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Reverend Willie E. Brisco on Navigating Chaos: An Interview

Fall/Winter 2017–18
By Patricia Obletz, Editor

Reverend Willie E. Brisco and I met in 2007. He was the Deputy Superintendent of the Milwaukee County House of Correction and president of the MATC Vocational Scholarship committee I joined. When we reconnected unexpectedly in 2010, Brisco had retired from the county’s prison system, and had become a minister and also president-elect of MICAH, Milwaukee Inner-city Congregations Allied for Hope. This social justice faith-based organization is a satellite of WISDOM, which is the Wisconsin affiliate of Gamaliel, which taught community organizing to Barack Obama. Brisco was elected president of WISDOM after serving two terms at MICAH. He also is President of the African American Leadership Council.

Wednesday 6/27/18 Update: After Supreme Court Justice Kennedy announced his retirement from the Supreme Court today, Rev. Brisco texted PeaceOfMind to say, “This is not law, this is political. The Supreme Court will not make decisions based on justice and righteousness, but on the tendencies of a political party.”

The state of America and, in particular, Wisconsin, dominated the conversation with Reverend Willie E. Brisco, who spoke on the record for Peace Of Mind late fall 2017, commenting on events since in mid-January ‘18.

Without hesitation, Brisco said, “We are in a time of chaos and fighting an undeclared civil war. We are still choosing up sides (and) the issues we’re going to stand behind, and both sides are getting more divided as we go through this negotiation.”

Hate, Capitalism and a King as President

Brisco said that the 45th US president has “unleashed the underbelly of this country” into the public, defying deniability of the fact that this country always has been racially divided, both socially and economically. He said that the president “speaks the language of hate. We are seeing the extremists coming out in all of these mass shootings and killings.”

When asked if hate were a mental illness, Brisco said that “hate is formed in the mind; it has to be cultured and cultivated. Every day you have to wake up and find a reason to oppose somebody and keep that level of anger up there till you really don’t even understand where that hate comes from.”

Asked if hate came from a need to feel superior to someone else to feel ok about one’s life, Brisco said that was a difficult question. “We live in a capitalistic society that’s supposed to be free and democratic. Capitalism maintains America’s power, which breeds ‘we are number one’ thinking. We teach children that in sports, from age one up, you have to be number one. Look at how many billions of taxpayer dollars go to sports facilities — Everyone wants to be number one.

“This thinking goes back to Biblical times when the people worshipped the king and God told them they were going in the wrong direction. The (king) will use you and he will use your products; he will take from your sons and daughters and not give back to them, and you will keep feeding this person forever. We’ve got that now: a king as president.”

Advocacy Works

Asked if he was encouraged by the growing dialogue on race and racism in mainstream media, and the development of more justice activists and groups, Brisco said, “I am encouraged, but people don’t like to look at themselves in the mirror. People don’t like to say ‘I’m sorry.’ Take our president.”

That thought led the reverend and I to the exposure and expulsion of sexual harassers, and the renewing fact that activists drove their expulsion, but that, to date, the president gets away with his predations: “People forget that God created Eve, not as Adam’s subordinate, but as a helpmate, which is not a subordinate position,” Brisco said.

We acknowledged the differences between how the Democrats and Republicans view the abusers. We agreed that the GOP no longer pretends to have integrity.

We arrived at the role of Russia in today’s America.

Brisco said, “I have no doubts about the Russian meddling in the election, and Trump’s connection. People keep forgetting that Putin is a white male.

“White regimes are the minority in the world. Nobody ever thinks of them as (wanting) to preserve their bloodline. That’s what the Nazis and the Klan are about. That’s what Hitler was about. But even though Germany was the scourge of the Second World War, we were the only country to use nuclear power. And it hasn’t been used as a weapon since.

“We need to look at this putting America first in a global sense, and the connection to Russia, the two most powerful regimes in the world.


“With Russia by our side, we basically claim the superiority of the world. We have bargained down all the other countries, despite their oil and minerals, to being dependent on us for their defense. So that’s a big theory, but I believe in it wholeheartedly.

“Putin is one of the richest men in the world – and he came from a subversive organization, the KGB. He runs the country as if it were the KGB. It’s no exaggeration to say that the USSR is back.

“Donald Trump will never ever say a word against that regime. People keep forgetting that Donald Trump didn’t get rich because of brain power. He got rich the old-fashioned way by ruthless, heartless, underhanded dealings. Breaking deals, not paying workers . . . not caring about the next person. . . .

“What we have now is the worst nightmare. This president tells the world that you need no experience, no training, no education, no type of banking and knowledge. And that you can bring in your whole family, who have no background, no education and no experience, and put them in charge of America, which many call the greatest power in the free world.

“So now, why would I tell my grandchildren, you need an education, you need to go to school, and stay out of trouble – they’d just say, ‘I just need to know the right people or I just need to be stronger, more powerful and ruthless than the next person.’

“Look at the states, at Scott Walker, our governor: No high school records, a college dropout. Nothing wrong with that — if the person is super intelligent, but he is just a pawn.

“I worked in Scott Walker’s county executive administration for ten years at the Milwaukee County House of Corrections. We had a county-wide meeting of all department heads once a month. Scott Walker is not smart. He might pay for your meal and smile, but he’s an empty box who married his wife for her connections at the Red Cross.

“Walker was discovered when he was a legislator’s aide and was willing to do anything to get ahead, impressing the Koch brothers, whose mantra is to win the small local offices. Scott Walker was a Manchurian candidate. He went from being opposed to Trump to being a pawn.

“Speaker of the House Sen. Paul Ryan (WI-R) also went from being in opposition to Trump to being a pawn for that underbelly that decides that, ‘no matter what Trump does, he gives us the greatest chance of control…. ‘

Pandora’s Box

“Everybody knows, even though Kim Jong Un is crazy, there is no way he will give up nuclear weapons, because once he does, he will be attacked. His country will be invaded and become another Iraq.

“Kim Jong Un has seen that, if you sign (contracts) with the plutocrats, you don’t become an equal partner. You become cannon fodder. Let’s go back: This is about the preservation of the white race. This is about looking out for a number one race, the 13 percent against the rest of the world.

“Look at the biggest crime of this century: the invasion of Iraq based on the assumption that they had weapons of mass destruction. So we got rid of the gangster family in charge who kept control of the other crime organizations. And unleashed a Pandora’s box.

“Having one news station for the right and one for the left is another kind of Pandora’s Box. You can get a different story by changing the channel. That’s Biblical and heading us toward Armageddon.

“We are at a crisis in this country and, except for Antarctica, there’s a war on every continent. Right now. Look at what happened with the killing of that Navy Seal in Africa on bases nobody knew we had. Yet now we find out we’ve been operating over there for years.

“War across the globe and at home.”

Racial wealth gap predates Civil War

“We said decades ago that, if you don’t help us with this cancer of poverty, poor education — racism, it will spread and be harder to treat.”

The 2016 Survey of Consumer Finances shows that black households have median wealth of about $17,600 (including home equity), in contrast to $171,000 median wealth for white households. These disparities persist and worsen when including education. Black families with college degree heads of households have less wealth than white families whose heads of households dropped out of high school.||


“The carjackings, the deaths and the waste –

“Drug dealing is a frequent road out of poverty. The white flight from Milwaukee put cars in suburban driveways, often with keys in ignitions,” Brisco pointed out. “Cars are difficult to trace back to the robber. And I guess people still don’t understand why, every night, somebody’s shot in their car. These are drug dealers. They no longer have drug houses. All your drug dealing is mobile, so that’s why so many car-jackings, robberies, and car chases are related to crime. These are not joy rides.

“The kids steal these cars and take them to the drug dealer, or deal themselves. I don’t know if we can get ahead of this — unless we take drastic action right now. You’ve got to be able to look inside the belly of the beast.

“We have created children that are used to the system. It’s hard to control children like that with the usual ways, and put so many of them in one location, like Lincoln Hills or Copper Lake juvenile prisons. Do you think those children don’t understand that those in authority are under siege, which allows these kids to get away with just about anything? Being exposed to the harsh treatment at Lincoln Hills, and realizing that people in charge are taking advantage of you, teaches kids to turn the tables.

“The (first) mistake was to put thousands and thousands of people into poverty in the same areas. What happens when you put so many troubled children in one area? Do you think they’re going to turn out to be good children, or do you think the troubled ones are going to influence the few who just make mistakes? We can’t just jump to conclusions.

“I am encouraged by the Governor’s adopting State Rep. Evan Goyke’s plan for closing Lincoln Hills. I am also a bit cautious, because it wasn’t done with the sense of urgency that it requires. The facilities’ locations and housing are still to be determined, which has the appearance of being an election ploy.

Corrections has never been about rehabilitation

“Our system of Corrections is flawed. It’s wrong and it is headed for destruction. We have never corrected people, using Corrections as it was meant to be. The number of people who are unredeemable is small, and made up of people who are totally psychotic, homicidal - psychopathic. But if you put them in an area where they can prey on others, they create more people like themselves, rehabilitating no one.

“How do hard labor, harsh treatment, bread and water spiritually bring a person back to belong to a healthy community? Those things deprive people, malnourish them, and make them very, very angry about that, and about losing their citizenship. Instead of telling them what jobs are available that they never considered before, they lose their rights to have these jobs.

“Corrections could be teaching them skills for today’s employment, because they’ll get out of prison and need to become part of the community. But they don’t even teach civics anymore, so younger people don’t know how to be a part of local government. And formerly incarcerated people lose the right to participate. Employers say, you are not right for us. A person hears that enough, he, through no fault of his own, becomes an enemy of the state, forced to commit another crime in order to eat.

“We have conditioned a whole generation of people that don’t mind going to prison for four or five years. You go to prison and you are no longer responsible for anything and your behavior is predictable. (Because) if you do this and that, you do your time and get out and be on paper and we control you, we’ll snatch you back when we get ready. That’s a system of failure.”

We talked about the high percentage of prisoners who have a mental illness (35%), often with a concurrent addiction. And the fact our US military now accepts people with certain mental illnesses, if they sign a waiver. The military evidently really wants 80,000 more bodies for a different kind of prison labor.

“Look at all the countries we’re fighting now that don’t have planes. They don’t even have described vehicles. We are not fighting a war the way we did before, so we do not need the number of people and the machinery they are building up.

“The War of Armageddon is when all of the armies meet up together, realize they’re all enemies, and destroy each other randomly. They’re supposed to meet at Megiddo, which is supposedly Israel. They’ll deploy nuclear weapons and destroy each other.

“I am a true believer in the Bible, and I’m a true believer in the prophecy of the Bible, which says the world will be done away with by fire. All of this will become a new earth and a new heaven. All things will pass away. All things will become new again.

“How do you stop mass shootings?”

“I hate to say this, but it hasn’t gotten as bad as it’s going to get. Tell me, how do you stop mass shootings? How do you clean up this country of guns when we’ve got enough guns for people who haven’t been born yet, for the next ten years. I thought it was a joke when I first heard that kindergarteners can now go deer hunting.

“Since they don’t make guns for five year olds, they just opened a whole new market. They already have the camouflage clothing. So what if the little kids are playing video games at home and one gets mad, gets his little rifle and shoots the other little kid?

“We’ve already set in motion our own self-destruction. Look at history and all of the great empires. No matter how well structured they were, the Greeks and Romans were their own worst enemy.

“And nobody wants to look at how this country was formed. History says America was discovered, despite the civilizations already living here from coast to coast. But it was ‘discovered’ and claimed by white men with guns. Everything that’s been gained in this country has been through war and deception, so why would God honor this country above all others?

“We are the modern-day Romans. They spread themselves all over the world and then realized they had spread themselves too thin. The same here. Right now, the most ridiculous thing that we are doing is this America First — after we have spent 100 years establishing a global economy.

“Getting out of the TTP global trade deal makes China the biggest economy on the block. Now Donald Trump is trying to negotiate individual treaties with all of these nations. Like Great Britain after Brexit.

“Despite this chaos that we’re in, we are not supposed to give up on the people, because enough people with the right heart and the right mindset can turn this tide against anything. God just wants us to find enough people with that heart so that He’ll have enough people for His new earth and his new heaven.”

Racism, Power, Exploitation v. Respect for All Human Beings

“Look at the Milwaukee Bucks arena. I love sports, but I’ve never been able to explain why a person that could throw a ball through a metal hoop was seen in higher regard than the father of a family or the local Pastor. And now everybody is supposed to fill this arena and cheer for the Bucks’ basketball game. It’s given more attention and more financing than the health and the education of the youth of this city.

“But say that, and you hear, ‘the Bucks gave the children free backpacks; they’re building a playground (and) giving away free tickets to the games — which gives the Bucks a big audience on national TV. That’s hypocrisy at its most exploitative sense.

“It reminds me of an old joke for you to analyze carefully:

“A long time ago, they said, ‘How do you stop a black man from raping a white woman?’ The answer? ‘You throw him a basketball.’ Horrible. Now analyze that and think of what it means, and think of how truthful it is. Look at it on a political
level and look at it on a social level.

“We have got our children dreaming of being a basketball player. They’re distracted from everything else. We’ve got parents who will sign up their children to play in amateur athletic sports leagues — they play up to 100 basketball, baseball and football games a year. That’s more than the pros play. They’re hoping to get a scholarship.

“Then they are hoping to get drafted by the pros. Then they’re hoping for riches. But one thing is guaranteed a scholarship: if you study and your grades are in the upper level, you are guaranteed a scholarship, more so than playing sports. Who’s to say that you’re not going to get hurt? The average child now, unless he’s been talked to, wants to be a rapper or some type of entertainer rather than an ordinary worker and take care of a family.

“How many of these kids stealing cars are parking them in their own driveway? Do you think that their parents look outside and know that their child doesn’t have a driver’s license or money? The parents are benefitting from this.

“How many parents don’t know that their 14-year-old hasn’t come home at night and they are satisfied with (the thought), ‘he’s spent the night with a friend, on a school night.’ It’s accepted,” Brisco said, then leaned forward.

“Racism is always the issue, and power is what we have always had to overcome. Look at how Texas was treated after the hurricane, and how Puerto Rico was and still is being treated. Puerto Rico is America, but it’s a colony that’s not White. We win small battles, like the Payday Loan cases – not anymore. The new law just reopened that avenue to wealth at the expense of the poor.”

We briefly returned to the far-right advance around the world, and its current seat in the White House.

“But,” Rev. Brisco said, “I am encouraged by the United Nations’ opposition to Trump’s proposal to move the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, because they did not yield to bullying, blackmail or coercion. They did their job as a unified body and considered the global impact of the matter and how it would impact all parties involved.

“Since God placed Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden and instructed them to replenish the earth, to care for the earth, and to resist the enemy of God and the earth, and to do it as equally committed heirs, their disobedience caused a separation from God that lasted until the appearance of Jesus.

There is no dominant race or gender

“It was always the intent of God that man would find a way to peace and unity in His name, or perish. There is no dominant race or gender. We human beings on one earth are joined together by a higher power to accomplish something greater than what we ourselves can comprehend. Those of us who have our own agenda are going to be sadly mistaken when it is determined that we are on the wrong side of justice.

“But good things are happening. The election in Alabama and other states – last week’s upset in Wisconsin, turning another long-held red seat into blue! “So be optimistic, but be cautiously optimistic - there is always a way to undercut this. And the white male dominated society is doing its best to keep status quo.”

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Last edited by Patricia Obletz. Based on work by patricia obletz and Tyler Schuster.  Page last modified on June 28, 2018, at 02:38 AM

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