Milwaukee area teenagers have really lost their minds. To read, watch and listen to the hysterical coverage, there is nothing but conflict and police contacts. There's a fight, police get called, teens flee…it’s just an outrageous situation.
You probably heard about the recent events at Bradley Tech on the near south side, where cell phones, angry teens, over-involved parents and over-exuberant basketball fans have melded into quite an evil mix. All together now: Something Must Be Done. Supply your own exclamation points – I can’t do everything for you.
But other truths pop up in the strangest places. North Shore Now – a descendant of several formerly local and independent weekly newspapers, now homogenized and conglomerated by the Journal Company through their CNI subsidiary – has a story of a (gasp!) “fight” between about 40 Whitefish Bay and Nicolet High School students on January 27th outside the Jewish Community Center (!) on formerly quiet Santa Monica Boulevard.
Well! I know there weren’t any video cameras (were there?) so we could all watch our precious children battle on starved-for-footage cable news shows, but where is the outrage about these North Shore youths running amok? Where are the radio wing-nuts shouting about anarchy, bad parenting, lack of values and the break-down of societal mores?
It’s a rhetorical question, of course. North Shore kids -- hey, they're just bein' kids!
But the city kids at Bradley Tech...well, nothing exposes the naked racism of the wing-nuts like a little rumble in (certain) schools, streets and gyms by a bunch of bussed-for-integration African-Americans. Mark Belling is, as usual, the worst; just daring anyone to call him racist as he relates his own twisted history of the Tech/Bay View basketball rivalry (used to be a real rivalry, but none of the kids in the schools live there anymore, so…) and blames it all on black people acting like, you know, black people.
Belling is a vulture that lives for stories like this that he can pounce on and twist to affirm his racist view of the universe. He can deny his racism all he wants and as loudly as he can, but it doesn’t change the fact that his racist poison has inflicted this community for far too long. Others are either more subtle and supposedly cerebral (Sykes) or just lamely head-nodding, letting their too-willing audience fill in the blanks. But Belling is the worst, and he’s disgustingly proud of it.
So what about the Sharks-and-Jets North Shore dust-up? What about the fact (reported on page 19 of the ever-enlightening Now) that Shorewood High School has had to restrict the attendance at a dance to Shorewood students only. This is “because of what’s been going on with dances and guests”, according to the article. My god, what the hell has been “going on with dances and guests”? No details. Perhaps one of the local radio wing-nuts can take up the issue and random people can call in and claim to know. This is a favorite tactic of the know-nothing class – pretending to know something, anything, as long as it validates their prejudices.
I won’t hold my breath waiting for Belling and Sykes to take up teen terror on the North Shore with the same sort of breathless know-it-all-ness with which they dive into the sociology of the underclass high school student. They only explore the psyche of the suburban teen when there is a car crash, and, then, always with sympathy. Besides, admitting that suburban kids also make mistakes in the heat of passion takes the eye off their racist target. The truth eludes them once again, on purpose.
Stupid kids do stupid things – same as it ever was. This fact transcends racial and class boundaries everywhere except in Wing-Nut Land, where They are forever ruining everything for Us. After the supposed student-plus-parent conflict at Tech several weeks ago, Belling imagined what would happen if such a thing took place at Brookfield Central. I’ll tell you what would happen. Belling’s phone lines would be jammed with parents squawking about how right they were to do whatever they did. And Belling would be sitting on his lazy ass in the studio, blaming it all on the teachers.
Because Belling has been on the air since the Fairness Doctrine was revoked by Reagan in 1987, there is a certain acquiescence to the loud outrages they he gleefully foists upon the public every day. He is at his worst when he charges into racial issues, issues that demand the most sensitivity in this community, not the least. Like Republicans who still pursue Nixon’s Southern strategy, he uses code words and easy prejudice to stir the ghosts of Harold Brier’s old south side in what is still the most segregated city in America. His hate is more than a psychosis; it is a marketing tool.