EDITORIAL: Milwaukee shootings don’t justify neighborhood stereotypes

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Illustration by Maddy Kennedy/madeline.kennedy@marquette.edu

Don’t venture south of the valley, beware of the west side of campus, and never, ever, go north of State Street. Or so most Marquette students were probably told during the first few weeks of their freshman year.

Yet to some extent, these boundaries are arbitrary.

Students often consider the neighborhood surrounding Marquette to be automatically dangerous, and with the increase of shootings in Milwaukee during 2013 compared to 2012, walking north of State Street or west of 23rd Street after midnight by oneself is probably not the best idea. Nevertheless, taking basic safety precautions does not justify stereotyping areas based on their geography or demographics.

Marquette resides in the third Milwaukee police district. This district extends from Interstate 43 in the east to U.S. Highway 45 in the west and from Interstate 94 in the south to Center Street in the north.

It is a part of the city that many refer to as the “inner city” or the “ghetto” — not altogether without reason. On average, incidents of assault, burglary, robbery and theft were all higher in District Three during the month of August than in Milwaukee as a whole. One promising statistic for District Three is that while shootings in Milwaukee as a whole are up compared to last year, District Three’s increased proportionally less than the city as a whole.

While these statistics are worrisome, referring to Marquette’s neighborhood and the people that live there as ghetto is inappropriate.

The attitude that certain parts of a city are “ghetto” just because of their geographical area or the ethnicity of the people who live there pervades far outside of the Marquette community. The Atlantic recently published a piece by Svati Kirsten Narula on an app called “Ghetto Tracker,” an iPhone application that designates whole neighborhoods as “ghetto” or “safe” based on how people rated them.

“To label whole geographic areas as ‘good’ or ‘bad,’ ‘safe’ and ‘unsafe’ — (makes) the operation distasteful,” Narula writes.

The argument that whole neighborhoods can be written away as ghetto or unsafe simply because the people that live there are largely minorities or that most residents fall below the poverty line is not accurate.

While poverty can arguably breed crime it is unfair to assume that all poor people are criminals.

Understanding the city you live in is an important part of your higher education, but when you restrict the parts of Milwaukee that you visit because of the race or class of the people that live there, you lose out on an integral part of your education. While visiting some neighborhoods around Milwaukee may be perceived as dangerous, they should not be written off as “ghetto.” Furthermore, walking around any city alone, especially at night, poses hazards.

In the end, it is the individual people that make up the composition of a neighborhood, not the aggregate income or the majority race of the people living there.

The fact that people tend to write off some areas as ghetto and unsafe while others are “OK” speaks to undertones of racism and classism on campus. Students should make a concentrated effort to change how they view the neighborhood they live in.

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