Milwaukee, Wisconsin, has consistently been rated as one of the most segregated cities in America and one of the worst places for Black people to live. Wisconsin imprisons Black men at the highest rate in the nation; many of them come from Milwaukee. I was raised in an overwhelmingly white suburb just a few miles away.
Living in an all-white suburb doesn’t automatically make you feel safe and certainly does not protect you from unprovoked interactions with police, but I grew up unencumbered by police presence. I never had to think about the police. In fact, I cannot recall even seeing police officers at the mall, at school, or driving by my house. Looking back now, I can see that growing up without visible police presence allowed me the freedom to express myself, find joy, and to make mistakes without traumatic or possibly deadly consequences.
Black people often don’t have the luxury of making silly mistakes as a child or young adult without dire consequences. My lack of contact with police as a child means I can think back now with joy on all of the childhood mistakes I made because, well, I was a child. I have always felt a deep connection to water and unbeknownst to my mom, I would often ride my bike to a beautiful Lake Michigan overlook that was nestled in one of the wealthier neighborhoods in the city, a bit too far from home for a child of my age. I remember the peace and joy it brought me that I would carry into adulthood. One reason I am able to carry that joy into adulthood is that I was never confronted by the police for being in the “wrong place.”