Burlington community decries racist attitudes, lack of action at council meeting

NOW: Burlington community decries racist attitudes, lack of action at council meeting

BURLINGTON, Wis. (CBS 58) -- Tuesday night in Burlington, dozens of community members sounded off at the city council meeting, alleging a widespread culture of racism.

Many of the speakers during the public comment portion of the meeting say little is being done to improve that culture.

Last spring Mayor Jeanne Hefty created a task force to address racial equity, diversity, and inclusion.

But many people -some of them emotional and some of them members of that task force- decried a lack of action that continues what they call racist behaviors.

A woman named Melissa said, "The task force that was created may have had good intentions, but I feel like right now there are some problems with how it has been operating."

The Burlington Coalition for Dismantling Racism was created in May 2021, but more than a year later many in the community say there is little to show for it.

At Tuesday night's city council meeting, more than a dozen people shared their personal experiences with racism, including the mother of a bi-racial child who said, "A truck full of young adults drove past and rolled down their windows and yelled monkey noises at us."

She added, "These instances happen over and over again with nothing being done about them, no matter who it's brought to: the police, the school system, the elected officials of the city."

And a visiting athlete named Jaylon explained what he and his teammates endured at a recent game: "The whole game we were getting racial slurs after racial slurs."

Jaylon said, "I've had so many racist encounters in Burlington. Any sport I play at that high school is a racist encounter."

But not everyone agreed with the claim the city as a whole is racist. A man named Marlowe said, "When you speak of racism, when you walk into a grocery store and you can feel that, that's not Burlington."

Still, a man named Jeff said, "For this exact reason we need an aggressive voice blowing whistles at this quieter form of racism. Too aggressive? That term should not exist when describing someone fighting for justice."

Even members of the task force say there is a disconnect between what they should be doing and what they are allowed to do.

Melissa said, "We as a task force have been told our ideas need to be approved by the council, but even after months of work, recommendations, and meetings, nothing has been presented to this council for a vote or even a discussion."

Members of the task force say they've identified several actions that are easy to implement, but so far have not been allowed to move forward.

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