Madison’s race gap wide and deep, community leaders say

Lynn Danielson:

In a December Cap Times cover story titled “Justified Anger,” the Rev. Alex Gee of Fountain of Life Covenant Church shared a first-person account of the racial discrimination he has experienced and sees all around him in Madison, and challenged our community to become concerned and involved. The story resonated with readers — it was one of the Cap Times’ best-read stories of 2013 and sparked lively discussions on social media and letters to the editor.
Both the Rev. Gee and the Cap Times are moving ahead to keep the conversation going about Madison’s racial discrimination problem — and to work on solutions.
The Cap Times opinion section is running a series of columns by community members responding to the Rev. Gee and sharing their views on the way forward. This week, there are four.
Gloria Ladson-Billings, a professor in UW-Madison’s department of curriculum and instruction, writes that “nice” Madison is in denial about its racism. Ladson-Billings recounts how when she toured Madison schools nearly two decades ago, she predicted there would be no African-Americans in advanced math classes, and many in the “basic” science class. When she turned out to be correct, her white colleagues on the tour thought she was clairvoyant. Another striking anecdote she relays is how a diversity expert who conducted training here was rebuffed and attacked when he dared suggest Madisonians had issues with race — the only time he’d experienced such a reaction despite delivering a similar message in numerous communities.