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home : opinion : opinion/editorial July 23, 2016

6/5/2013 6:40:00 PM
Room for a View from the June 6 Print Edition: Still, No Place Quite Like It
By Charles Wilkinson


Peggy Tarr’s piece on Evanston, “Not the Way I See It,” (May 23) provides an honest  counterpoint to my earlier piece, “No Place Quite Like It.” (May 9)  I have little difficulty appreciating her perspective, even as it saddens me. Her focus is different, narrower than mine. I wrote to celebrate the City’s marking 150 years of growth and in so doing possibly – though certainly unintentionally – understated its shortcomings and challenges, even while acknowledging them. Still, I will not waver from my words about Evanston. Nor do I expect or need Ms. Tarr to waver from hers.

“Community” and “family” are at least close cousins when one thinks to compare them. My accompanying piece on “Family Fractures” seems well-timed, coincidentally, to accompany Ms. Tarr’s viewpoint, which is clearly asking, “Can we talk?”

So, why not?

Evanston has its problems, racially and politically, as Ms. Tarr points out. But they are not so much the City’s problems as they are problems with individuals who still “don’t get it,” and perhaps never will.

Prejudice is not endemic to Evanston; it is an individual mindset inflicted on others, either out of upbringing or ignorance. The City’s commitment to diversity speaks directly against such prejudice. But that does not solve the problem that needs to be confronted when encountered. “Can we talk?” offers one possible  beginning.

As for politics, power is always vulnerable to being misused. Here in Evanston, the City and its powers that be are held accountable on many levels – at the polls, by citizen comments at Council meetings, in the media. The RoundTable’s reason for existence is precisely that: to inform residents about the workings of their community and to encourage them to voice their concerns.

It does not take much reading between the lines of what I wrote about Evanston, specifically: “Evanston envisions itself as a comfortably diverse community, free of violence, working toward a greener environment – energy efficient and globally responsible. It seeks honest transparency in its government and is closer than ever to a working partnership with Northwestern University” to conclude that I realize “we ain’t there yet.”

Ms. Tarr knows that better than many. But to blame the City lets too many individuals off the hook. Government is not meant to do its people’s growing for them. Change in attitudes and behaviors happens so slowly because individuals need to learn to recognize their own prejudices and to take on responsibility for narrow minds and the choices they make or avoid. I cannot think of many places where diversity is embraced and its struggles challenged as they are in Evanston, or where the power of democracy is tested and stretched toward fulfilling its true meaning.

I am complimented by Ms. Tarr’s response. The City, and particularly the RoundTable, have been encouraging this kind of dialogue for years, literally.

So, “can we talk?”







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