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Reflections: Tosha Wilson on Dear Evanston's Uncomfortable Journey.

This is Tosha Wilson with Dear Evanston’s Uncomfortable Journey:

My journey

This Uncomfortable Journey was not uncomfortable for me, but instead it was very familiar. The small spaces that I’ve learned to maneuver in my whole life was not a peculiar experience. The small bus space was symbolic in so many ways. It’s where you know you’re uncomfortable, but you better smile and be content with your circumstances because it was the hand you were dealt, but then imagine it for a lifetime and not just hours. It was work, it was school and it was walking the sidewalks of the world everyday. I live in that space. I have to make space because others need so much of it and by my birthright, I am only allowed to have so much of that space by design. Lessons like this do not anger me because I was taught early the real story of my land from birth and I know how much it can hurt; from pains in your stomach to your skin physically crawling. I’m glad our journey was TOGETHER.

My reminders

Being black is a constant “experience.” Most of us live our lives looking for the objectivity of our existence. We just want to exist. This journey also visually reminded me of how so many people can live a life where knowing and learning about my existence/experience is optional… even when they love you. For me, I must learn other’s existence for the sake of my survival. It was a reminder that white people probably never have to come to a black person for anything in life to succeed, but every route I take will be through the lenses of whiteness. My hair, my nose, my lips, my hips will always be "less than," but a Kardashian can sell it back to me as if I’d never seen it before and make those that look like me believers in themselves again. It is the craziest mind game ever played. That setup is no fault of any one white person living today, but it’s definitely a perk you can’t actually deny. It’s when a white (2nd generation) respected friend tells you to assimilate to being American and you have to tell them, “I am America. Assimilate to me.”

Making America Great Again is our “now” slogan in America. Some people pretend this is about “the economy,” but this is where thousands of my ancestors were lynched from trees and bridges all over this country and burned until the smell of their flesh permeated the air. The National Memorial for Peace and Justice in Montgomery, AL gave us a visual of how insane it all really was and those were the names they could find. We still don’t know of the unknown unknowns. This reminded me that this is where Confederate flags fly freely in the south knowing “the culture” that so many love was only to keep me enslaved. They lost that war.

This journey reminded me that generational trauma is real and the perpetuation of hate has seeped into the pores of my people. This is the human version of The Cherry Blossom Experiment. Black people are not innately violent or innately dumb, but instead have been treaded and beaten into submission of not loving ourselves. The evidence is real. Go to The Legacy Museum and see for yourself. What is also real is our resilience, our empathy, our sympathy, our love, our concern for others, our laughter and strength. We matter.

As a law enforcement officer, it reminded me that my position is valuable in the grand scheme of things. The law will be enforced, but my moral standard, understanding the history of the criminal justice system and the atrocities that come with that history will never be taken for granted. People will be treated with dignity and respect and I will not participate in mass incarceration simply for the hell of it. It reminds me that I work with great people, we have intense discussions about the world we live in, challenge each other with open minds and choose to grow as individuals and as a group.

It reminds me how black families being separated at auction blocks resembles the families being separated at the border today. They are described as “rapists and murderers.” Beware of talk like that because it’s been done already and thousands died because of it. History indeed repeats itself and it’s imperative that families must stay together in order to stay strong because “a house divided cannot stand.” Generational trauma and PTSD are real. It reminded me that the discussion of reparations can not solely be about checks, but instead property, education, business and mental health awareness because it runs deeper than our opinions.

Lastly, it reminds me that living a “color blind” life with your children is an injustice to the world. Teach your children how the world is in order for them to change it.

My pride and my joy

My Evanston community!!!! Black, white, Hispanic, Native American, tall, short, young, old, oldest, Jewish, Christian, Muslim and on and on showed up and showed love! People from all over will have their opinions of “our tree hugging ways,” but they do NOT know the souls of my folk. “Bruh, You’re from Evanston!” is not an insult for the record. For generations, we have continually showed up for one another and the world would be so lucky if we sold our passions to them. We have never been perfect, but we have never not tried to be better. We live with our ghosts and demons and our community right now is under attack from what we’ve built for years in order to look, feel and move about in the world the way we do. I’m very proud of the crew that went to Montgomery and Selma. I come from a community that has always cared, they will go to battle and sometimes make you say, “We’re doing too much,” but you can never say they didn’t fight you on it. My pride in being who I am was shaped by an entire community. We are so Evanston and I’ll scream that from wherever, whenever with zero hesitation.

Be proud!

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