‘I fear for my son’: Akeisla Bostick
By Uday Rana
Nov. 3, 2020
Akeisla Bostick casts her vote early on Oct. 27. Photo provided by Akeisla Bostick.
In August, police in Kenosha, Wis. shot a 29-year-old African American man while trying to apprehend him. When Akeisla Bostick, in neighbouring Milwaukee, saw the video of Jacob Blake getting shot she could only think one thing: this could have been her son.
Blake, who was left partially paralyzed by the shooting, is only four years older than Bostick’s youngest son Torrey, who turned 25 on Halloween.
“I fear for my son,” says Bostick, a 45-year-old public school teacher and mother of four. “The African American male is like a target that’s being hunted in the wild. We fear for our children, our young men.”
Muhibb Dyer, an activist who runs an outreach program called “I Will Not Die Young” for at-risk Black youth in Milwaukee, says the fear of Black mothers like Bostick is rooted in the over-policing of Black communities.
“[Politicians] feel like it’s wise to invest in incarceration or these high police budgets and not give money to social service programs,” Dyer says.
According to a 2018 Brookings report, Milwaukee is the most racially segregated city in the United States. Nearly 40 per cent of the city’s residents are African American. Housing in Milwaukee is so segregated that three out of four Black residents would have to move to live in a fully integrated neighbourhood. The city’s segregation index score of 79.8 was the highest in the country.
For Bostick, the biggest issue on the ballot is making America safer for Black communities. One week before election day, she cast an early ballot for Democratic candidate Joe Biden.
Bostick says she’s not enthusiastic about a Biden presidency, but it came down to one crucial difference between the two candidates.
“I don’t think Joe Biden is a bigot or a racist.”
Most polls put Biden ahead of Trump in Wisconsin by double digits. But Trump is not giving up without a fight. On Monday night, he made Kenosha his penultimate campaign stop. This was his fifth visit to the state in recent weeks.
Referring to the Black Lives Matter protests in Kenosha earlier this year, Trump on Monday said, “When the violent mob came to Kenosha, Biden opposed sending in the National Guard. But we sent in the Guard and we saved Kenosha.”
At his last stop in Wisconsin, Trump hammered home his “law and order” message. “I am proud to stand with law enforcement and I am proud to have the endorsement of Kenosha County Sheriff David Beth,” he said at his “Make America Great Again” rally. Beth, who had endorsed Trump in September, was at the Kenosha rally.
In 2016, Hillary Clinton led the polls in Wisconsin but lost the state to Trump because Black voter turnout in Milwaukee plummeted by around 20 per cent. Dyer believes this is because many African American voters were disillusioned with the party. “They (Democrats) don’t do a good enough job of being present after the elections, so many black people become very dissatisfied. It just seems like a usury relationship as opposed to being really respected,” he says.
On Tuesday, however, Dyer said many African American voters showed up because the stakes were high. “People (in the community) are feeling excited. All of my friends, family and associates have already voted,” Dyer said a few hours after polls had opened.
Bostick voted in 2016 as well, but she wants the Democrats to do better for African American voters. “When I look at the election, I look at which will be a lesser of two evils.”
She’s currently juggling her job while trying to finish a PhD in education and run a small business providing professional development services to others in the education sector. She says the lack of income support during the COVID-19 pandemic hurt voters like her, who are working multiple jobs.
Comparing her own situation to that of people in neighboring Canada, she says, “The financial support they [Canadians] got in hardship was amazing. That was a shock to me. I was like, what are we doing? We got $1,200 here – a single payment.”
She says if Biden wins, she would want him to address not only the issue of police brutality, but also income inequality along racial lines.
“You’re talking about pulling yourself up by the bootstraps? Well, how about giving some boots?” she says. “Don’t just give them some straps with no boots attached and expect a miracle to happen.”