profiling of blacks who are celebrities gets attention, the far more common profiling of average folks is simply not newsworthy. “I guess until it happens to someone of stature, its just something that common folks have to deal with,” Causey ruefully noted.

Causey calls Milwaukee “one of the nation’s most hypersegregated cities.” Liberals love to make that claim of hypersegregation, but in fact the word is pretty much meaningless.

Back in 2003, I interviewed sociology professors Douglas Massey and Nancy Denton, who invented the term, popularizing it in their 1993 book American Aparthied. It was used to equate Amerca’s ghettos with South African townships, but in fact Denton admitted to me that the authors did no statistical analysis of segregation in South Africa.

Massey and Denton wrote that “blacks living in the heart of the [American] ghetto are among the most isolated on earth” “unlikely to come into contact with whites” within “the particular neighborhood where they live” or “the adjacent neighborhood.” Yet they offered no analysis of segregation in America on a neighborhood or block level.

To test this theory, which shamed Milwaukee as a leader in “hypersegregation,” the UW-Milwaukee Employment & Training Institute did a study measuring integration block-by-block, and found that in metro Milwaukee, just five percent of African Americans lived on all-black blocks. The study found 10 percent of metro blacks lived in neighborhoods that are 1 to 19 percent African American, 12 percent lived on blocks that were 20-49 percent black, 16 percent on blocks that are 50-69 percent black, 24 percent on blocks that are 70-89 percent black, and 33 percent on blocks that were 90 to 99 percent black.

Nearly as suspect are the ranking of which cities are most segregated, based on the dissimilarity index invented by sociologists. These rankings shame cities with large populations of black people, Chicago and Milwaukee, and praise cities like Salt Lake City or Lincoln, Nebraska, which have a tiny percentage of African Americans, suggesting they are not very welcoming places for blacks. As famed researcher Nate Silver has reported, the cities that these rankings claim are the most segregated are often the most diverse cities in America. That’s a far more nuanced and accurate view of integration and suggests the limitations of the dissimilarity index.

To be sure, Milwaukee has serious racial problems. And it well be that problems here are worse than in many big cities. But the issues here also arise in the context of a nation whose failings have inspired the Black Lives Matter movement.

Meantime there is something haunting about boyish-faced, 24-year-old John Henson, a loyal Milwaukee Buck and basketball player so skilled that he seems to have been somewhat sheltered from racism in America and shocked by what he encountered here. “This was one of the most degrading and racially prejudiced things I’ve ever experienced in life and wouldn’t wish this on anyone,” he wrote on Instagram. “You have no right to profile someone because of their race and nationality.”

It was “kind of a surreal moment,” he later reflected. But alas, it’s all too real in this city and this nation.

Categories: Murphy's Law

18 thoughts on “Murphy’s Law: The Real Meaning of the John Henson Affair”

  1. Will says:

    This was blatant racial profiling and for the store to try to paint it otherwise is just silly. I for one will take my biz elsewhere and hope this place gets shut down

  2. GJCarman says:


    Thank you for a very interesting column on the Henson incident at a jewelry store in Whitefish Bay. I could not agree more with you that the vaunted hyper segregation index is overblown, in an academic sense. I would, however, offer an alternative theory. The prevailing theme of my doctoral dissertation back in 2010 dealt with the comparative dearth of African American suburbanization in Metropolitan Milwaukee. To me, at least, this miniscule rate of historic suburbanization is far more explanatory of the Whitefish Bay incident. Prop inquiry, oftentimes, breeds acceptance, and that just does not occur in most of Milwaukee’s suburbs.

  3. gjcarman47 says:

    Sorry. Typo in my original post. Should be “propinquity.”

  4. I loved the thoroughness of your article not just because it provided all of the information without Whitewashing it, but because you gave it the pride of placement that it deserves and that not surprisingly, the Milwaukee Urinal/Sentinel never would. Perhaps Gannett will be more evolved. I came here from a big city to attend Marquette. Part of the orientation and advice from Black Milwaukeeans was, stay away from the south side after dark and don’t go into what was called “White Folks Bay” day or night because of the racism. I was offended by the incident overall. I was more offended by the police who felt the need to “qualify” Mr. Henson by saying that he was a Milwaukee Buck. Another sad irony is that Black folks in Green Bay are routinely assumed to be a Packer or a Packer wife. It’s the 21st Century, wake up parochial Milwaukee we did not just arrive and don’t appreciate being categorized negatively through the prism of your lack of exposure.

  5. Dennis Grzezinski says:

    Bruce: It’s not the City of Milwaukee, but the MIlwaukee metro region that’s hypersegregated. Minorities are still largely concentrated in Milwaukee’s inner city neighborhoods, but are also somewhat integrated into most City neighborhoods, and some inner ring suburban neighborhoods. However, they are almost entirely excluded from communities in the surrounding counties, particularly Waukesha and Ozaukee Counties. Numerous studies by UWM’s Center for Economic Development have documented this.

  6. Frank Galvan says:

    I wasn’t surprised in the least that it was Schwanke-Kasten. That place has a terrible reputation as being insular. Perhaps it’s regular customers appreciate knowing that only “their kind of people” are encouraged to shop there?

  7. 1776blues says:

    The media has been censoring the race of minority suspects and they admit it, so this journalist who wrote this article and said if the previous suspect was black the media would have stated that in their article is wrong. Perhaps if so many african-americans are committing crimes at a higher rate than whites, asians,and a few other non-black people wouldn’t you race profile? Also, clothing worn by potential suspects also has a lot to do with how some people react. The media will go to extremes to write or say anything but the color such as the black flash mobs where they call them teen flash mobs. Or how about the knockout game? Check out Colin Flaherty’s videos about the two previous violent actions by blacks.

    Should race be a factor in how the media reports crime?

    I’ve written about this issue for years online. I got a big break in 2007. The LA Times issued an official online statement admitting that it was standard practice in the newspaper industry to censor of the race of minority crime perpetrators.

    In the past year, a multitude of media bosses have publicly confessed to censoring black crime. Some of them proudly confess, and say that the censorship is for the public’s benefit. Some of them even call critics “racists” for asking for accurate news coverage.

    All of these “media elites” place political correctness far above public safety. For the past year, I’ve been collecting news articles on the subject. Here are my complete findings.

    The TV Show COPS

    John Langley, creator and producer of the TV show COPS bragged to conservative columnist Ben Shapiro that he censors black crime.

    Langley states “What irritates me sometime is critics still watch something and say ‘oh look they misrepresent people of color.’ That’s absolutely not true. Au contraire. I show more white people than statistically what the truth is in terms of street crime. If you look at the prisons it’s 60-something percent people of color, and 30-something percent of white people. If you look at COPS it’s 60 percent white and 40 percent, it’s just the reverse. And I do that intentionally, because I don’t want to contribute to negative stereotypes.”

    Langley boldly admits to censoring black crime for political reasons.

    Associated Press

    Tom Kent, deputy managing editor for standards and production at The Associated Press recently admitted that the AP censors black crime.

    Last March Kent said that race is not usually mentioned unless it is a “hate crime.” As you know, the media rarely declares black on white crime to be a “hate crime.” Only the extremely rare white on black crimes are ever considered a “hate crime” in the media.

    Kent said that if the police are looking for an at large suspect they may mention race. However, Kent stated “but once a person is captured, it probably would not be germane to the story.”

    In other words, unless the perp is white or the police specifically ask for it, the AP censors the race of black crime perpetrators.

    New York Times

    Philip Corbett, associate managing editor of the New York Times recently confessed to censoring black crime.

    Last March, 18 black males aged 16-27 were arrested for allegedly gang raping an 11 year old Mexican girl in Cleveland, Texas. The radical New Black Panther Party actually held a rally at an all black church demanding the release of the perpetrators. Over one hundred local blacks attended the rally.

    The New York Times ran an article that critics say blamed the victim and her family. It also expressed shock that members of the public were supported the accused perps.

    However the Times completely censored the fact that the perpetrators are black. The newspapers also portrayed those who were supporting the perps as “Texans.”

    There was a backlash against the New York Times for their insulting coverage.

    The New York Times published a follow-up admitting their first piece “lacked balance.”

    Philip Corbett, however, defending censoring the race of the perpetrators. He said that mentioning the race of a crime perpetrator does “not really providing any useful information and it could be sort of boiler plate.”

    By “boiler plate,” Corbett means that it would be politically incorrect to inform the public the truth about crime in America. He feels that political correctness is more important than public safety.

    Chicago Tribune

    Last June Chicago Tribune senior vice president and editor Gerould Kern admitted the newspaper censors black crime in a rather nasty response to his critics.

    Kern stated, “we guard against subjecting an entire group of people to suspicion because of the color of their skin.”

    His admission of guilt came after a series of brutal racially motivated mob attacks against white people in Chicago. The Chicago Tribune censored the race of the perpetrators and concealed the nature of the attacks.

    When critics attacked the Tribune for their coverage, Kern proudly boasted of the papers’ censorship and personally insulted the white victims. He ranted, “there is no evidence to suggest that the victims were singled out because of their race.”

    Following the diatribe by Chicago Tribune Editor Kern, Chicago Tribune opinion page writer Steve Chapman, who calls himself “a minority of one,” stated the same thing and defended the practice.

    Chapman, who is on the far left, states “It’s the newspaper’s sound general policy not to mention race in a story, whether about crime or anything else.” Chapman then got very nasty in his diatribe defending censorship. He states that people who advocate accurate reporting of crime stories “fear or dislike blacks.”

    Chapman also decided to take a jab at the innocent white victims of black mob violence in Chicago. He claimed the race of the perpetrators was not relevant. Then he said stated “what good would it do to trumpet the skin color of the thugs? So pedestrians on Michigan Avenue can run away when they see two or more African-Americans?”

    Obviously Chapman would rather see more innocent white people attacked than report the news accurately.

    Washington Post

    In August of 2010 the Washington Post Ombudsman Andrew Alexander stated that the paper censored race. He said that Weekend News Editor Robert E. Pierre supported the censorship.

    The Post came under criticism by readings for censoring black mob violence on the local metro system.

    Alexander whined, “The Post should always be sensitive to overplaying stories, especially if race is involved.” Keep in mind that Alexander is talking about a story that the Post was criticized for downplaying, not overplaying.

    Pierre attacked critics of the paper’s coverage as “racial insensitive.”

    LA Times

    The LA Times was the first newspaper I ever noticed openly admitting to racial censorship. This was back in 2007. The paper made an online database of homicides. They offered a sort of apology for including the races of the perpetrators. They stated that it was normally their policy to censor this information.

    On June 6, 2007 the LA Times made this official statement. “Racial information was once routinely included in news stories about crimes, but in recent decades, newspapers and other media outlets stopped mentioning suspects’ or victims’ race or ethnicity because of public criticism. Newspapers came to embrace the idea that such information is irrelevant to the reporting of crimes, and may unfairly stigmatize racial groups.”

    By “public criticism,” they are referring to bullying by radical racial groups like the NAACP.

  8. BT says:

    I’ve read and heard a pretty good amount of info and the WFB PD’s statement on this contained a very detailed and informative timeline, as this was NOT simply a case of a guy not being allowed into a jewelry store one day, it unfolded over several days but for me, two points seal the deal that this WAS a case of racial profiling and that’s very unfortunate no matter where it happens as this is 2015, not 1955 with Bull Connor and his fire hoses and attack dogs coming out, simply because people who were US citizens, born here and often of lineage going back further than the people treating them poorly, sometimes like dirt and sometimes even as if they were somehow sub-human and “unclean”.

    As a north shore resident now and formerly an east side resident for decades, I will say this and it is not in Schwanke Kasten’s defense at all (I’ll use SK now for them) it is just to provide a little context here for anyone who’s never been inside the store. They, at least from my impression, seem to like to fawn over the old money crowd and sure, if you’re a wealthy person able to afford a Rolex (which just the all stainless steel models start around $7k, solid 18k gold, solid white gold and most of all, solid platinum models are much, much more) I got the impression they’d certainly be more than happy to sell you one and make their profit on it, but if that if you’re say the 4th generation or even better the current day relative of one of the beer barons or other names that say old money here, like one starting with the letter “U”, they’d feel a near orgasmic feeling just helping you out when you dropped off your self winding Rolex in for the occasional servicing and cleaning it requires at a price you could buy a nice Seiko quartz watch for that needs nothing but a new $3 battery every 5 years or so, while the owner of a car dealer, a tech company, restaurant, etc that came from the middle class to be wealthy, well that’s just not the same magical tingle to them. If that biz you own happens to be something like a topless stripper club or anything like that, (and especially if you bring a few of your “talent” along to look!) you might even feel a “get the hell out of here” vibe!

    I don’t know where NBA players fit in that mix at SK, BUT I do know that there are at least several other jewelers who LOVE taking biz from ANY pro sports players and I’m thinking Jon Henson must not have asked around the locker room as to where to go.

    Two things sealed it for me, the fact they were so freaked out that someone called to get the closing time several days earlier that they called the cops (hmmm, think it was because the guy “sounded black”???) and the big one is when the WFB cop said “Hey its all just fine, he’s Jon Henson, he’s a Bucks player!” (or budding star) and the employee STILL said, “Ok, but could you please stay here while I help him???” (and keep one hand on your gun!) Yep, that does it for me and from what I’ve heard, they had “athletic gear” on, but NOT hoodies and that it was some big $$$ athletic gear.

    Then, from there we dive into the muck of liberal brain dead hell (and I’m also referring to comments I’ve elsewhere, NOT just this article and handful of comments so far) the worst of which was on Flakebook, where one of my lib friends and his many lib friends were blathering on with all sorts of complete nonsense, including how if you’re black, you just CAN’T buy a home in Waukesha County! I made the mistake of jumping into a discussion where a bunch of morons had each other all riled up and no one to stop the madness and pointed out not only that the old “this property may never be resold to a negro” written into some deeds had been outlawed with major penalties MANY DECADES ago, but also that I’ve got a friend of 20+ years who fairly recently built a new home which is probably in the $500k range in Waukesha KKK County and when not just one, but two black families also built homes there, they were welcomed like every other new neighbor! I was told things like “F@ck Off Troll” and the like, but its true and they obviously are never out there, I am!

    Does anyone also realize that not everyone that lives on the near north side (which is nearly totally black) lives there because that’s all they can afford? If fact, a large number can easily afford to move out, but stay because it is home to them, family is there, etc. Yet, EVERY time I see yet another stupid liberal response on how to stop violence in MKE, they’re always talking about how we need to just do everything for felons and ex cons, make life hell for employers who maybe don’t want to hire that recently released child rapist, sure make life hell for the private employer (wanna bet they exempt local govt in the small print???!!) make it better for the piece of trash that brutally raped the child,yeah that makes sense.

    Do any libs even know the near north side is majority or vast majority NON CRIMINALS??!! If I just talked about felons and ex cons, I’d be “such a racist” yet clueless libs (who run pretty much ALL of the giant mess that makes up local city and county govt) say nothing about how to help the majority of good people, then move on to make Waukesha County look like a big Klan rally!

    Well at least the clueless lib clowns got their comeuppance when they were so damn sure their puppet candidate would be the new sheriff and Clarke, who has more common sense than the entire leadership of the MKE County Dem Party combined, would be humiliated, that they were even getting cocky right before the election. Then the north side turned out heavy for Clarke and I’ve never been happier to see a Dem win, not even close!!! Yet, ow Clarke gets more NATIONAL air time than Tom “I’m hiding under my desk, call my useless and stupid gun hotline!” Barrett and the rest combined, gets ignored by the JS and will certainly face a primary challenge from the dumbassess!!

  9. BT says:

    Two things I forgot-

    -JOHN HENSON HANDLED WHAT I AGREE MUST HAVE BEEN A HORRIBLY INSULTING SITUATION WITH CLASS AND I’M SURE HE HAD MANY PEOPLE GOADING HIM TO NOT HANDLE IT WITH CLASS!! So, my impression of him (I’m a minor Bucks fan, didn’t know a whole lot before, other than he looked pretty promising) has gone through the roof!


  10. Pete17 says:

    Bruce Murphy- First, just to start, I’m a fan, reading your columns since your MMag days, and fan of UrbanMKE since you took over.

    Which is why I’m disappointed at your reporting in this article, sad to see you creating non-facts to support the narrative of racial profiling. If you fill in every blank trying to prove you’re writing about “bigoted airheads” that’s exactly what you’ll find.

    There’s a crucial fact that’s rarely reported: John Henson had visited the Schwanke-Kasten store before, been buzzed in, and was presumably treated well enough for him to return again.

    What was different on Monday? Not his race, not height, nor complexion. It was the new circumstances, the phone calls they found suspicious, the potentially stolen vehicle, the advice from police: If this car shows up, call us. It did, they did.

    This invalidates the popular narrative of racial profiling every media outlet is pushing.

    Bruce, and we count on you to give it to us straight, and you just didn’t. This is a topic we need clear headed analysis, not what the internet wants to hear.

    There’s an absolute necessity to write about Milwaukee’s serious racial problems, and the latter half of your article deserves attention and should have stood on its own.

  11. A busdriver says:


  12. Kellie says:

    My question/concern if he felt this was“This was one of the most degrading and racially prejudiced things I’ve ever experienced in life and wouldn’t wish this on anyone,” why did he stay at the store, why did he go in the store after all this, and did he actually spend his money there? If the incident was so bad, why still give the store your business. I’ve never been in the market for a Rolex but I do believe they are sold at other Jewelry stores.

  13. Vincent Hanna says:

    I believe he said he had purchased items there before, but either way Kellie, what he did hardly excuses what the store did. You make it seem like being racially profiled and treated so poorly is his fault because he didn’t leave the scene quickly enough. That’s beyond idiotic.

  14. BT says:

    Wow, not even 8am here in CST and good ol Vinny Handjob is swinging for the fences, slapping Kellie down FOR A LOGICAL QUESTION!!!!! Now, as I said before, I’d say the wankers at Shwanky Wankers Jewelers sealed the case on it being YES a case of racial profiling when the “employee” who as far as I know has not been ID’d, after the WFB cop said “hey, its no problem at all, that really tall guy plays for the Bucks (so you’d THINK that employee, unless he’s as dense as Vinny Handyjob and the average MKE county board member, which is an IQ in the 50 range, as long as he’s over 50, he ought to know that PLAYING FOR BUCKS=HAS BIG BUCKS TO SPEND. Yet, as I also mentioned, that store sure seemed to fawning excessively over anyone with the “old money” look, so maybe this goof was clueless and thinks average NBA player pay is around 100 grand a year, who knows!

    Yet, I’ve done a LOT or reading on this and I never heard of he bought a Rolex there or not, but agree with Kellie, if I’ve just been treated like total shmit by a store for any reason, as log as I can get ANYWHERE else, the other pace gets my cash!




  15. John says:

    I think your meds are no longer working guy.

  16. Vincent Hanna says:

    He stated that he will be taking his business elsewhere BT. So how else are you going to blame the victim here?

    All caps? The county board? You make WCD look lucid and reasonable.

  17. Pete171 says:

    Bruce Murphy – First, just to start, I’m a fan, reading your columns since your MMag days, and fan of UrbanMKE since you took over.

    Which is why I’m disappointed at your reporting in this article, sad to see you creating non-facts to support the narrative of racial profiling. If you fill in every blank trying to prove you’re writing about “bigoted airheads” that’s exactly what you’ll find.

    There’s a crucial fact that’s rarely reported: John Henson had visited the Schwanke-Kasten store before, been buzzed in, and was presumably treated well enough for him to return again.

    What was different on Monday? Not his race, not height, nor complexion. It was the new circumstances, the phone calls they found suspicious, the potentially stolen vehicle, the advice from police: If this car shows up, call us. It did, they did.

    This invalidates the popular narrative of racial profiling every media outlet is pushing.

    Bruce, and we count on you to give it to us straight, and you just didn’t. This is a topic we need clear headed analysis, not what the internet wants to hear.

    There’s an absolute necessity to write about Milwaukee’s serious racial problems, and the latter half of your article deserves attention and should have stood on its own.

  18. bruce Murphy says:

    Pete171: Nice to have your readership but… who are you? Your email seems to be a fake one.

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