MILWAUKEE — Radio Milwaukee’s airwaves have some of the best local music around. Now, they’re hoping a new podcast they’re producing will cause waves of systemic change.
“Every quality of life metric, we lag behind,” Tarik Moody, co-host of the By Every Measure podcast said. “So, how did we get here? And, how do we fix it?”
The two questions posed by Moody on the first episode of the podcast are simple, but come with very complex answers.
“There are people out there that don’t believe systemic racism exists,” Moody said. “They don’t understand what it is and they confuse systemic racism with somebody saying the N-word. Those are two different things.”
Moody pairs up with Milwaukee historian and activist, Reggie Jackson, to discuss the complexities of systemic racism so people can better understand what it is and how it impacts people of color.
“Systems of inequality are built into our society,” Jackson said on the podcast. “Any institution you look at, you can see the impact of that racism.”
“If everybody didn’t agree that two plus two equals four, then math wouldn’t work,” Moody said. “But everyone agrees, that two plus two is four so math works. That’s the same thing with systemic racism. If we don’t have the will and believe that all of us believe that this exists in the first place, you can’t get the point where we can find solutions.”
The six-part podcast hits the major factors of systemic racism. In addition to an overview of systemic racism, the two men discuss Criminal Justice and Police, housing, wealth gaps, education and health. They lay a foundation of what systemic racism is with facts, data and history to show how it has impacted people of color.
“We should make people uncomfortable, like Black people have always been uncomfortable,” Moody said. “No one has ever complained about us being uncomfortable. You need to be uncomfortable to have this conversation but we don’t want you to think this is a personal attack.”
Studying systemic racism and the impacts on Milwaukee are things Jackson has spent a lifetime researching. While events over the last year have thrust the conversation of equity into the national spotlight, this idea is something Jackson and Moody were discussing well before George Floyd was murdered by a police officer in Minneapolis.
For what feels like the first time, the greater public is open to having the conversation about making a more equitable world for people of color.
“I found that there are a great many white people that are in a space now where they want to learn more about what the problems are,” Jackson said. “They want to be educated about how these problems became what they are so that they can become part of the solution. I think that’s a real change.”
While systemic racism is an intricate and complex topic, each episode is broken down into easily digestible topics, around 30 to 40 minutes each. The main topics they discuss aren’t the end all points of systemic racism, but they are the main points of emphasis to have a better understanding.
“Those are the things that we need to work on creating solutions, that allow people who had been marginalized and not allowed to have those opportunities,” Jackson said. “Creating programs now that allow people to have access. There are a lot of institutions and organizations that are working on that to find creative ways of allowing people to become homeowners and begin to build an understanding of how money works and how generational wealth is developed. Really creating kind of new spaces for people to occupy so that they can learn how to overcome some of the barriers that are in the way.”
Now, the team is looking to identify solutions. It can be a daunting idea when thinking of the grand scale systemic racism impacts, but Jackson says, it doesn’t have to be.
“They don’t require big solutions,” Jackson said. “What you need is small solutions to deal with certain segments of these problems.”
Jackson points out segregation. Milwaukee is known as the most segregated city in America.
“The level of segregation that we have has been around for such a long time, it just becomes normalized,” Jackson said. “It was created over generations. How do you then go in and change the mindset of people who created segregated spaces? The issue of racial segregation in Milwaukee isn’t the issue that people think it is. The issue of segregation is the long-term impacts of not allowing people to have access to the American Dream. Like allowing people to become business owners and homeowners and build generational wealth.”
The podcast may have been capped at six episodes, but the work by Moody and Jackson has not stopped there. Moody has hosted several “Ask the Experts” panels on each of the topics over the last few weeks.
Although the “Ask the Experts” panel did come to a close Thursday, Moody says they could continue in the future. Past conversations can be seen on the Radio Milwaukee Facebook Page.
For now, he’ll be hosting a Conversation Club twice per week for the next six weeks. The small groups of listeners can join Moody for an in depth look into each episode of By Every Measure. The clubs will meet Wednesdays from 4:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. and Thursdays from Noon to 1:00 p.m. Radio Milwaukee has more information on their website to get involved.
These steps are the exact type of small solutions Jackson talks about towards making big change. However, finishing a marathon through small steps can, and will, take time.
“People are used to this microwave society, where we get instant gratification,” Jackson said. “I tell people, we’re more like a slow cooker. It’s going to take some time to work on these things. I try to work on one person at a time, getting that seed planted in the mind of one person and then they share with multiple other people. That’s the path I’m trying to take.”