Sunday, March 21, 2010

Transformations in the Heartland: Life and Race in Oshkosh

Downtown Oshkosh, Wisconsin

Oshkosh is a city in East-Central Wisconsin, celebrated on websites as "Oshkosh on the Water" with pictures of lakes Winnebago and Butte des Morts, a college-town that is home to the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh and its 11–12 thousand students. The city is most famous or best known for the EAA, the Experimental Aircraft Association, whose week-long "fly-in" each summer attracts 200,000 to 300,000 enthusiasts and other attendees, many of them from other nations. In bars and stores and restaurants, I've heard Australian, English, Irish, German, and French accents. I moved to Oshkosh in June of 2005 and also lived there for a few years during the 1970s and 80s.

According to a 2008 estimate, as reported in, the population is now 63,679. In 2000, according to the census, Oshkosh was 91.8% "White non-Hispanic," 1.7% Hispanic," 2.4% "other Asian," 1% two or more races, 0.8% American Indian, 0.5% other race, and 2.2% Black. is rife with comments describing and comparing cities and giving advice to people who plan to relocate. In dozens of comments, Oshkosh is compared to Appleton, almost always unfavorably. Appleton, a city of 70,305 some 20 miles north of Oshkosh, is cleaner, newer, "nicer," a far better downtown, a large mall for dining and shopping, more restaurants, stores, sources of entertainment. By contrast, Oshkosh is older, dirtier, more blue-collar, more "riff-raff," more "ghetto." By "ghetto," the commentator is referring not to Blacks but to a "central city" with "tons of dilapidated houses."

Though almost as large as Appleton and home to the state's third largest university population, Oshkosh doesn't have a mall. And the downtown is so small and old that an entire block on main street, lined with old stores and an ex-bank that opened in 1927, was closed to traffic for five days in April of 2008 to film a robbery scene for Public Enemies, a depression-era movie starring Johnny Depp as John Dillinger. The largest new building in the downtown area, and in some ways the most impressive architecturally, is the jail, euphemistically called "the City of Oshkosh Safety Building."

"Racism" and Diversity

And, of course, diversity and race are also discussed. Questions are asked. Is Oshkosh "racist"? Is it "welcoming" to and "safe" for Blacks and other minorities? Predictably, many commentators decry the "lack of diversity" in Oshkosh and the "racism" of its White population. Everyone agrees on the "lack of diversity" but some dispute the charges of intense and pervasive "racism."

No one comments on how non-Whites, especially Blacks, have made the city less safe for Whites. No mention of gangs and crime and Black-on-White violence. Given the zeitgeist, explicit concern for the interests of Whites as a group in relation to Blacks and other minorities is ipso facto "racist" to everyone but a small minority of race realists and "White nationalists." Did anyone say there is too much "diversity," or that Oshkosh is a worse place to live because it has roughly twice as many Blacks as Appleton? If so, their remarks were either blocked or summarily deleted. But not this comment by a Black female and ex-student at UW-Oshkosh.

Please keep away from Oshkosh. It's just full of rednecks who think Black folks are the devil. I was shot at my first week there while going to college just because of my skin tone. Most people in Oshkosh have missing teeth and try to recite the Bible to you as soon as you walk in a restaurant or store. (, 5-21-2009.)

Someone replied: "This person is obviously mentally unstable."

Perhaps she heard the engine of a car "backfire" and, given her anti-White sentiments and hallucinations, thought "rednecks" were shooting at her? If a Black coed were "shot at" during her first week at UW-Oshkosh, her ordeal would have been on the front page of the New York Times and featured on NPR.

But it's far more likely that she's lying in order to demonize Whites and Oshkosh and to advance the myth of "systemic racism" and Black victimization, the paranoid illusion of an America in which Blacks are in constant danger of being assaulted and murdered by Whites. In reality, of course, exactly the opposite is true for tens of millions of Whites and has been so for the last 50 years.

More typical is this lament by NicePolishBoy: "There is little diversity. Racism is quite common but on a subtle level."

Ironically, a population whose "lack of diversity" so vexes and saddens NicePolishBoy and many others now includes every race and sub-race on earth with the possible exception of Aborigines and New Guineans. And dozens of non-White ethnicities.

In my travels around town, I see many Blacks, mulattos, mestizos, Amerindians, Latinos, Native Americans, and sundry Asians. The Asians include not only people who were once called "Orientals" — Japanese, Chinese, Koreans, Filipinos, Laotians, Vietnamese, Cambodians, Hmong, etc. — but also those of Indian and Middle Eastern descent.

Here's an example of how my life in Oshkosh has been enriched by diversity: For two or three months in 2009, a family of Muslim Arabs or Persians(?), lived in the first floor apartment directly beneath me. I could often hear them praying or chanting or whatever during the night and playing music in a strange foreign language. The husband was always slamming the door and going outside to smoke or getting into his car and driving away and then soon coming back. I never saw the wife, and only once did I see the children. Then, suddenly, they were gone. I didn't even see and/or hear them leave. I was so happy I felt like kneeling and bowing to Mecca. (hahahaha)

According to the 2000 census, there are nearly as many Latinos as Blacks in Oshkosh. And there are more "Asians" than Blacks. Most of these are Hmong. Almost every day, I see dozens of Blacks but far fewer Latinos and Hmong. And almost every day I see Blacks I haven't seen before.

Almost 2,000 Hmong are estimated to live in Winnebago County. This figure is not for the city of Oshkosh but the entire county, including the cities of Neenah and Menasha. Many days I don't see a single young male or female who is saliently Hmong. The Hmong I see most often are old ladies. They're always tiny, at time quasi-dwarfish, and often faintly simian, their faces leathery and wizened, spotted and freckled, prematurely ravaged by years under the tropical sun in Cambodia and Laos.

"Little diversity"! The irony of denigrating Oshkosh for a "lack of diversity" is that the city could hardly be more diverse, though it could be far less White and, inexorably and increasingly, will be so in the future. What "NicePolishBoy" and others are deploring is not a "lack of diversity" but the still relatively small numbers of non-Whites What bothers them is that Oshkosh, according to the 2000 census, was still over 90% White and, a decade later, may still be almost 90% White.

And what most guilt-addled and self-hating Whites desire is not so much diversity per se but the displacement and dispossession of Whites by non-Whites. Their ultimate goal is not so much a diverse Oshkosh, which already exists, but a non-White majority Oshkosh. How many Blacks and White leftists complain about the "lack of diversity" in East St. Louis or Detroit?

As for the view that "racism is quite common but on a subtle level": Perhaps this is referring to those people who are less than ecstatic about an invasion of ghetto Blacks and don't want more of them "enriching" the city and their neighborhoods — people who believe there's too much "diversity" of the most dangerous kind but only express their disapproval " in "subtle" ways. "Racism" is a synonym for realism and White self-interest, even if subtle and implicit. And, objectively, precisely how is a city "enriched and made a "better place to live and work" by 1500–2000 Blacks, most of them from the ghettos of Milwaukee and Chicago?

In reality as opposed to mythology, even relatively small numbers of Blacks can critically degrade the quality of life in a city of 63,000 for its White population. This is especially true for poor and lower-class Whites who generally live in closer contact with Blacks and whose lives are more limited and miserable than they would otherwise be in a virtually all-White community: The people who must ride the buses with Blacks and must often live near Blacks in low-cost apartments and old houses in decaying and impoverished neighborhoods. These Whites are in competition with Blacks who benefit from quotas and affirmative action and preferential treatment for menial jobs and social services. These Whites are also far more likely to be the victims of Black-on-White violence and criminality. To a lesser degree, it’s the same story with Latinos and the Hmong.


Most seriously, even an infestation of "only" a few hundred young Black males and even fewer "Hispanics" and Hmong will inevitably result in marked increases in violent and predatory crime, both gang-related and free-lance. A White resident complains:

I've lived in Oshkosh for about 18 years now. When I moved here there was relatively low (violent) crime. Now you hear of murders, not real often, robberies quite often, and people jumping others at night. I'm not a racist...However, am I the only one who sees since there's been a nearly 150% rise in the Black and Hmong populations, the crime has basically skyrocketed. These people move up here from Milwaukee, Chicago, and various other cities and bring their lifestyle with them. (, 10-13-2008.)

Before the diversity onslaught, murder was unheard of in Oshkosh. It’s quite different now. There were four murders in 2006 and three were committed by Blacks. And at least two of the victims were White. A White junkie named Joshua Meyers was shot and killed over a "drug debt" by Keith Lee, a Black "chronic criminal" and drug-dealer from Milwaukee. Stereotypically, the murderer and his accomplice fled the scene in a Cadillac.


Like Green Bay, Oshkosh is now "enriched" by a racially-driven and hydra-headed gang subculture which didn't exist only yesterday, historically speaking, but which will now blight the city forever. Remarkably, it takes only a few hundred inner-city Black males in their teens and 20s and lesser numbers of "Latinos" and Hmong and other "Asians, a comparatively tiny fraction of a minority population of 6-7 thousand, to plague a city with dozens of gangs with ties to Milwaukee, Chicago, the Twin Cities, and even California, Texas, and Mexico.

According to law enforcement, Winnebago County is now home to 56 gangs. This includes not only the city of Oshkosh but also Neenah and Menasha, a city of 16,527 whose "Hispanic" population has "grown exponentially over the past 5 years" (i.e., an "extremely rapid increase"). I quote from a report entitled "Northeast Wisconsin Gang Assessment":

Oshkosh Police Department … reports an increase in gangs and gang activity in the past 5 years. There has been an increase in drug-related complaints … and an increase in people with possible gang associations moving to, or through, the area. OPD has linked gangs to crimes such as battery, criminal damage to property, drug trafficking, graffiti, intimidation/threats, and theft. OPD reports that violent crimes, particularly robberies, homicides, and aggravated assaults, have increased in Oshkosh since 2004. An estimated 10 to 15% has been attributed to gangs and gang-related activity.... The OPD reports that many gang members have moved to the area from Milwaukee, Chicago, and the Twin Cities. There may also be ties to Hispanic gang members, and migrant workers, in Texas, as well as Asian gang members with ties to gangs in California.

Surreally, all "Hispanic" criminals and gangsters are classified as "White" when they commit aggravated assaults, rapes, "sexual assaults," robberies, and murders. Nevertheless, as reported in The Color of Crime, it’s clear that gangs are a non-White phenomenon: "Only 10 percent of youth gang members are White. Hispanics are 19 times more likely than Whites to be members of youth gangs. Blacks are 15 times more likely, and Asians are nine times more likely." So virtually all criminal gangs, properly defined, are non-White.

In Closing: Another Racine? And No Escape?

I could live another 30–35 years. Will I see Oshkosh turn into another Racine? Racine was once the third largest city in Wisconsin with a population of almost 100 thousand. By 2000 the population had fallen to 78,805. Racine is 20.3% Black, 14% Latino, 7.1% other race, and 63.5% "White non-Hispanic." There were 16 murders in 2005 and 10 murders in 2008. During the last decade, the crime-index was in the low to mid to high 400s almost every year. The exception was 2001, when it was 537.7.

Perhaps this is unlikely. But even a city half as Black, half as Latino, and half as bad as Racine would be dreadful and intolerable — not a place where I would want to live and grow old in relative poverty. Will thousands of Blacks move to Oshkosh from Milwaukee and Chicago and elsewhere during the next 10–20 years? Will meat-packing plants and other businesses attract thousands of Latinos? If Menasha, a city 1/4 the size of Oshkosh and 15 miles to the north, has experienced an exponential increase in its Latino population over the past five years (which was already 3.6% of the city's population in 2000), then why not Oshkosh, and on a much larger and more ruinous scale? Will Oshkosh become in 10–15 years what Green Bay is today, a city that is now 20–25% non-White, and in which the number of crimes increased by 209% from 1989 to 2006?

You're old and poor and have no car. You want to escape the joys and riches of diversity and multiculturalism: crime and gangs, chaos and clamor, black and Latino "neighbors," overcrowded buses on which you can't find a seat and have to stand and hold the rails for 15–30 minutes and endure the noise and disorder and ugliness, including assaults and fights and shootings(?); an overcrowded library where one can rarely find a computer to surf the net for an hour or a place to sit down and read or write in peace and quiet. But you don't want to live in a hamlet or small town in the northwoods. You want to spend the rest of your life in a city with a university library or, at least, a large public library conducive to reading and writing.

What can you do? Move to Eau Claire if the city is still 85-90% White and not blighted by a people-of-color invasion from Minneapolis-St. Paul and possibly even Milwaukee and Chicago? Move to Fargo or Bismarck, ND, assuming they're still 90% White?

It's a bleak picture. And why should we have to be always running away?

Simon Krejsa (email him) is a free-lance writer living in Oshkosh.

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brian boru said...

We have been targeted for termination, to paraphrase a movie line. Because we refuse to fight, and I mean pick up guns and kill the monsters who are trying to exterminate us, we are forced to run. This will continue until there is no where left to run and we are outnumbered thousands to one. Then is the end. The option is to stand up and fight or else you will die on your knees. That is what it has come down to.

Joy said...

I agree Brian. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and come back soon.