‘It is an urgency, it is a crisis’: Racial equity task force aims to have bipartisan solutions by January

MADISON, Wis. — A new task force at the Wisconsin state capitol aims to have legislative solutions to racial inequities in the state by January.

Rep. Sheila Stubbs, D-Madison, and Majority Leader Jim Steineke, R-Kaukana, will lead the group, which will focus on racial disparities, educational opportunities, public safety, and police policies and standards, according to a news release from the Assembly speaker, who created the group.

“Wisconsin is in a state of crisis,” Stubbs said at a news conference announcing her appointment. “It is an urgency. It is an emergency that we must tackle racial disparities in our state.”

Multiple surveys have shown Wisconsin is one of the worst, if not the worst, state in the country for Black people. In 2016 the Sentencing Project found African American people in the state are incarcerated more than white people at a rate more than 10 to 1. The U.S. Census Bureau found a 37% income gap between white and Black employees with similar jobs. The same survey found a 16.7% difference in getting a bachelor’s degree and that Black people are also far less likely to own a home.

“Wisconsin is the worst place to raise a Black family,” Stubbs said. “That is unacceptable. This is shameful. This is unacceptable, and our community deserves better.”

Steineke said the task force will work on bipartisan solutions, tapping into the minds of the community, police, nonprofits and legislators to get there. He said they would look at the bills from the special session on racial equity, bills from the Wisconsin Professional Police Association and those from other lawmakers.

The task force is looking for community members to add to the body. Those interested can apply by emailing a resume and statement of interest to SpeakersTaskForce@legis.wisconsin.gov.

Once the committee is set, Steineke said the body will meet in late September or early October, then every two or three weeks after that, with the goal of having legislation ready to go by the beginning of the next session in January.

“So often in politics these days you have one side or the other throwing stuff up against the wall and not really doing the hard work of bringing people together to get solutions actually passed,” Steineke said. He encouraged his future members to leave politics at the door to accomplish their goals.

Stubbs agreed with that message, including her reason for co-heading the group is to not see another unarmed Black man shot.

“It’s overdue,” she said. “I need something done right now. It is an urgency. It is a crisis. And if this is what it takes for me to move forward, I’m willing to do it.”