Culture Shock Milwaukee A Whole Different World Within the Same State

The first installment of the Culture Shock series is how the rest of Wisconsin views Milwaukee. Recently, there has been some unrest in Milwaukee with violent rioting due to an incident between a criminal getting shot by police. I don’t really feel the need to get into the details or politics surrounding this incident, but the events that occurred right after the incident are a huge reason why other Wisconsinites view Milwaukee as a foreign land that might as well be called, “Chicago, Jr.” One thing about Wisconsin, is outside of Milwaukee, it’s very rural. The Milwaukee Metro area has approximately 1.6 million people whereas the whole state of Wisconsin has 5.8 million people. That means that close to a third of the state lives just in the Milwaukee area. Even Madison, which is the second biggest city with a metro population of 640,000, doesn’t even compare. Actually, Madison is often ranked #1 by various publications in terms of overall quality of life. Even though they’re only about 80 miles apart, the difference is night and day. Then, when comparing the rest of Wisconsin, you might as well be on different planets. Now to put Rural Wisconsin into context, I grew up in Marshfield. It’s, “A great place to raise a family, but a horrible place to raise hell.” In terms of quality of life and safety, this is a really good thing. Marshfield, along with most Wisconsin towns, is to the point people still don’t lock their doors when they are gone. You will also see people think nothing of leaving their car running (to keep the car warm or cold depending on the season) and unlocked as they make a quick run inside to a convenience store. Basically, I’m not sure how much safer it really can get. Now contrast this with Milwaukee. Milwaukee is where the majority of violent crimes in Wisconsin happen. Since crime outside Milwaukee is rare, Milwaukee’s crime makes big news stories. This is often the only thing other Wisconsinites hear about Milwaukee on the news (well maybe also the Brewers and Bucks). When the average Wisconsinite thinks of crime, they think of Milwaukee. They think of it to the point they refer to Milwaukee as, “Killwaukee.” When they think of failing schools, they think of Milwaukee. Pretty much, since Milwaukee is the only huge city in Wisconsin, any negative urban problems that happen in Milwaukee make the rest of Wisconsin want nothing to do with it. Now compared to a lot of cities I’ve been to, Milwaukee has the same problems as any other major city. I’ve been to Ferguson, Houston, Chicago, Detroit, and so many others that I can name but wasn’t blogging at that time so I don’t have the exact stories. The same problems that plague these cities, also plague Milwaukee. What it really boils down to is the frame of reference that a non-Milwaukee living Wisconsinite has. They are used to extremely safe cities and want nothing to do with anything but that. Honestly, in a lot of cases, I don’t blame them because who wants to constantly look over your shoulder. Now it is interesting when you tell people you’re going to Milwaukee. The only reason most Wisconsinites have for visiting Milwaukee is catching a flight. If you have any other reason other than that, people are perplexed why you would want to go there. When you say you’re going there, they tell you to be careful and show concern for your “dangerous” decision. To them it’s a 50/50 chance of getting shot, raped, mugged, carjacked or having some other bad thing happen to you. With that being said, Milwaukee is an decent city. I’ve been there several times and never had an incident. Yes, you have to pay attention to your surroundings and stay out of the bad areas. This is something a Rural Wisconsinite never has to do in their hometowns. Constantly looking over your shoulder is foreign concept to them, but it is the reason why they have the opinions they do and view Milwaukee as a, “no man’s land.” Having my Central Wisconsin cultural point of reference, I am definitely wary of Milwaukee, and also any big city in general. I have obviously gone out of my comfort many times and traveled to a lot of these cities. I have yet to have an incident and will continue to explore.