July 30, 2012

Milwaukee Courier

Bursting the Bubble

By Senator Lena C. Taylor

In the coming legislative elections, the number of African American state legislators, already at a shockingly low eight, could drop to only four.  This would be a terrible loss for the African American community and for Wisconsin as a whole.  Wisconsin has never been a state known for successfully representing the interests of minority communities.  Can you believe I am still only the 5th African American state senator in Wisconsin’s history?

After centuries, black America remains connected by a common history and like experiences such as hyper segregation, Jim Crow Laws, Poll Taxes, Black Codes, voter suppression tactics and institutional racism.  If we live in a bubble, it is a bubble isolated from privilege and opportunity all the while sustained through faith.   

Even the most politically and economically successful African Americans remain intensely aware of the harsh realities faced by many of our brothers and sisters.  We understand economic hardship, because we do not have the luxury of forgetting. You don’t see many African American public figures turn their back on the plight of the working poor.

When we vote for an African American candidate, our votes reach beyond the color of that individual’s skin.  We vote for an entire perspective, a lifetime of experiences that will inevitably define that public official’s priorities.  We vote to burst the privileged bubble and inject a strong dose of reality into the political system.

Last week, Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney spoke before the NAACP at their annual conference in Houston, Texas.  He looked stilted and awkward, uncomfortable making the case for his election to African Americans.  And why would he be comfortable? 

For sixty-five years, Mr. Romney has lived in bubble, a fantasy land divorced from any of the daily realities faced by myself or the readers of this newspaper.  His luxury bubble alienates him from the NAACP’s goals at a fundamental level.  We hardly speak the same language. 

Mr. Romney suffers from a terrible case upper class bubble mentality.  African Americans in Milwaukee need leaders who suffer from none of the same illusions, leaders who understand the challenges faced by minorities because they have lived through those challenges and lived side-by-side with those who have done the same.

Recently, the Republican Party cynically manipulated the legislative districting in the City of Milwaukee to minimize the influence of minorities in our democratic system of government.  Interested in the relentless pursuit of their own agenda, the Republican Party knows it has everything to gain from by disenfranchising the black community.

On August 14, primaries will be held to determine candidates for the Assembly and State Senate.  In many Democratic-leaning areas of Milwaukee, winners in these primaries will be unopposed in the general election.  In other words, you will be choosing your representatives for years to come.  I ask that you make a point to vote on August 14, and that you very carefully choose a candidate that will share your values and be responsive to your needs as a community.