More than 100 people gathered at Pere Marquette Park on Friday afternoon in a "Rally for Justice" that started as support for imprisoned Milwaukee Ald. Michael McGee but sought also to highlight the need for jobs, a strong public education and health care in the African American community.
At the park numerous speakers spoke not only in support of McGee but talked about other needs within the community.
"I think we deserve a public education. I think we deserve food on the table. I think we deserve health care," said speaker Mike Harris."This rally is about hope. This rally is about one last chance for us to come together to explain to (the white community) to understand we ain't so violent because we want to be violent. We are so violent because who wouldn't fight when there's only crumbs on the floor?"
Time for a reality check here.
"We deserve a public education." No argument there. Doesn't Mr. Harris know about the Milwaukee Public Schools? Milwaukee Area Technical College? Charter schools? If a child isn't getting an education it isn't because of the government. The schools are there. They need to be used. If a child isn't taking advantage of educational opportunities, then the parents need to intervene. Now, if someone was standing in the schoolhouse door keeping a child from going to school, then we'd need to act immediately to end that discrimination. But where's the proof that's happening in Milwaukee?
"We deserve food on the table." Who can argue with that? I work to put food on the table. So does my wife. So, the number one way to get food on the table is work. If someone can't work, then there are several program options, such as Food Stamps, to help bridge the gap. The primary responsibility for putting food on the table rests on the parents within a family. A good job depends in large measure on a good education. Not attending school and not being serious about education while at school won't result in an education. No education, no job. See the relationship?
"We deserve health care." Again, who can argue but the problem is who will be responsible for providing this health care? The health care crisis hits the working poor the hardest -- those who don't qualify for programs such as Medicaid or Badger Care which are available to the poorest of the poor. That said, what is Mr. Harris' plan for improving health care?
Methinks Mr. Harris misses a huge reality: the way to change a community is from within, person by person, house by house, block by block. "Ask not what your country can do for you but what you can do for your country," as President Kennedy said.
We can build, equip, maintain and staff schools. But we can't force kids to attend and learn. We can stimulate the economy so that there are jobs but you're not getting a good job without an education. We need to improve delivery of health care. And certainly Mr. Harris needs to decide whether he's part of the solution or part of the problem.