Letter to the Editor: Racism in Wisconsin

In the 2023 ranking of the most racist states in the U.S., Wisconsin once again came in first. It wasn’t close. Wisconsin scored 11 points lower than the second worst state (only the District of Columbia had a lower score than Wisconsin). 

In another analysis, states were ranked on a state’s progress on delivering on a promise of racial equality. Using 17 different criteria (for example child poverty, employment, incarceration) Wisconsin ranked 42nd.

This is a background against which to reflect on the Wisconsin legislature’s position that University of Wisconsin campuses’ Offices of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion are unnecessary, cancerous and a waste of taxpayer dollars. Their belief in this position is so strong they took the unfathomable, unethical and possibly illegal position of holding 34,000 UW employees hostage for six months by refusing to release pay increases that these dedicated UW employees had earned and been approved by the Legislature as a whole and Gov. Evers. Yet, in the private sector, the value of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion is embraced.  One example: Nicolet Bank states, “The ideals of diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging are fundamental to the mission of Nicolet.”

Never pay hostage-takers because it only encourages more hostage-taking. Nevertheless, the majority of the UW’s Board of Regents, after memorable, impassioned statements about commitments to support under-represented students – knowing they were pawns in this partisan political theater, some even facing threats of losing their jobs – caved to the Legislature’s blackmail demands and agreed to dismantle UW-DEI offices in exchange for hostage money. 

If Offices of DEI are not the answer, what is?  One answer is to choose representatives who are humiliated by and grieve this ranking and who will consider every action, every piece of legislation as an opportunity to become more diverse, more equitable, and more inclusive. The decision to dismantle is an opportunity missed.

Norman J Wilsman

Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin