Vol. 8    No. 4
FEBRUARY 21, 2013

The Capital City Hues
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EDITORIAL STAFF

Jonathan Gramling
Publisher & Editor

Clarita G. Mendoza
Sales Manager

Contributing Writers
Rita Adair, Ike Anyanike, Paul
Barrows, Alfonso Zepeda
Capistran, Theola Carter, Fabu,
Andrew Gramling, Lang Kenneth
Haynes, Rebecca Her, Heidi
Pascual,  & Martinez White
Reflections/Jonathan Gramling
                          Liberal Willie Hortonism
One of the low points in national electoral politics — or maybe it was the beginning of a long slide into bad
and irrelevant behavior — was 1988 when the specter of Willie Horton was created and heavily publicized
by George H.W. Bush in his presidential campaign against Michael Dukakis, the Democratic candidate for
president.

Ever since 1968 when Richard Nixon devised his Southern strategy that took advantage of Southern white
fears and uncertainty with the successes of the civil rights movement in the Old South, the Republicans had
been playing the race card, usually using the imagery created by pandering politicians and Hollywood
producers that featured the vilification of Black men. Richard Nixon campaigned on law and order —
connoting that freed Black men in particular were threatening and ominous. Never mind the fact that crime
was usually black on black or white on white, our media and politicians for money and power manipulated
the imagery of Black men to further their own narrow agendas.

Indeed during the 1980s and 1990s, the wave of rural economic development in the state of Wisconsin via
the building of prisons and jails that inordinately housed Black men guarded by white men was made possible
through this imagery. This whole environment created by this vile imagery of Black men made all of this
possible. It also took a lot of Black men out of the labor force at the same time that Wisconsin’s manufacturing
base was declining, but that’s another issue.

So it was in this climate that the Republicans created the specter of Willie Horton, a Black man released from
prison while Michael Dukakis was Massachusetts governor. Horton then killed someone after his release.
Although Dukakis really had nothing to do with Horton’s release, the specter of Willie Horton appeared in
Republican ads and suggested that Dukakis was soft on crime and would release the Willie Hortons of the
world to pillage the white community.

Dukakis lost that election, in large part, due to the specter of Willie Horton, a figment of Republican creativity
to prey upon the fears of white Americans to drive them to the polls to vote for George H.W. Bush lest
Michael Dukakis be allowed to release the Willie Hortons of the world to wreak havoc on a national scale.
Well I’ve come to understand that white liberals are capable of the same phenomenon in their local
communities. Now before I write more, I must state that I was a supporter in the recent school board primary,
a primary that Ananda Mirilli lost to Sarah Manski and T.J. Mertz. I have known Ananda for several years, a
single parent with heart and a firm track record in public education. I had never heard her make any
pronouncements for the dismemberment of our public schools and she was actually encouraged to run by
former Madison school board member Bill Clingan. I know because I was present at the time.

Ananda is not happy with the Madison public schools’ track record on serving students of color, but that
doesn’t mean that she is some wild-eyed radical waiting for her chance to tear the whole thing down and
funnel public money into the pockets of rich white folks. She wants change as about 95 percent of people of
color in this city want change. And that sometimes makes a lot of liberal white folks in this city uncomfortable.

On December 30, 2012, Ben Manski sent this e-mail out on several listservs about Ananda:

“One of Sarah's opponents in this 3-way race is a supporter of using public tax dollars to fund private
schools. She was recruited by the former head of a Bradley Foundation-funded group that promotes the
corporate takeover of public education”

This was a fabrication. And it was enough of a fabrication to basically torpedo Ananda’s campaign because
she had to deal with that issue and feeling while she was also trying to get her message out there.

Ananda is a person of color — a Brazilian immigrant — And so is Kaleem Caire, the president/CEO of the
Urban League of Greater Madison who has been a strong proponent of education reform and charter
schools including Madison Prep. They are both people of color who want change for students of color who
are not achieving in Madison’s public schools. They do not accept the status quo. But they have different
opinions on how to help the Madison public schools change.

But Ben Manski cooked up this conspiracy theory feeding on the fears of union folks and public employees
and other white liberal Madisonians in support of his wife’s political career. He made Ananda Mirilli into a
“Willie Horton” to garner white liberal support in Madison. That was utterly shameful.

That has taken down local Madison politics a peg or two, dragging school board elections into the mire and
the mud. And the irony of all of this is that the Manskis will be leaving town because Ben will be attending
graduate school in California and Sarah has withdrawn from the school board race leaving T.J. Metz as, for
all practical purposes, an unopposed candidate. Meanwhile, Ananda’s daughter will continue to attend
Madison public schools and Ananda will continue to work with Madison’s public schools as the restorative
justice coordinator for the YWCA, that hotbed of Madison conservatism. (I jest.)

Anyone is capable of Willie Hortonism, even Madison’s liberal community. And does anyone really have to
wonder why the circumstances for Madison’s communities of color have not shown much progress? I don’t.