When an African-American tea party congressman held a “conservative black forum” on Capitol Hill on Jan. 23, 2012, the Milwaukee County sheriff was among the dozen panelists.

David A. Clarke Jr. told the host, U.S. Rep. Allen West, R-Florida, and a national C-SPAN audience about the woes of Wisconsin’s largest city.

“I come from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, a city with a lot of issues, a lot of issues,” Clarke said in his opening remarks.

Then he rattled off a set of startling statistics:

“Fifty-five percent black male unemployment. Truancy rate of sixty percent—sixty percent of students in the Milwaukee Public Schools system do not attend school regularly. They only graduate fifty percent of the students that do, and when they come out of there the diploma is not worth the paper that it’s written on, and they probably can’t even read it. We have the worst fourth- and eighth-grade reading scores in the nation. We lead in infant mortality rate and I could go on and on and on.”

Clarke is a Democrat in a largely Democratic county, but he is an outspoken conservative who often speaks bluntly about issues outside of law enforcement.

So is the Milwaukee area really as bleak as the sheriff paints it? We’ll look at each of the five parts of Clarke’s claim: Unemployment, truancy, graduation rate, reading scores and infant mortality.

Clarke’s spokeswoman, Fran McLaughlin, confirmed that Clarke was speaking about African-Americans, rather than the total population, with the statistics he cited. {snip}


Clarke was correct in two parts of his claim: Black Milwaukee Public Schools students have a 60 percent truancy rate and Milwaukee has one of the higher black infant mortality rates among U.S. cities.

Clarke was wrong in two parts. He overstated unemployment among black males in metro Milwaukee, which was 29.5 percent in 2010, and he understated the graduation rate among black MPS students; it is nearly 60 percent.

On the remaining part of the claim, reading scores among black MPS students were nearly the worst among 20 school districts in a study. But that doesn’t mean they were the worst in the nation, which is what Clarke said.

On balance, we rate Clarke’s statement Half True.


Share This

We welcome comments that add information or perspective, and we encourage polite debate. If you log in with a social media account, your comment should appear immediately. If you prefer to remain anonymous, you may comment as a guest, using a name and an e-mail address of convenience. Your comment will be moderated.
  • “Truancy rate of sixty percent—sixty percent of students in the Milwaukee Public Schools system do not attend school regularly”
    They could at least try and not waste our tax $$$

  • The sheriff isn’t telling us anything we don’t already know, I want to hear how YT is responsible for all those failings 

  • Aside from “conservatives” having no standards when it comes to certain non-white groups, how do any of these statements on the Sheriff’s part make him a “conservative” in even the dumbed down sense of the word?

    A lot of black “conservatives” are faking it so that Republicans/white conservatives/and now the Tea Party movement will turn them into celebrities.  Behind the voting curtain, though?  It’s pull that lever for Obama, and “My People.”

  • Anonymous

    Milwaukee has had this issue since well before 1970. The Milwaukee black population  seems irremediably dysfunctional. At least some high and continuing proportion of it does seems so. Has it occurred to anyone that even with a best effort on both sides of the color line, only a limited number of blacks have the capability of assimilating into a community of German, Scandinavian and Slavic skilled workers and middle managers. Maybe someone should stand up and say it. Most of these people should go back home to the South, where, if we help them with an effort to create jobs appropriate to their educational and skill levels, they can establish stable communities compatible with their geographical place of residence and rebuild their family structure. It won’t happen in the cold north, not for everybody anyway. Not even close.

  • Anonymous

    This sheriff seems mentally unbalanced.

    • So saith someone who said in this medium that trees can talk.

      • Anonymous

        Aww ZING!

        I tried to tell you radical7, don’t ever say I didn’t try……

  • Anonymous

     The idea of tracking people into early vocational education is a non starter. In the system we have, among those who are not advantaged, the survivors (whatever their stripe) go to college. The rest should go to work. But not all do.

    The issue is one of how to create work, not an issue of training. Really, this is a worldwide problem. In some countries, adult unemployment might be as high as 70 percent for all I know. Even in the West, adult unemployment is 20 percent in most countries. China, I have heard, actually has 120 million unemployed adults.

    I, myself, have come to doubt that full employment can ever be achieved just by counting on the economy to create jobs. The only time that ever occurred in America was during World War II, when industrial output was at a maximum and as many as 15 million adult men had been taken out of the workforce.

    I don’t have a definite answer, but it’s time to start collecting ideas. Other than “make work” programs.

  • Greg West

    Test scores, murder rates, infant mortality etc always seem to mirror the data of the parent countries.

    Asians in the U.S. have rates much like Asia, Norwegians to Norway and Black to Africa.

    It just is what is is and there is nothing ever going to change this fact

  • Detroit_WASP

    “Fifty-five percent black male unemployment”

    Who is feeding them?  Oh, yeah me.  I forgot. 

  • Huh?

    (The sound you just heard is that of my jaw dropping to the floor)

    I was so anathema to the concept of Barack H. Obama II becoming President of the United States the first time that I penned in the circle next to “John McCain,” which of course was really bitter medicine.  I had to drink heavily before voting, then again after voting.

    Really, welcome to AR.  You must be a relative newbie, for if you weren’t, you would already know I would never vote Obama.