Artist: Comfort Wasikhongo

LOCATION: Madison, Wisconsin.
PHOTO: Martin Jenich

The simple fact is that Blacks are dying in this world at a time when we are supposed to be thriving. And, it´s like, it does not matter! I saw this coming in my life a long time ago. As far as I can remember, Madison has always had a silent system of prejudice—like a secret society. They know who they are. They’re those who would rather keep Madison to themselves in closed private neighborhoods where they don’t want any Blacks to be their friends. As we are watching the news and seeing the death toll pile up of Blacks due to the lack of humanity that is shown to Black people in this town, I keep trying to find a way to make a plea for help. I just want to help our people, Black people in Madison, to fight discrimination. But I feel that marching isn’t helping us. I don’t know what to do, so I paint because I don’t have the answers. I’m sick of people reflecting on the old Madison. There is a new Madison, and it shouldn’t be ignored. The world has been watching Madison treat its so-called own like movie stars, and then there are those who support this like the cops who ill kids and treat every African-American as if they (they cops) were in the movie, “Belly,” directed by Hype Williams, starring Nas and DMX. But this ain’t New York, and people die in real life. https://www.instagram.com/comfycomf/

(Source: Let’ Talk About It. The art, the artists, and the racial justice movement on Madison’s State Street. American Family Mutual Insurance Institute for Corporate and Social Impact. Sheboygan, Wisconsin, 2020. Page 105)


Helpful vocabulary

Color Blind Ideology is based in the idea that people should be judged by “the content of their character” and not by the color of their skin. However, this ideology negates that there is structural or systemic discrimination of some people, based precisely on the color of their skins.

Black Codes, also called Black Laws were a series of laws that restricted free African Americans lives after the Civil War. Any violation of these laws would put free African Americans into involuntary unpaid work (prison and chain gangs).

Jim Crow Laws, laws were passed in 1877 which restricted movement, employment, housing, education, and even use of restrooms to African Americans & Mexicans. They lasted until 1968.

​New Jim Crow, Michelle Alexander details how today’s mass incarceration, parole, and arbitrary detention, keeps the majority of minorities in a permanent state of disenfranchisement.

Discussion questions:
Most laws are meant to promote the general welfare or protect society from an evil. Have these laws served these purposes? If so, how? If not, what was their purpose?