In Microtones, our newsletter-first column.
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MICROTONES by John McCracken, contributor
A few months ago, In an effort to broaden my horizons and stay up to date on the fast-paced changes in Madison's business landscape, I signed up for In Business Madison's e-newsletter. I have enjoyed learning when businesses are opening and closing in the area. But one day in April, I opened a newsletter and was greeted with a Very Normal recap of the weekly poll I.B. Madison conducts on its website:
I was taken aback by the sharpness of the answers—88 percent opposed!—and the way the poll reduced an extremely sticky and complex social question to two simplistic, polar-opposite statements. I.B. Madison was clearly out of its depth even broaching the subject of reparations. The week before, the publication's poll asked about the effect of long-standing businesses closing, and another recent poll concerned Foxconn's continued bumbling. These topics seemed to hit the mark for what I assume is a readership of local business owners and their associates. The sheer left-field nature of the reparations question, and its context-deprived framing, knocked me out of my inbox.
While we absolutely should be talking about reparations, why does the greater Madison business community hold such staunch opinions on the topic? How representative is this poll, even in our more-racist-than-meets-the-eye city? Did any I.B. readers see these results and pause to reflect on the company they keep? Should Madisonians be on guard when entering 88 percent of local businesses, lest they end up supporting people with abhorrent views on our nation's painful and unsolved history with race? 88 percent is a huge number! The bottom line is that this is a crucial issue and deserves to handled in less of a laissez-faire manner.
Reading this weekly newsletter reminds me that I am not a business person. I don't know many people who are business people. In my weekly escapades into the business world of Madison, the overabundance of the word "disrupting" makes me roll my eyes. A recent report that glorifies "ripe investments in distressed areas" reminds me of how out of touch the business community can be. This report features a map of areas of Madison that are primed for the picking and investing—an almost identical depiction of the city's highly concentrated areas of food-insecure communities!
The hits keep coming with I.B.'s 2019 40 Under 40 gallery, which is unconformably white. (To be clear, I don't want to diminish the achievements of the people listed in this, but come on.) The bonus tracks of the In Business greatest hits include the years it has provided a prominent platform given to a recently defeated racist school board candidate who is not worth naming or linking.
My weekly reminder of the weird, NeTwOrKiNg side of Madison makes me shudder, but I continue to open the I.B. Madison email newsletter. There's a part of me that hungers to see Madisonians make more efforts to address our enormous racial disparities. Then there is a self-deprecating, stealth side of me that needs to subscribe to content from Madison's ivory towers. That same stealth side of me yearns to be put out of my misery, delete my email, and launch myself into the sun when I get weekly updates about developers building more damn glass towers.
New this week:
Our new Record Store Dropouts podcast debuts with conversations about music and an interview with Native Essence Art creator Natalie Ergas.
Mark Riechers reports on what went wrong at an overnight wait for Great Taste of the Midwest tickets.
Madison band According To What releases a new EP.
This year's Rooftop Cinema lineup includes experimental shorts from Sky Hopinka and a documentary about Tony Conrad.
Elsewhere on the Madison internet: A new east-side Facebook group springs up after allegations of sexual assault blow up the dysfunctional SASY Neighborhood group. The Capital Times reports on the end of Queer Pressure and talks with UW-Madison film scholar J.J. Murphy about his retirement. Boy Harsher has announced an October 10 show at Crucible. Stiff Little Fingers have announced an October 15 show at the Majestic.
This week's Madison calendar: Avantist plays The Winnebago. Madison FemFest brings music, art, and a workshop to Communication. Experimental rock outfit Spirits Having Fun plays Mickey's Tavern. And more.