Lessons from a Milwaukee Mob
On August 4, 2011, the opening night of the Wisconsin State Fair, the worst race riot in Wisconsin history occurred. As darkness fell over the amusement park area known as the Midway before closing time, hundreds of young blacks swarmed out into the parking lot, seeking out white fairgoers to attack -- pulling people off their bikes, out of their cars, to knock them to the ground and beat them: with fists and whatever blunt instruments they had handy.
Now, this wasn't the worst ever in America. The race riots of the Red Summer of 1919, for example, sometimes involved thousands of people at a time. But it is certainly something new and terrifying for the Wisconsin State Fair, which, like all state fairs, is normally a peaceful and traditional celebration of the state's agricultural heritage. It's pure Americana with an extra helping of capitalism, as the ten-day celebration at State Fair Park injects the small suburb of West Allis with its most significant jolt of commercial activity every year. Homeowners and businesses in all directions rent out parking spaces on their lots, driveways, and yards to the overflow crowds of families who travel hundreds of miles to attend.
Midway, Wisconsin State Fair, 2005. Photo by Sulfur
A hugely popular statewide event, the fair's tranquil history and suburban location left it unprepared for the events of August 4. Police jurisdiction is in three tiers: the local West Allis police force first, Wisconsin state troopers second, and the Milwaukee police force third, because only a tiny portion of the expansive fairgrounds fall in the City of Milwaukee proper. Overwhelmed by the flash mob nature of the unexpected wilding, West Allis apparently never even made time to place a call for mutual assistance from Milwaukee. At least seven of the dozens injured were the outnumbered and unprepared local police trying to protect fairgoers.
In the public debate the next day, the fair management reported that they would have an increased police presence for the rest of the fair, and they would institute a curfew for the first time; no one under 18 would be admitted without parent or guardian after 5:00pm. This would likely prevent repeat occurrences in this venue, but of course that is only a partial response (and an unfair insult to the tens of thousands of non-troublemaking teens who attend without incident). Preventing it from happening again isn't enough; society needs to explore why such barbarism could occur in the first place.
In his very thorough coverage of the event on his WISN talk show, radio host Mark Belling made special note of the demeanor of the mob. Contrary to the traditional liberal assumption that mobs turn violent out of anger and poverty, numerous reports indicated the maniacal grins, the ferocious smiles, the sheer happiness of the attackers. They were joyful, not angry; this was fun for them. These thugs engaged in horrific unprovoked violence against innocent, unarmed, unsuspecting bystanders, just because they got a kick out of doing so.
There is much that our society must do to deal with this problem, and police presence is only a very small part of it. If we treat this as merely a security issue, we will miss the forest for the trees. For it's larger than just the Wisconsin State Fair; it's just a symptom of a number of significant social cancers.
Americans have always been solidly against mob action, ever since our founding era, when revolutionary student Alexander Hamilton stood down a crowd to protect Loyalist Myles Cooper from the rebel horde. Our revolution was the opposite of the French Revolution, for example -- a campaign for prosperous tranquility, rather than a campaign for vengeance and anarchy (see Ann Coulter's marvelous treatment of this issue in her new book, Demonic).
But the left has spent some fifty years advocating the use of mob action -- the protest marches of the 60s, the sit-ins of the 70s, even the virtual takeovers of public buildings such as college halls a generation ago, and state capitols this very year -- which brings us back to Wisconsin.
Who participated in the State Fair riots? This was no single organized gang of trade unionists or a political party, like many mob actions have been in our past. These were young blacks, mostly male, some of whom obviously knew each other, but many of whom were previously unacquainted with their fellow marauders. Why did they join in? What could possess a person to commit vicious attacks on perfect strangers, in public, no less... joining other lawbreakers and becoming -- depending on whether you held the victims for the beating or threw the punches and kicks -- either accomplices to the crime or a criminal yourself?
There are many reasons, and all must be considered to get the full picture.
The warping of our criminal justice system:
For fifty years, the nation's legislatures, and especially the nation's judiciaries, have changed the legal framework's approach to crime. Until the modern liberal era of the 50s and 60s, the legal structure was designed to protect the innocent from the guilty criminal class, even as individual trials were designed to protect a wrongly accused innocent from being incorrectly lumped in with the guilty. In the past two generations, however, this framework was overturned, and now protects the criminal at the expense of the law-abiding citizen. Criminals are caught and released without trial, or tried but released on a technicality, or tried and convicted but released into the community early. The system has forgotten that it's there to protect the rest of us, not to process the criminals.
The culmination of this tragic migration in jurisprudence is occurring in California even now, as the state contends with a pending judicial order to give early release to some 40,000 convicted prisoners because the jails aren't comfortable enough to satisfy some distant black robe. How many of the instigators and other participants in the State Fair wilding already had a rap sheet a mile long? How many had already been caught and released too soon, free to terrorize their society again, or free to jump into the fray and join others, once it was begun?
The toxic political climate
It is unfortunate that there had never been a non-white president before now, but one unexpected minor benefit can now be seen from that history. When every president was a white male, one could hardly blame political disagreements with one or another on matters of race. The current president was always a white male; so too were his predecessor and successor. One could claim that opposition was based on party, or ideology, or perhaps even region, but one could hardly say that opposition was simply because of the guy's race.
Until now. Many in the mainstream media have been pushing the narrative that all opposition to Barack Obama was driven by anti-black bigotry, ever since he began contending for the Democratic presidential nomination. Never mind the fact that Obama is a half white American and half Kenyan national, having virtually nothing in common with the life experiences or family history of an American black. The media have christened him an American black, and have done everything in their power to convince America that public opinion toward Obama is a bellwether for how Americans feel about American blacks in general -- a moronic position, but nonetheless, it is sticking.
The media has successfully ginned up an utterly unjustifiable assumption in the black community that anti-Obama political positions and activity are entirely racially based. Outrageous as it is, this toxic claim is out there, polluting the minds of a gullible electorate and an impressionable community. Real anti-white bigotry is arising, a response to non-existent anti-black bigotry imagined and decried by our malicious left-wing chattering class.
The collapse of the urban black community
Half a century ago, census and poll results agreed: the black community was more responsible, from a social perspective, than the white community. Generally speaking, in the first half of the 20th century, unwed motherhood, cohabitation, unemployment, divorce, church attendance, and criminal convictions all showed proportionately worse statistics among America's whites than among America's blacks.
This all changed with LBJ's Great Society. Since the government began to reward cohabitation, sloth, and irresponsible childbearing with a warped welfare system, and since the public schools began their simultaneous attack on morality and religion in the curriculum and discipline in the halls, the community most under the thumb of city governments have suffered the most.
Note that this is not true in rural areas or suburbs, or even in the good neighborhoods of larger cities, where blacks and whites alike own farms, blacks and whites alike own businesses, go to church, obey the law, and serve as honorable and productive members of society. And of course, like any generality, it doesn't go for everyone in the bad neighborhoods either; there are mixed neighborhoods. But it is undeniable that this cultural destruction has become most severe for the generations of blacks locked into this dependence.
The warping of the black church
America was settled by immigrants of every race, color and creed. While we owe our roots to the English settlers who designed our culture and our government, today's Americans are as diverse as the colors of a rainbow. All these groups arrived with the cultural prejudices of "the old country" and have depended upon the civilizing force of our instruments of assimilation -- the schools, the churches, the employment community -- to soften, or hopefully even eradicate, those prejudices.
An Irish parent might badmouth the English at the dinner table; a Neapolitan parent, the Sicilians... a Lutheran, the Catholics... a Protestant, the Jews... a white, the blacks. Such once-pervasive bigotry has been largely diminished over the last century, by the media, and by attendance at diverse schools and churches, where the authority figures actively work to minimize that inherited bigotry in support of racial, ethnic and religious tolerance.
It has therefore been with little short of terror that religion-watchers have noted the appearance of "black liberation theology" in recent decades, spreading like a cancer through the black urban churches of the United States. While still a minority view, this perverse twisting of religion uses the structure of the church to intentionally spread anti-white bigotry, especially through such outrageous lies as the claims that the government invented AIDS to kill blacks, that the Jews run all the businesses so that blacks can't get jobs, and any number of other outrageous conspiracy theories -- all to poison the malleable young congregations' minds until they hate whites as much as they have been told that whites hate them.
After a century of progress, it's only in recent decades that we have seen this "black liberation theology," as practiced by such pastors as President Obama's old minister, Rev. Jeremiah Wright, grow in popularity and bear such poisonous fruit as the Wisconsin State Fair mob. Instead of religion civilizing the next generation, we now have more and more churches and madrassahs that consciously set out to barbarize them.
So where do we stand, as a society?
We have armies of children, raised more by gangs than by parents, without a proper moral compass. The society releases criminals into their midst to be role models, discouraging employment by refusing to prepare children for jobs... discouraging marriage by rewarding single parenting, discouraging morality by granting tax-exempt church status to buildings that are little more than breeding grounds for hatred.
As Milwaukee's Sheriff David Clarke and entertainer Bill Cosby have been saying for years, much of the problem is for the black community to correct on its own. Decent, honorable blacks have been fleeing the slums for decades, to raise their children right in the suburbs and small towns, and who can blame them? But by doing so, they abandon their cousins to the clutches of the rappers, the gangbangers, and the Jeremiah Wrights.
From outside, the non-black community cannot help with everything, but we can pitch in a little. We can set higher standards for our schools, making a taxpayer-supported school a safe environment in which to learn again. We can return to the 1990s era welfare reforms that were finally beginning to overturn the Great Society's destruction of the family unit. We can redirect our criminal justice system to again support the innocent victims and give the benefit of the doubt to longtime incarceration of criminals so that they can't as easily return to their communities and warp young souls.
All these disparate causes -- religion, education, economics, criminal justice -- have only one thing in common besides the destruction they have wrought: they are all the province of modern American liberalism.
It is the American left that favors corruption of traditional religion, corruption of the safety net, corruption of the prison system. Only the left, which has ruled the Democratic party for decades, and virtually every city government where these problems occur, is virtually unanimous in their support of all the very different changes that have undermined a once vital, responsible, and honorable community to render it stagnant, regressive even, feared by outsiders for the very real threats they pose.
Just as affirmative action cheats the accomplished blacks like Clarence Thomas (read his memoir on this subject!), just as the perverse rap industry cheats talented black performers like Darius Rucker (who had to change genres to record good music), all these changes have poisoned the public debate - any commenter is accused of racism for addressing the issue - as well as endangering our communities and contributing to the decline of our entire society.
The needed corrections cannot happen overnight; it will take decades to replace the wrongheaded judges and racism-teaching civic leaders, and it will take generations to get past the lost generations currently at issue.
But it all begins with acknowledging the truth, throwing out the Democrats in federal, state, and local government who have promulgated these toxic policies for so long.
The right has been warning that undermining civilized behavior in the cities will have a societal cost... and in so many circumstances - the wildings and flash mobs all over the country, of which the State Fair mob was just another ghastly example - the right has been proven to be, sadly, absolutely correct.
John F. Di Leo is a Chicago-based international trade lecturer; his column appears weekly in Illinois Review.