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Center Stage: Sheri Carter on police, protesters and what white people don't get about the black experience in Madison

Center Stage: Sheri Carter on police, protesters and what white people don't get about the black experience in Madison


On this week's "Center Stage" political podcast, Milfred and Hands ask Sheri Carter, Madison's first black female City Council president, about police, protesters and what white people in the capital city don't understand about the African American experience here.

Click the play button above to listen.

"The civil rights movement never ended," Carter says, recalling growing up in Madison with what today would be described as helicopter parents on the city's South Side.

Scott Milfred


Phil Hands


Her parents came here in the 1950s from Louisiana, and her father called Madison "a breath of fresh air" in comparison. But Madison still has stark disparities that Carter, who represents the city's South Side, wants to address. And in recent weeks, protests over the police killing of George Floyd, an unarmed black man in Minneapolis, have led to large protests on State Street in Madison as well as late-night looting, the toppling of statues on the Capitol Square, and senseless violence.

A strong leader during turbulent times, Carter has a knack for pulling people together. But she has no plans to run for mayor anytime soon (and she dodged a question about Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway).

Asked about defunding or disbanding Madison police, Carter says: "I like to restructure."

Police here "do a fairly good job," she said. "But you have to really peel off the layers. And sometimes we don't have that patience to peel off the layers. We'd rather lump everyone in the same boat."

Carter cites advice from U.S. Rep. John Lewis during the Civil Rights Movement about protesting, which still applies today: "If you're going to cause trouble, make sure that trouble results in benefits for the community."

She predicts body cameras on police officers in Madison "are something that will eventually happen." She hopes the Downtown Recovery Plan will clear the City Council, and lists other priorities for moving forward. 

Ultimately, change must come from the halls of government at the local, state and federal levels.

"It's hard to say, 'Let's go there,' because it sounds like the same old, same old," Carter says. But that's where laws are made.

"Center Stage with Milfred and Hands" is the State Journal's weekly podcast from the sensible center of Wisconsin politics featuring Scott Milfred, the newspaper's editorial page editor, and Phil Hands, the State Journal's editorial cartoonist. 

Find and subscribe to "Center Stage, with Milfred and Hands" on Apple PodcastsiTunesStitcher, Google PodcastsGoogle Play, Spotify or your favorite podcasting app. You also can listen to past episodes of "Center Stage" and see the podcast's webpage by clicking here.

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