During recent visits by presidential hopefuls, numerous references were made to the “nice” people of our city and the diversity of its population. These are wonderful traits that should be cherished, emphasized, and promoted.
It seems counterintuitive that a city the size of Milwaukee doesn’t more proactively promote its diverse neighborhoods. You will often find in other similarly sized cities across the nation distinctive and purposeful efforts to draw attention to various ethnic areas contained within its borders. Some may suggest that this is exploitive and disruptive. To me, I see it as healthy commerce.
For instance, imagine if efforts were taken to promote the unique Latino section of the near south side. Abundant with fantastic restaurants, small boutiques and shops, and numerous street vendors sharing their delectable treats and artistry, the culture is apparent from the moment you enter the neighborhood. Visitors – and Wisconsinites alike – may also enjoy venturing into the Irish, German, Slavic, Chinese, African-American, or Hmong sections that dot our cityscape.
These unique neighborhoods underscore the roots of our city and the very heritage of our country. Wandering the Streets of Old Milwaukee at the Milwaukee Public Museum, one can quickly discover early immigrants from across the globe found their way to Milwaukee to open storefronts, factories, and other businesses. So why not emphasize this diversity within our communities? Putting a visible spotlight on the city’s roots and developing a series of walking tours would be instructive and historical – not to mention revenue driving.
I believe the diversity of our city should be celebrated and cherished. Gaining recognition for its incredible ethnic make-up – in a positive rather than negative light – is imperative to thwart the divisiveness that may otherwise continue to emerge. For the younger generation potentially growing up isolated in one area of our city does not afford them opportunity to gain appreciation for what makes Milwaukee so vibrant. Much of our city’s pain may be resolved by breaking down barriers, spotlighting our heritage, and celebrating our differences.
Since our city is blessed with incredibly nice people let’s begin to work together to cherish our diversity.
Dave Wendland is vice president of strategic relations for Waukesha-based Hamacher Resource Group Inc.