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On F-35s in Madison: Increasing Inequities Are In Direct Conflict With Solutions to Address Racism

A new F-35 during a training exercise (photo: United States Air Force)

I moved to Madison during the winter of 2007. Within a few weeks of the move, racism showed its horrible self and my rose-colored glasses were promptly removed. From being told to “go back to Chicago” (we’re from Milwaukee) by two drunk white men in a shared ride cab to racial slurs thrown at my son as he walked down popular State Street, I realized quickly that being Black in Madison, in essence, would be an unsettling experience for us. 

Sabrina Madison
(Photo by Marcus Miles)

In the time since I’ve lived in the greater Madison area, I have centered my work on helping to restore Black families with a laser focus on improving the livelihood of Black women as we are often the single income earners in our families. This work has led me to create a leadership conference, a Black business expo and most recently opening the Progress Center for Black Women. As you might imagine, the work is both rewarding and heavy.

Here are a few facts that drive me to center Black families:

  • With a gender wage gap at $0.57 on the dollar, Black women earn $15K less annually than white women and $23K less than white men. (Status of Women in Dane County, 2016) 
  • In Wisconsin, three of ten African American families live in poverty. In absolute terms, this level of poverty is the second-highest in the nation. Only Iowa has a higher rate of African American poverty (32.2 percent). Compare this to the 6 percent of the state’s white families that live in poverty. Wisconsin’s black families are 5.3 times more likely than white families to live in poverty: that disparity in poverty outcomes is the second-highest in the nation. (WISCONSIN’S EXTREME RACIAL DISPARITY, 2017) 
  • “…only 18 percent of Madison’s third grade African American students were proficient or advanced in reading, compared to 67 percent of their white peers.” (Sound it out, Isthmus) 
  • “African-American individuals in families are 27 times more likely to be homeless than white individuals in families. And while Dane County’s population is 5% black, black people make up almost 40% of Dane County Jail system bookings.” (The Cap Times) 
  • “By 2016, due to a reduction in median income combined with rising rents, the typical Black household could only afford the typical rent in two areas – one in North and one in South Madison.” (Analysis of Impediments to Fair Housing Choice

After becoming educated about the noise impacts and environmental racism detailed in the recently released Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), I’m writing to you in firm opposition to stationing the new F-35 Lightning Il to the Wisconsin 115th Fighter Wing at Truax Air National Guard Base, in the city of Madison, Dane County, Wisconsin.

As documented in the EIS report: 

 “There would be significant disproportionate impacts to low-income and minority populations as well as children. The increase in noise exposure near the airport would disproportionately impact low-income areas and the increase in noise exposure would disproportionately impact low-income minority population.” 

Working to help restore Black families isn’t light work. Many of the families who benefit from my leadership and that of many others would have to take on yet another burden that lessens the quality of our lives by the placement of these new F-35’s in our area. We are already working to resolve housing inequities, pay gaps, low investments in education, and higher arrest rates among other issues. Increasing inequities are in direct conflict with solutions to address racism in the county, therefore, I oppose the location of the proposed squadron of F-35A fighter jets at Truax Field.