This was part of a five-day series called The Other Madison that ran in The Capital Times in May 1983.
The story of the white Madison — a liberal, well-educated, affluent and all-American city — is well known.
Less well known is the black Madison where racism and discrimination, prejudice and bias, intrude daily into personal and professional lives.
It is true that, in Madison, you won't drive through slums or see riot police in school halls. The overt racism that marked the recent Chicago mayoral election is hard to come by in local politics.
But that doesn't mean Madison is free from racism, that Madisonians don't discriminate against other people in attitudes and actions on the basis of race.
Blacks in Madison say they know otherwise from personal experience.
• A journalist and former University of Wisconsin student says there are downtown bars where blacks know they shouldn't go.
• A state office worker says people in her office don't talk to her, that she often feels invisible.
• A community activist says she hears complaints from her own children and from other parents about how black children are treated by their teachers and other students in school.
• A lifelong resident and a new arrival both say blacks don't feel completely free to live wherever they want to in the city.
• A bank executive says he is often treated by white professionals as if he were speaking for all blacks.
• A police officer says he knows of a white refusing help because an officer was black.
• A tavern owner says her largely black clientele is always accused of any vandalism in the neighboring parking lot of a white-owned business.
The stories go on and on, but the message is the same: there is one Madison for whites, another for blacks.
But it is a story that recent events are bringing to the forefront.
The issue of segregation at Franklin and Lincoln schools has focused the issue of racism so well that "Madisonians are in for some rude awakening," says Betty Franklin, president of the Madison National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.
She also says that the issue is forcing blacks to do more organizing and be more vocal and united than ever before.
"It's no longer a question of whether Madison is racist, but how it's racist and what we're going to do to change it," Franklin says.
Franklin is not alone in that assessment and in her view that white Madison will have to revise its image of itself.
"There is racism in Madison," says James Graham, executive director of the Madison Urban League.
"The first thing we should do is stop saying we're liberal and admit that discrimination exists, and that we all do it" says Charles Matthews, affirmative action officer for Dane County. "This is not a liberal city."
"The greatest problem we have in Madison is to convince Madisonians that we do have problems," says James Wright, executive director of the Madison Equal Opportunities Commission since 1968.
"Because Madison has a liberal reputation," Graham says, "it makes it more difficult for us to address some of the problems that minorities and disadvantaged people have. People don't think those problems really exist."
But those problems really do exist.
Although much progress has been made since the 1960s, Wright says, race discrimination in employment and housing continues to account for the bulk of complaints filed with his agency. And he anticipates an even heavier complaint load in the coming year or two, because, he says, people are more aware of their rights.
These same community observers and activists — who say Madison has more race discrimination than it wants to admit — quickly add that the city is not blatantly or violently racist the way that Chicago or Boston is. And, they say, city leaders probably don't intend to be racist.
But, they agree, Madison discriminates in more subtle ways. It is racist in a structural or institutional sense of how people go about the daily business of working, living and going to school.
"It is common knowledge among blacks that there are places you just don't go into," Franklin says. "We have a different sense about 'our place.' No one will say anything verbally, but there is a feeling to a place and you act or react on that."
"If you look at the disparities (between the population and employment percentages for blacks)," Graham says, "it becomes clear there is discrimination in Madison."
Graham points to the relatively low number of blacks, especially at supervisory levels, in state, city and county government; in private businesses; in fire and police departments; and in the Madison public schools. He also says that the recruitment and retention rates for both minority students and faculty are falling at the University of Wisconsin.
"Just because we don't have problems as great as Milwaukee," Graham says "doesn't mean we don't have problems."
Graham adds quickly that he personally likes Madison, has rejected job offers in other cities in order to stay here, and considers Madison a progressive city.
Ironically, however, the attractions of Madison may be adding to a general desire by blacks as well as whites to put off dealing with race problems that exist in the city.
Charles Matthews says that many blacks did not challenge discrimination in the past because "they say they are better off here than elsewhere" and "they did not want to disturb the tranquility and liberalness of Madison."
"Whites tell us how good we have it," Matthews says, "and many of us believe it."
Franklin, a native of Florida, voices the same concern: "Many blacks say Madison is liberal. I say 'Compared to what?'"
But there is probably no going back now in confronting racism in Madison. One reason is that Madison's racism will only become more and more visible as the color of the city and school district's populations change.
Right now, about 7 percent of Madison population is minority — largely blacks, but also Hispanics, Asians and Native Americans — while that figure more than doubles to 15 percent for elementary student enrollments.
And, like the nation in general, in Madison the racial and ethnic minority population is the fastest growing segment of the school and community populations, according to school superintendent Donald Hafeman.
The impact of the numbers has been heightened by other social trends, Hafeman says.
National immigration policy has meant that, over the past decade, Madison has seen large influxes of Hispanic and Asian refugees. Stable black enrollments coupled with declines in white enrollments have altered the balance, as have school closings.
A pattern of segregated low-income housing has not yet run its course, with 12 new low-income units still on the way on Madison's south side.
Even Hafeman recently suggested that Madison as a whole would not be the same for dealing with the issues at Franklin and Lincoln schools.
"I think it's a difficult issue to talk about in terms of Madison, Wis.," he recently told a human relations advisory committee, adding that the school district is working with the Office of Civil Rights on Chicago to implement the district's plan to beef up the instructional program and correct racial imbalances at Franklin Elementary School before a court imposes a desegregation compliance plan.
"I believe that people would not like to believe that we have the potential of segregation-desegregation in Madison, Wis.," Hafeman said.
But people who live on the cutting edge of the racial division in Madison say that potential is now a reality.