It is extraordinary how little hard information we are given by the media when a town like Kenosha, Wisconsin succumbs to civil unrest. TV reporters and presenters tell us almost nothing worth knowing about the character and identity of the place.
According to “World Population Review”, Kenosha has a population of about 100,000 people. It’s the fourth largest city in Wisconsin. Eighty per cent of the population of Kenosha is white, 11.5 per cent is black. Most of the population (55 per cent) either never made it to college or had some college education but never graduated, 15 per cent got a BA, and 8 per cent have a graduate degree of some kind. Last year, 764 Black Americans from Kenosha graduated with a college degree, compared to almost 13,000 whites. Nine times as many white people in Kenosha as black people made it through high school. More than sixteen times as many white people in Kenosha have a college degree than black people. The poverty rate of white people in Kenosha is 13 per cent. For black people it’s almost 33 per cent.
Perhaps the most striking difference between different ethnic groups in Kenosha is to do with marriage — 64 per cent of Asians are married, 44 per cent of white people are married and 24 per cent of black people are married.
Then there are the figures for social inequality. Time reported on 26 August: “One report found that Midwestern states, including Wisconsin, made up 10 out of 11 of the states ‘with the largest ratio between black and white unemployment in 2017.’ And five out of six of the country’s metropolitan regions where Black residents experience concentrated poverty at rates over 40 per cent — a measure of whether a large number of people in a certain area are poor — are in the Midwest; Milwaukee is among them. Kenosha, a city of 100,000 where Black residents represent 11.5 per cent of the community, is halfway between Milwaukee and Chicago, two of the most segregated cities in the US.”
Despite these statistics, crime figures in Kenosha are 29 per cent below the national average and violent crimes are 11 per cent below the national average. Year on year, crime in Kenosha has decreased by 17 per cent and Kenosha is rated as being safer than 39 per cent of US cities — but as with so many American cities, the suburbs are considerably safer than poorer areas.
According to one local poll, when people were asked how reliable the police are in this area, 44 per cent replied: “The police are very visible and very responsive” and 41 per cent said “The Police are visible, but somehow respond slowly when needed.” It is not clear from the poll whether there are differences in black and white responses and there are no answers about police racism.
But in a survey on “Racial Disparities in Imprisonment in Wisconsin” by Pamela Oliver, a very different picture emerges. Her report begins: “Wisconsin ranked #2 (behind Minnesota) in 1996 black/white racial disparities in new imprisonments. This disparity arose from being fifth highest in the nation in the per capita rate of new imprisonment of African Americans, but fifth lowest in the rate of new imprisonment for whites. African Americans were 20.6 times as likely to enter prison in Wisconsin as whites. (And in these numbers, “white” includes white Hispanics.)”
Later on, Oliver writes, “blacks are not only 7.6 times as likely to be arrested on drug charges as whites… the ratio of imprisonment to arrest for blacks is 6.8 times that for whites. The net effect is that the racial disparity for new imprisonment on drug charges in Wisconsin in 1996 was a whopping 51.7! By contrast, the also high 47.5 racial disparity ratio for new imprisonment for robbery was principally due to the large racial disparity in arrests for robbery, although the ratio of imprisonment to arrests for robbery was still 1.4 times higher for blacks than whites.”
To summarise, far fewer black people than whites in Kenosha graduate from high school and even fewer graduate from college. Almost twice as many white people in Kenosha are married than black people. Black people are more likely to be unemployed and, if arrested, are far more likely to be imprisoned. This isn’t just about BLM and what’s happening in America this summer. It’s not even just about Jacob Blake. The figures for education, social inequality and imprisonment suggest that black people in Kenosha face serious systemic problems. One question facing American voters in November is which candidate is most likely to tackle these fundamental problems in a small city like Kenosha, where if you’re black, the numbers are stacked high against you.