If 3 Billion Dollars Didn’t Scare You…

By now, anyone following Wisconsin politics probably has some opinion about whether the state should be handing out $3,000,000,000 to a Taiwanese corporation for the promise of some jobs. If you support the plan, you’ll probably say “It’s going to be 13,000 jobs!” If you’re not a supporter, you might point out that the number Foxconn promised is closer to 3000.

My take on the hand-out, in brief, is that putting $3 billion on one horse is irresponsible. We could more effectively grow our economy by investing in the university system to draw talent to the state; people who will start businesses or bolster the companies that might create jobs.

As Steven Verburg points out, once the $3 billion has been paid out and thousands are working there, the state will have that much less leverage when it comes to enforcing air and water quality standards for the 25 years it will take for the state to see a net return on that money.

That’s assuming that we’ll have a DNR inclined to enforce environmental standards. Cathy Stepp recently left her position at the DNR (with a lax record of allowing manure from CAFOs into the water supply) to join the EPA, with the likely goal of making that agency less effective. In the short term, Scott Walker will get to appoint someone even less qualified.

Yet, there’s more to the Foxconn package that makes it even worse.

Before we get to the bizarre things that have been tacked on, we need to be familiar with Wisconsin’s judiciary hierarchy:

Wisconsin State Judiciary
Circuit Court: 249 judges, with jurisdiction by county (mostly)
Court of Appeals: 16 judges, with jurisdiction by district (1/4 of the state)
Supreme Court: 7 justices, with statewide jurisdiction
All publicly elected.

The Right to “Super-Appeal”

A prevision was just added to the Foxconn incentive bill to allow Foxconn to appeal any lawsuit directly to Wisconsin’s Supreme Court, skipping the Court of Appeals.
This exclusive right to “super-appeal” also puts a stay on the lower court’s ruling. That means even if the Circuit Court decided against Foxconn, they don’t have to comply unless the Supreme Court takes the case and rules against them. This puts the burden on the Supreme Court to reinforce any Circuit Court rulings against Foxconn.

A specific corporation will be explicitly named in law as having rights above and beyond any other Wisconsin companies or any of Wisconsin’s human beings. This is not normal.

We don’t know yet what the Wisconsin Supreme Court thinks of having their docket be determined by Foxconn. But we do know the Wisconsin Supreme Court no longer make their deliberations public. Nor to the the publicly-elected justices recuse themselves when a case involves a campaign donor.

In other words, the highest court in the state is up for bid. Foxconn has a free pass to skip the lower courts, giving them extraordinary power. If a citizen, another company, or perhaps even the state of Wisconsin itself ends up in court against Foxconn, they’ve probably already lost.

Here’s how it plays out: let’s say Foxconn takes billions of gallons of water from Lake Michigan and dumps it back in with all sorts of chemicals added. Maybe the DNR sues. A circuit court judge tells Foxconn to stop. Foxconn appeals, and gets to keep doing what they want while waiting for the Supreme Court to take the case.

And, maybe this isn’t Foxconn’s first appeal. Maybe they’ve filled up the Supreme Court’s docket for the next several years. Or maybe the justices handle the extra caseload by changing their rules, so that they don’t need to have in-person hearings and deliberation, they can just submit their verdict and move on.
Yup. That’s a broken system.

That’s why we need to make it clear to our representatives and state senators, our neighbors, and our media that this provision threatens the independence of each branch of government.That’s not a partisan concern.

And this underlines the importance of the Supreme Court elections. Tim Burns and Rebecca Dallet have already announced their candidacy for the next election.
We need to pay attention to lower court elections as well — in the Court of Appeals, Dane County is grouped with everything west of Dodge and south of Clark County. And Dane County alone has 17 elected circuit court justices. If you search news for Dane County Circuit Court, you can get a sense of the issues they rule on and how consequential their decisions are.

Graham-Cassidy is Not Dead Yet

Call to save the ACA

We’re not out of the woods yet. Yes, two Senators have pledged to vote against the Graham-Cassidy-(-Heller-Johnson) TrumpCare bill. But we need three. We don’t know for sure who’s on the fence. And there’s still a week for Republican leadership to press them into submission.

We know Tammy Baldwin will vote against the bill, and we know that Ron Johnson is a cosponsor who is beyond persuasion. So you may be wondering what you can do to help defeat the bill.

You can use Indivisible’s TrumpCare Ten peer-to-peer dialing tool. This is the same calling tool used last July when we won the TrumpCare battle. In the final two days before the healthcare votes, 1,000 Indivisibles made 100,000 phone calls to constituents in ten target states with swing Republican Senators who might be persuaded to vote against the bill. It worked then, so let’s do it again.

Many people feel uncomfortable making calls to strangers. But these strangers are our friends. You’ll be talking with people like you who attended the Women’s March, who are standing up to defend DACA, and/or who fight for progressive causes.

Here’s how it works:

  1. Sign up at https://www.trumpcareten.org/calls-to-kill-trumpcare/ to make phone calls from Indivisible’s peer-to-peer dialing tool. Once you’re signed in, you can start making calls immediately.
  2. You’ll get a script to make it as easy as possible. You’ll be reminding these voters why the continued fight against TrumpCare is so important—and why they have particular power in this moment to affect the outcome.
  3. Next, you’ll call a voter in a key state with a swing Republican Senator. You’ll ask them to call their senator and to share their own reasons for opposing the bill.
  4. The tool connects them directly to their Senator’s office. The call tool will allow you to automatically patch them through to the Senators’ district offices.

Here are some phone banking tips from Indivisible Madison’s May 30th newsletter to help you get past any stage fright.

  • Set a goal for how long you’ll make calls. This helps you make a commitment to the task, but it also sets a limit—I can make it until then.
  • Read the script out loud a couple of times before you start. You want to sound like you’re talking rather than reading.
  • The script is a baseline. Your goal is to convince the voter to talk to their Senator’s office. Exactly how you get there is up to you. Be friendly; make it a conversation. If your script feels natural to you, you’ll feel and sound more at ease.
  • Don’t give people easy outs when you start the conversation. The answer to “Can I ask you a few questions?” or “Do you have a few minutes?” is almost always “NO.”
  • Smile and dial. People can hear smiles. That’s because your facial expression changes both the way you feel and the way you sound. If you’re smiling, you’re going to feel better and sound more enthusiastic on the phone. That will have a big effect on the conversations you have. Set up a small mirror to check yourself. (No, you’re not being vain.)
  • Allow five rings before you hang up. The script may provide a voice mail message for you to leave.
  • If the voter says no, say thank you and hang up. There’s no point in trying to convince that voter to change, and they’re just wasting your time.
  • Don’t badmouth the Republican party or specific Senators unless they do first.
  • Don’t stress over a call you think went badly. The good news is that that person doesn’t know you and you’ll never talk to them again. Think about what went wrong and how to do it better next time, but don’t dwell on it or beat yourself up. There are always other voters.
  • Make a game out of it. Put candy (jelly beans?) in a bowl, and ration out one piece for every five calls. That might be enough to keep you going for a bit longer.
  • Share your results on the Indivisible Madison group Facebook page – click here – so you can inspire others to call.

RTT Update: 09-12-17 (notes)

Sen Erpenbach Office Visit 9-12-17

Sen Erpenbach was on the Senate floor during the meeting. The group met with Kelly, who is a legislative assistant in his office.


  • The Senator will be voting no on the bill.
  • Some amendments have been proposed by the majority, but the office did not have information about what those amendments were.
  • The bill is Special Session SB1, and the special session was called just to pass the bill.
  • The minority has also proposed amendments, but these amendments have no chance of passing.


Kelly recommended using the notification service at legis.wi.gov to keep track of bills and topics.


Health Care:

  • There is no expectation that any of Sen. Erpenbach’s healthcare bills will see any movement as long as the Republicans hold the majority.
  • Kelly declined to discuss any possibility of flipping the legislature because campaigning is not appropriate to the Senate office.
  • The ACA is in limbo and money for navigators has been cut. Is there any chance to restore that funding through state channels?
    • Sen. Erpenbach consistently advocates for Medicaid expansion.
    • The office has been trying to promote the open enrollment period through social media.
    • The senator is additionally seeking a legal opinion about whether it would be feasible to introduce a bill that would allow a state on the federal exchange to opt-out of the open enrollment period.
  • For people on long-term, necessary medications, is anyone working on “pill banks” in the case of ACA repeal?
    • Not that the office is aware of.
  • Which companies provide health insurance in Wisconsin?
    • The office is not certain. Some companies have entered the market while others have left.
  • Is there any motion on the BadgerCare for all bill?
    • No.


Minority parties do not set the agenda. The majority may not give much notice on a hearing or other action.


Does Jon Erpenbach plan to join the Progressive Caucus?

  • There is no information on his plans, but he would likely be interested in the work of the Progressive Caucus.

What is the outlook on the Mining Bill?

  • 10 hours of public testimony were given last week.
  • There may be a vote this week, but if amendments to the bill are offered, the vote may be delayed to next week.
  • At the hearing, there was a lot of local opposition, but also many who were brought in to support mining.
  • One example: An Inuit woman was invited to speak from Canada about how mining can be positive for Native American communities. However, many local tribes pointed out that in the Canadian examples that she provided, Native American groups were brought to the table to work with mining companies regarding benefits and environmental protections, which is not what is happening in this case.
  • The Back 40 mine owners are financially struggling, and they need to signal to investors that they’re a going concern. The support of Wisconsin for their projects would accomplish that.
  • The mining bill would repeal the “Prove It” law which required mine owners/operators to demonstrate that they could run a mine safely for ten years and also close a mine safely for ten years.. The bill would further remove existing legislation that would require mine owners/operators to take responsibility for negative outcomes that result from mining after the mine has closed.
  • In general the public and their objections were given time at the hearing.
  • Mining companies claim that technology has advanced to improve safety for people and the environment. However, there is no evidence of this as the proposed bill would remove the regulations that would allow monitoring.
  • What works to stop legislation like this?
    • Local opposition has stopped mines in the past.
    • Contacting bill co-sponsors has worked in the past. Talk to your friends and family up North to ask them to call as well.
    • Contacting investors and making your opposition known can also be effective.
    • Working with counties downriver is key


Is there any way Democratic elected officials could connect to grassroots groups on issues like this?

  • That’s hard because there are a lot of groups
  • Information goes out through the Erpenbach newsletter, facebook, and twitter.


Regarding the Budget…

  • Will this take away local control on mining?
    • The budget deals with a different type of mining, not that involved in the Back 40.
    • The budget also includes a provision to void any local regulation that is more stringent than state regulations
    • There are also changes to professional licensing to eliminate licensing requirements. It would eliminate professional boards to consolidate oversight. This is separate from the desire to get rid of all licensing for teachers.

The current bill for mining (SB 395) would apply statewide.


There is no number of promised mining jobs– The Ladysmith mine created 25 jobs that lasted for 4 years.


Regarding Gerrymandering….

  • What if the Supreme court rules against the state?
    • The legislature is starting at zero for re-drawing the maps.
  • Concern that a Republican-drawn map would likely have to go back to the court.
  • The governor’s race might be key in Wisconsin because it’s not subject to gerrymandering.


What about the Wisconsin job shortage?

  • There’s a skill gap and no funding for technical schools.
  • And then there are transportation issues.


Do you see corporations investing in training?

  • It’s what Foxconn plans to do (with Wisconsin government funding)
  • Job obsolescence is a problem.


When is the Democratic party going to articulate a vision?

  • Take that up with the party.

Funding Obamacare Exchange Subsidies

by Paul Martorell

It’s time for President Trump to commit to making the Obamacare cost-sharing reduction payments (CSRs) through 2017. These payments reimburse insurance companies for making premiums affordable for millions enrolled in Obamacare exchanges. So far his administration has only committed to the CSR subsidy payments on a month-to-month basis. Insurance companies are leaving markets because of this uncertainty, such as in Wisconsin (“Molina to drop out of Wisconsin’s Obamacare marketplace,” Aug 2).

After the Obamacare repeal failed, Trump threatened to stop funding the CSR subsidies altogether, which are not “bailouts to insurance companies” but a way for low to middle-income Americans – including a member of my family – to get health care.

This is why, as long as Obamacare is still running, leaders from both parties are imploring the administration to fund these CSR subsidies. A bipartisan group of 40 House lawmakers called the “Problem Solver’s Caucus” released a plan that, among other pieces, mandates sufficient CSR funding. The National Governor’s Association issued a statement reading “It is critically important to provide insurers and states with certainty that CSRs will be funded.” By threatening CSR funding, President Trump is jeopardizing the lives of millions of his fellow Americans.


It’s Not About the Money

It’s easy to call the current Foxconn agreement a ‘bad deal’ because, most certainly, it is. The bill that passed the Wisconsin Assembly sets up over $2.85 billion in state tax credits over the next 15 years, exemptions from sales taxes, and environmental waivers.

The deal’s proponents have pointed out that if it were to fall through, it would make whichever state that does manage to make an agreement with Foxconn very happy. This is undeniable but it’s indicative of the real problem. When elected officials treat our state government as just another player in the market rather than the voice of the people, we end up with an economy without safeguards. Such an economy quickly becomes a race to the bottom, with states fighting over how much of their tax revenue and how many of their environmental protections they can give away just for the privilege of housing an employer. The problem with races to the bottom? You might win.

The temptation is to continue calling this a “bad deal,” but I don’t think that tells the whole story. For me, the issue is bigger than the money saved, or not saved, by taxpayers. It’s not about a good or bad deal, but the role of government in general. More than a government that is simply efficient or that saves me money, I want a government that protects the people and environment of Wisconsin. To call it a deal suggests that the Wisconsin state government is just another business out to make a profit or cut costs. But that is not what our government is (or, at least, that’s not what our government should be).

The Wisconsin State Assembly (who passed the agreement) and the office of the governor (who constructed the agreement) were built to enact the will of the people of our state. And, in that regard, it is not they who make deals, but we who make rules – rules to protect the safety and interests of Wisconsin citizens. In terms of a deal between two financial entities, sure, the deal is ‘bad’. But in terms of an agreement designed to protect Wisconsin, this bill is a colossal failure and a complete perversion of the role of government.

Further, to call it a ‘bad deal’ assumes that the agreement’s proponents didn’t get what they wanted. It’s tempting to criticize Governor Walker, and his allies in the Assembly, on their own terms: to say that if they ‘were really a conservative’ they wouldn’t have resorted to ‘corporate welfare’ or ‘tried to pick winners and losers in the market.’ But, again, I’m not so sure that’s the whole story. Maybe the ‘bad deal’ they’ve made serves their ends perfectly well: By waiving environmental regulations and providing Foxconn with a massive tax cut, the agreement increases the burden on the state’s infrastructure while removing the tax revenue necessary to maintain it. This guarantees further budget shortfalls and other financial dysfunction and makes it easier for ideologues to justify a weaker government, one incapable of meeting the needs of its citizens.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve called it a deal in the past and you’ll probably catch me calling it a deal in the future; it’s an intuitive way to understand and talk about what’s happening. But it’s important to remember that, as progressives, we do have a broader vision for our society, one that includes building a robust and responsive government accountable to its constituents, capable of protecting the people and their interests, and that ensures prosperity for all.

History Lives

It’s my last week of work as a Senior Care Resident Coordinator, and with recent national events I’ve found myself doing a lot of reflecting on my 9 year journey in senior living. We need only turn to our seniors to know that history is still alive and to learn the real stories of what the past was like. Working in Chicago and the surrounding area, I’ve had a wide range of people I’ve cared for and bonded with.

I remember the man with the number tattooed on his forearm who, 70 years later, still had night terrors from the Holocaust. One of my favorite residents would tell us about her time in a Japanese internment camp when she was a child. I had another resident who grew up Black in rural Indiana in the 40’s. Her family lived in constant fear of the KKK. She would sometimes hallucinate from her condition that they were still coming for her. The threat was illusory, but her terror was so real. I wonder what they would think to see these groups that terrorized their families on TV, having rallies, spewing their hate. It breaks my heart knowing some of my residents worked their whole lives for a better world.

That is why I feel the urge to pick up where they left off and continue doing what I can. Sometimes that can be as simple as being nice to someone who frustrates me, assuming the best intentions, or having conversations I don’t want to have. That’s why you’ll see pictures of me at rallies, doing voter registration, and just being a general nerdy weirdo (my residents have also taught me to enjoy life and be myself). History isn’t an abstract page in a book; it’s people I’ve cared for with my own two hands. It’s real people’s lives, and it cannot be allowed to repeat. So do something, do anything. Just know that what you do (or don’t do) matters.

Featured image by Ingrid Laas

Are You Outraged Yet?

I just watched portions of today’s press conference with The D. He continues to defend the actions of the white supremacists who brought their vile message of hate to Charlottesville last weekend. It is revolting.

This is not my President.

I will stand with Charlottesville’s counter-protesters that risked their lives. I will stand against hate and intolerance along with my immigrant, LGBTQ, Jewish, Hispanic, Black and Muslim friends, family members and colleagues. I will not turn my head aside and silently accept this kind of world for my beautiful Hispanic grand daughters.

Yet, I (and most of my colleagues and friends) live in a cocoon of white, middle-class privilege. Many of us feel powerless to make a difference. Today, a co-worker asked “What can I do?” After pondering this much of the day, here is my suggested starter kit for white, middle-class, fledgling activists:

Recognize and acknowledge the presence and power of white privilege. Read “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack” by Peggy McIntosh or “Explaining White Privilege to a Broke White Person…” by Gina Crosley-Corcoran if you want to learn more.

Be self-aware.Take a close look at your own implicit biases – we all have them because we are human. Be more aware of the lens you use to view the world and where that lens may be ‘cracked’.

Pay attention to everyday micro and macro aggressions towards yourself and others. It is likely that you have people in your life that exhibit their own implicit (or explicit) biases in unkind, thoughtless or hurtful ways.

Get out of your comfort zone to challenge inappropriate or hurtful comments or other micro-aggressions that you encounter. Call out the sexist or homophobic joke, the racist reference, or the casual nasty remark about a woman’s body.

Find your voice and find your power. Power is the ability to effect change, in yourself and others. You are not powerless.

Get involved. Volunteer in a homeless shelter, tutor someone, attend a march, organize a fundraiser, volunteer for a political candidate, write a blog, donate money, join a group that is focused on resistance. But …DO something.

Be brave. By taking a stand, you will risk ridicule and risk being misunderstood. Yet, your best and most authentic self will stand up for what you know to be right, even when it is not easy. Try being brave in small ways first; you may just surprise yourself!

Finally, be kind. Be the change you want to see in the world.

Courtesy of http://paula-ponders.com. Paula Riesch is a member of Indivisible Madison and a frequent contributor to the IM newsletter and website.

A Prayer for the Fallen and Injured

The following is the statement Rabbi Jonathan Biatch delivered at Madison’s Candlelight Vigil in Solidarity with Charlottesville on Sunday, August 13, 2017. He was speaking on behalf of Wisconsin Faith Voices for Justice.

Good evening, my friends,

I am Jonathan Biatch, Rabbi of Temple Beth El here in Madison, and I am deeply pained by the reason we gather here tonight. I represent an organization called Wisconsin Faith Voices for Justice. Yet our voices are, at this moment, silenced by the shock and sadness that pervades this nation because of this weekend’s events in Charlottesville, Va.

A sacred text of my tradition reminds me that ‘although we are not required to complete the work, we are still compelled to be engaged in it.’ [Pirkei Avot 2:21]. So, here we gather once again, in this case to mourn and to seek catharsis by our presence, but also to rededicate ourselves to the ongoing work of realizing the true American values of equality and justice and peace that give our nation its unique place in the world.

On this occasion, I cannot think about anything other than fire. According to the folklore of my tradition, fire was the first of humanity’s creations. It happened just at the end of that first week in the book of Genesis’ account of God’s creating the world. Yet after creating fire, Adam and Eve discovered that they were afraid of it, and our legends tell us that God demonstrated to them how best to employ those flames which, we know, can be used for good purposes or for ill. We saw this past Friday night, one of the more purposeless and destructive uses of fire. White supremacist marchers used torches to light up the city of Charlottesville in support of their cause.

And I realized that it may have always been thus: For I recalled that these same kinds of torches were employed by Nazi troops and sympathizers during WWII, during their pro-Aryan and anti-Semitic rallies. As I witnessed this terror-filled apparition in Virginia, I realized that we have regressed as a nation and a world, that we have not learned from our past.

Yet we gather here in the same spirit of those concerned citizens, the progressive Americans, and the many religious leaders who gathered in Charlottesville this weekend (and those who are gathering in countless American communities tonight) to confront bigotry and racism.
Our hearts are with the people of the Commonwealth of Virginia who want to redress and resolve the racism in their past. They, there – and we, here – are being challenged by bigots, racists, and anti-Semites who take many of their cues from the so-called leaders in the current presidential administration.

Do we even recognize our nation? Do we see in our fellow citizens our best aspirations, or our worst fears? Is there a way that the president can remove his moral blinders that have, so far, shielded him from the truth of the hatred in our nation? Can we ask him to call out racists, anti-Semites, and xenophobes who are antithetical to the true spirit of America? We all can do this. Why does he refuse?

Let us go forward from this place, tonight, to help our leaders understand the depth of our pain and anguish. Let us go forward from this place, tonight, to ask the president to lead without being forced, cajoled, or compelled, to offer denunciations of white supremacist groups who are anti-American and anti-human, not simply anti-black, anti-Muslim, anti-Semitic, or anti-LGBTQ.
Let us go forward from this place, tonight, propelled by our common humanity and sense of justice, so that when white supremacists dare to appear anywhere in our nation, they will be met with overwhelming numbers of counter-protesters to bring forth true American values, not fake values.

On this night, let us go forward and offer sympathies and condolences to all those whose lives have been hurt by these bigoted and hateful people, in Charlottesville, Virginia, Bloomington, Minnesota, Oak Creek, Wisconsin, and others. And let us be certain to support them in whatever ways they require.

On this night, our sympathies are with the families of Heather Heyer, H. Jay Cullen, and Berke M.M. Bates, whose deaths did not have to occur were it not for the unforgivable acts of violence and terror perpetrated by the white supremacists who gathered in Charlottesville. Our sympathies are also with the wounded in yesterday’s events.

Please permit me to offer this prayer for those who were injured:

May the One who blessed our ancestors bless and heal those who are injured. May the Holy One of Blessing send them compassion, to restore them, to heal them, to strengthen them, to enliven them. May the One who is Blessed send them, speedily, a complete healing: healing of the soul and healing of the body, along with all the ill among all humankind.

And permit me to offer a prayer in memory of those who were killed:

May the One who blessed our ancestors send wholeness to the families of Heather Heyer, H. Jay Cullen, and Berke M.M. Bates, who now suffer at their losses. May God send them loved ones, family and friends, to comfort them and console them, so that they are not alone at this time of grief. And may their memories become blessings in this world.

May all innocent victims from yesterday’s events in Virginia, they and their families, know that good-hearted people from across the world stand with them and with their cause, that of discovering the true spirit of this country and its values of equality, justice, and peace.
I ask us to spend a few moments in silent prayer to remember those who have fallen, and those who will yet rise again in furtherance of these goals.

The struggle continues. May we be successful. Thank you and good night.

We, Too, Have to be Better

By Mike Persley

A few hours before I began to write this piece, President Donald Trump, speaking in a combative exchange with reporters at Trump Tower in Manhattan, equated the violent white nationalist groups and neo-Nazis that overtook Charlottesville on Aug. 12 with the protesters who showed up to fight against them.

The struggle led to one counter-protester dying and 19 others being injured, but both sides shared some blame for the violence, Trump told reporters. “I think there is blame on both sides. You had a group on one side that was bad. You had a group on the other side that was also very violent. Nobody wants to say that. I’ll say it right now.”

Abhorrent statements like this one are nothing new from Mr. Trump.

He’s spent much of his time in or running for public office insulting every group imaginable, and there’s no evidence to suggest that these statements will subside anytime soon. This particular statement, while once again stirring outrage among many, received the praise of former Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard David Duke who quickly took to Twitter, thanking the President “for your honesty and courage.”

Fighting against such outward bigotry is very clearly important and should continue. But I’d like to suggest that it’s just as important that we, la résistance, search within ourselves to find the silent bigotries that we hold and remedy them.

After all, our opponents are watching us very closely, searching for hypocrisies to exploit, pointing them out to their peers and saying, “You see, these fools think they’re so great. But they’re no better than we are.” We give them plenty of evidence for their claims. We cannot do so any longer.

To many outsiders, Madison epitomizes the white privilege many of its residents rail against. It’s largely white and affluent. Its highly developed downtown and posh surrounding neighborhoods are also predominantly white, while the poorer minority neighborhoods are on the outskirts of the city.

Dane County’s 25.2 percent Black unemployment rate in 2011 was significantly (and surprisingly) higher than the national African American jobless rate of 18 percent. The median household income of Dane County’s African American families was $20,664 that year, less than 1/3 the median income enjoyed by White families ($63,673), according to the lauded 2013 Race to Equity report.

There are many other racial inequities throughout Madison and Dane County. These inequalities didn’t develop overnight and won’t be changed overnight, either. But they did happen in a majority White liberal city that is supposedly opposed to such inequities. Somehow Madisonians became comfortable with such disparities.

Last Sunday I attended the vigil at the Capitol building to show solidarity with the anti-racist protesters from Charlottesville. An incredible, large, crowd formed outside of the capitol and, by all appearances, everyone there seemed sincere and outraged at the state of affairs.

As I walked away from the event, however, I was struck by an image. Outside of the Wisconsin Veterans Museum, a group of Black homeless people sat lined along the wall of the building with a collection of clothes and other belongings. They’re there almost every day, and people generally ignore them, so much so that a Black friend of mine who recently visited from Chicago saw them and pointed out, “Those are practically the only Black people I’ve seen since I’ve been here, and people just walk by them. It’s a little weird.”

It was my friend’s first time in Madison. While here, we frequented some of the downtown bars and he was struck by the number of restaurants filled with mostly White, seemingly well off families and students who ate and laughed together while a crowd of homeless Black people were footsteps away.

Many of those homeless people stay in a nearby shelter. Fair enough. But giving them shelter is putting a Band-Aid over a gaping wound.

All of the low-income housing and community organizations and police initiatives and government programs the city designs to address racial disparities will not change a social structure that’s been built from distorted minds.

Make yourself uncomfortable. Face hard truths and be willing to change. I will. Because the best way to win a battle is to stand tall against your adversaries with no flaws in your armor.