Two American Families: How do they manage?

By Mad Dog
Published: Jul 11, 2013

Did you watch the Frontline documentary? (You still can, online.) It tracks two Milwaukee families, one African-American, one white, over 20 years, as they struggle to stay in the middle class. Weird timing for me; I’d just finished writing about one of the richest families in Milwaukee. So watching this documentary wasn’t like watching another part of town. More like another planet. A planet of people with remarkable tenacity. Over and over I thought: How do they keep on? I couldn’t.

Marcie lives in Milwaukee. She was kind enough to watch the documentary and comment: “I’m still reeling. I was teaching in the Welfare to Work program started in the 90’s by the Clinton administration with the best of intentions. (It failed.) Last night’s program miraculously, brilliantly, captured the truth. Heartbreaking in how we’ve colossally failed hard-working American families and heartbreaking that the mother of the Stanley family believed she had personally failed. Watching ‘Two American Families’ made me think about our fragility, how hard it can be to raise a family, even with the most basic expectations – it made me think about love.”