Following is a commentary from Racine Mayor Cory Mason following a recent report by 24/7 Wall Street in which the Racine metropolitan area ranks No. 2 in worst places for African Americans to live:
As Mayor of the City of Racine, I am upset by this report, and I know that its findings are not “news” to local African Americans or to my administration: The disparities our region faces are real and have had lasting impacts on the well-being of our community.
Decades of redlining and other policies have left African Americans out of homeownership, job opportunities, and economic prosperity.
I continue to see the report’s underlying data as a call to action. The challenges before us are deep and require both government and community leaders to partner together to address these disparities and undo years of economic, social, educational, and political discrimination and disenfranchisement.
However, it must be made absolutely clear that this analysis is not just of the City of Racine. 24/7 Wall Street’s data includes both the City and our surrounding, increasingly more affluent, suburbs. This analysis only helps to reinforce arguments that I have been making since I first took office – disparities between the City of Racine and our surrounding villages and towns are problematic, inequitable, and continue to grow.
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As a region and a county, if we want to address this head on, we must have Mount Pleasant, Caledonia, Sturtevant, and others come to the table and be part of the solutions. Without the region stepping up and acknowledging the challenges we face together, we will not be able to create a community that is more inclusive for everyone, that embraces diversity, and that encourages and create spaces for lower income individuals to work, live, and play beyond the borders of the City of Racine.
As a city, we are doing more than ever to help create pathways to homeownership and create safe, affordable housing for our residents. We have invested in workforce training programs, are increasing financial counseling, and are actively expanding access to programs that help more residents obtain the education credentials they need to increase their economic mobility.
But I cannot stress this enough: the City of Racine cannot fix a county-wide or regional problem on our own. We cannot single-handedly undo more than a century’s worth of policies that have redlined people into poverty, closed our municipal borders, and effectively segregated our communities.
If the surrounding villages do not take this seriously—if they do not own the role they play and take responsibility for it—we will continue to be a community where if you’re poor and a person of color, the only place you likely can afford to live will be the City of Racine; and if you are white and have money, you will likely live in Sturtevant, Mount Pleasant, Caledonia, Wind Point, or Elmwood Park.
I hope all of our regional community members are as upset by this designation as I am. No doubt, City residents will come to our Common Council meetings and tell us this is unacceptable.
But we need those same people, along with the good people of our surrounding villages and townships who care about regional equity, to show up to the village board meetings in Mount Pleasant, Caledonia and the other suburbs to demand that their elected leaders take an active role in becoming a part of the solution for the region.
Until that happens, no matter what the City of Racine does on its own, these racial and economic disparities will continue to grow and collectively and we will have failed to support the very people we were elected to serve.
Cory Mason is the mayor of the City of Racine.