Sometimes you have to leave home to appreciate home. The unfortunate violence in Milwaukee last weekend reminded me of a strange night in Milwaukee a few years ago.
Milwaukee lives in the shadow of Chicago. Much like Sacramento and San Francisco.
It was a weekend with friends ,this was my second visit to Milwaukee and on this visit I received the grand tour. It was a great saturday, museums, the Public Market, rich German food for lunch, sightseeing. There is quite a bit going on in Milwaukee.
Dinner was at a trendy restaurant, the conversation was lively, filled with laughter. Suddenly, without warning the tone changed, people started getting serious. I was taken aback, it had been a long day but there hadn’t been any disagreements. I looked around to see if there was drama in the restaurant. Someone asked for the check. Confused, I’m playing the tape in my head to see if I might have offended anyone.
The ride in the Suburban was quiet, 8 adults riding in silence. I was first person dropped off at my hotel, there were hugs and kisses. Memories of the day were washed away, what happened? Its after one and I cant sleep. 20 minutes later my phone vibrated. It was a text message, are you up? Yes. Can I call you….
From the call, I learned that the area wasn’t friendly to African Americans, especially after dark. There was much debate about taking me to this restaurant, and the plan was to leave by 8. We were there past 10. Apparently there was some people at the table behind me staring at our tabl,e making a few people at OUR table nervous and they didn’t know if things would escalate.
A few of my friends sensed I was upset and they discussed it in detail after dropping me off. A few of us planned to meet for bunch and at bunch there would be an explanation. It was a combination of embarrassed and fear. Afraid I might question who they are.
After the call, I was relieved and troubled. Perhaps I’m naive, in my world there aren’t geographical restrictions. Many years ago, I was lost outside of Chicago and wound up in the suburb of Cicero, I stopped at a gas station to ask directions and a black man told me not to go in and to leave this town! I wanted to laugh (leave this town?) were in the nineties Please. I reluctantly climbed in my rental and drove away. The next day my Chicagoland friends said, Cicero was no joke for black folks!
Back in Sacramento, I went online and researched the Milwaukee’s history. Milwaukee is one of the most segregated cities in the nation. The division between white and black is striking.
As I said earlier, sometimes you have to leave home to appreciate home and the people there.
I love Sacramento, sometime I struggle with its image of itself . Many people who were born and raised here do not I think much of their city. Perhaps its being a refugee from San Francisco, I see its beauty. The people here are genuinely nice. I love the diversity in Sacramento. I have no desire to live in a mono community.
My experience in Milwaukee didn’t taint the city. Far too often we miss the BIG picture. I had an excellent day there. I was pleasantly surprised by what I’ve seen and the people I met. From what I read, healing has begun in city. But there is much to be done in Milwaukee and many others cities across the nation including Sacramento.
Sacramento isn’t perfect, city government and the police department do not reflect the community as whole and there are pockets of isms here and there, but we all seem to get along. Without hesitation I can take friends to restaurants or theaters anywhere in the area. My friends from the mega cities are often surprised, Sacramento? Yes!