Tuesday, October 06, 2015

Urbanite who relocated to rural Midwest says racism has shattered his ideal of small-town life

Christoper Cross moved from Oakland, Calif., to Fond du lac, Wisc., (Wikipedia map) in search of the ideal small-town Midwestern rural life he envisioned from television shows like "Smallville." Instead, Cross, of Scottish and African American descent, has been surprised with the high levels of racism and ignorance he has encountered in the town of 43,000, of which 2.5 percent is black, Sharon Roznik reports for the Fond du lac Reporter. There are no black business owners in the county, and black residents make up 1.5 percent of the county's 101,798 residents and only 398 of 7,475 students in the school district are black.

"Statues of a jet-black man and boy sit on a bench on the front lawn of a home on South Main Street," Roznik writes. "The man wears a wide-brimmed hat, with big eyes and thick lips in white paint. A nearby sign reads 'Welcome.' While Fond du Lac may not be Ferguson, Mo., racism is showing up in subtle, and sometimes not-so-subtle forms, Cross said." He told her, "For the most part, I've had a positive experience in Fond du Lac, but then some behavior happens that is so offensive . . . People may be insensitive to something like a statue or say they have grown up with it. Sometimes actions are overt, but mostly I've found the person conducting the [offensive] behavior doesn't even realize it is offensive."

Married for seven years and employed as a nurse—he left two nursing jobs because of the way he was treated—"he said he has experienced incidents that have forced him to speak out," Roznik writes. "Once—while he was walking his dog—a driver from a car passing by shouted: 'Nigger, go back where you came from.' Another time, at a car dealership, someone commented on his 'nice tan.' And he's heard the words 'colored' and 'wetbacks,' used by people in professional settings." (Reporter photo by Doug Rafik: Statues of black caricatures in front of a home in Fond du lac)

"Blacks are more than twice as likely to be arrested in Fond du Lac than in Milwaukee or Madison, according to a USA Today database," Roznik writes. "The statistics show the arrest rate for blacks by the Fond du Lac Police Department in 2012 (per thousand residents) was 757.3 compared to 109.7 white arrests. The rate for the Madison Police Department was 593.1 blacks compared to 61.9 whites, and the Milwaukee Police Department was 312.6 blacks compared to 64.6 for whites."

"Fond du Lac County Supervisor Judy Goldsmith, a member of United for Diversity, points to another study done by 24/7 Wall Street that lists Wisconsin as the worst state for black Americans to live," Roznik writes. "Black home ownerships was at 28 percent, and the black incarceration rate was the third highest in the nation. Black children in Wisconsin had worse educational outcomes than their white classmates and their black peers in other states." (Read more)

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