Viewpoint from a Kenosha native

Aug 30, 2020

Well, it happened again. A city I lived in is once again on fire.

Not only am I a former resident of Minneapolis, but I also have the pleasure of having grown up in Kenosha, Wisconsin.

Much like in Minneapolis, buildings I know, on familiar streets, have been looted or lit on fire as protests and riots have taken over my hometown following the shooting of Jacob Blake by Kenosha Police officer Rusten Sheskey.

Again, I find it extremely surreal to watch all of these events unfold from afar — every spare chance I get I am trying to check in with family to make sure they are doing okay, or seeing people I went to high school with pictured on CNN hopping over tear gas.

One of my sisters works near where things have gotten especially violent. Thankfully, she’s there during the daytime, when people like my cousin are out helping with the cleanup effort.

While it upsets me to see another place I lived become engulfed in rioting, I am more frustrated about what got my hometown into this situation. 

Once again, a black man was the subject of police brutality — just minutes away from where I attended middle school. While the circumstances are unclear, what is clear is that Blake was shot in the back seven times.

Seven times. In front of his kids. 

I myself have never had a bad interaction with Kenosha police. In fact, the father of one of my high school friends is a K9 officer, whose police dog would only bark at me when I was wearing a Bruins jersey. 

But I say this coming from a place of privilege. I have never been perceived as a threat simply because of the color of my skin.

Kenosha is a great place to be from. For instance, did you know that in 2012 Joe Biden was late to his own rally because he spent too much time at the Mars Cheese Castle?

Yes, the store looks like a real castle — with a drawbridge and everything. It sells all kinds of freshly made cheese, including aged cheddar, curds and even chocolate cheese (fudge with cheese inside.)

We are also known for a pretty nice lighthouse and very beautiful lakefront, as well as being the birthplace of Mark Ruffalo. That’s right, the Hulk is from the same hometown as me.

Now we’re in the national spotlight for all the wrong reasons.

Out of the ashes, a new and better Kenosha will hopefully rise and show the rest of the country change is possible. 

Folks are already raising money to help out local businesses affected by looting and fires or creating amazing works of art on boarded up buildings.

But of course, none of this will matter until we as a society at least fully acknowledge that Black lives matter, too.

Christopher Shea reports for Dartmouth Week.