Neighbors and Strangers: The Challenges of Diversity in Milwaukee
Diversity has been one of Milwaukee’s hallmarks since the community’s infancy. A bewildering variety of ethnic communities have emerged here, including Native Americans and French Canadians before the dawn of urban time; Yankees, Germans, Irish, Poles, and Italians in the nineteenth century; and Latinos and African Americans in the twentieth. And that’s just the major groups. Each has played a formative role in the making of Milwaukee, but harmony has not been the dominant theme in their complex coexistence. A pecking order developed early and changed often, usually in response to the arrival of even newer groups. As in other U.S. cities, differences became divisions. That pattern persists to the present, as Milwaukee, with the rest of America, works to reconcile the power of diversity with its equally abundant challenges.