The worst state for African Americans.

AuthorBrown, Miles
PositionCOMMENT - Wisconsin - Essay

I'm one semester away from graduating from the University of Wisconsin. My college experience has been equal parts stressful, harrowing, enlightening, and incredible.

One thing that I am constantly reminded of, though, is how wildly different my childhood and high school experiences have been from those of the vast majority of my peers.

When my friends and I have conversations about our times in high school, I listen to what they have to say, while inside my head I hear a running commentary in a depressingly contrarian voice. Every time someone comments about her school band's trip to France or Mexico, I nod, while quietly lamenting the fact that my school never had a band. Or an orchestra. Or many after-school programs, for that matter.

Every time someone mentions taking French, Latin, and even Swahili foreign language classes in high school, it's another reminder that we were offered only two years of Spanish at my school. At UW I scrambled through three semesters of German in order to meet graduation requirements.

I don't mention this because I'm looking for sympathy. It deserves mention because unequal education is an important aspect of our country's glaring racial disparities. Somehow, the situation is even worse in the state of Wisconsin than in the rest of the nation.

According to the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction's data for 2013, the gap between black and white students in eighth-grade math was a giant 30.8 percentage points. When it comes time for high school graduation, black kids are almost one-third less likely to make it to the stage.

The Annie E. Casey Foundation reports that children of color face immense barriers to success in key categories of well-being. Black people are less likely to be in school or working, have two-parent homes, delay childbearing, or gain at least an associate's degree.

Thirty percent of Wisconsin's white children live in households below 200 percent of the poverty level, compared with about two-thirds of Wisconsin's Latino and American Indian kids. For African American kids, the rate is 80 percent.

This is the cold, honest truth we need to face. My senior class in high school started at around 500 people. That number dwindled to 250 by graduation. Whether it was through frustration, apathy, or needing to enter the workforce early to take care of relatives, inner-city kids have so many more hoops to jump through than their suburban counterparts.

I went to Casimir Pulaski High School on...

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