WAUWATOSA — As part of our Decision 2020 coverage, TMJ4 News asked several of our reporters who are originally from southeast Wisconsin to speak with voters in their hometowns ahead of Tuesday’s election. Our Vince Vitrano grew up in Wauwatosa:
As I talked with voters in Wauwatosa, there’s a palpable tension. Tosa is tearing at the seams. Protests that have turned violent at times have made for a restless summer and fall. The events of the last several months weigh heavily on the minds of voters at city hall.
I spoke with Emily and Antonio Morrison after they voted early. “I think putting the election behind us will help, yes,” Emily said. “I think we always have progress to make.”
Antonio Morrison added, “There's a lot of animosity toward each other. Some of the great philosophers say love heals all. It's better than hate. If we get to that point, we can start understanding each other.”
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I walked part of my old paper route. I delivered the Milwaukee Sentinel to some of the apartment buildings on 92nd and North that had rocks thrown through their windows. It’s sad to see so many businesses and some homes, still with plywood instead of glass.
“The boards up are just sort of, holding us back,” Kristi Knoedler told me as we sat outside the corner coffee shop, those boards in eyesight covering many windows in the area. “Take the boards down. It feels like the community can come together and have a positive attitude the people are coming together working for change, and improving relationships in Wauwatosa.
She and her husband, Darly, chose Wauwatosa to raise their children about ten years ago. You could tell they were sad about the divisions in the community.
I didn’t ask anyone how they would vote. I asked them, what they hoped for the community after Nov. 3.
“I hope after next Tuesday it's better,” Darly told me. “There's a resolution. This is going to be the president for the next 4 years. Whoever that is, work to improve things.”
From what I see as a Tosa native, Wauwatosa has made tremendous progress in terms of diversity. When I was a kid growing up here (Tosa East, Class of 1992), the only place I saw African Americans in Tosa was at school. The 220 program brought some diversity to Wauwatosa Public Schools, but it stopped there. After school, or after practice, my Black friends and teammates went home to Milwaukee. We lived, largely segregated, beyond the classroom and sports teams.
On this one recent morning hanging out in Tosa, I spoke with people of color at the coffee shop, on North Avenue, and standing in line to vote at city hall. Mayfair and its surrounding businesses are filled with a diverse visitor base. All things that were unheard of in the 1980s Wauwatosa.
I wouldn’t mean to suggest it’s 50/50 by any means, nor that Wauwatosa is a completely homogenous community brimming with diversity. I just share that anecdote for perspective. There’s progress.
On the television piece, I said there are two emotions not represented, those being anger and fear. Several people from Wauwatosa have reached out to me directly in recent weeks, saying they’re angry about the protests. They’re angry about the way they’re depicted on television. They’re angry no one is standing up to voice that opinion. That’s where fear comes in. They don’t want to say that out loud.
“I would never in a million years feel safe voicing my opinion on any type of media,” one Tosa resident wrote to me after I invited her to share her frustrations on the news. “Based on the experiences of others, I would fear for my family’s safety, the safety of my home, and my personal relationships.”
After sharing this piece on the news, I received another email, furious with the story. The emailer said he is a Tosa resident, fully supportive of the protests, deeply critical of police, and not defensive even of the destruction of property, “…the ability of the police department to routinely brutalize and kill black and brown people without repercussion is significantly more problematic to me than some windows that somehow only got broken when alt-right media was in town.”
He went on, “I’m sure it would be more comfortable for your anonymous correspondent if we all stopped talking about the problems that led to those boarded-up windows.”
Actually, it illustrates my final point tragically. The divide between these two emailers, Wauwatosa residents both, suggests reconciliation may not be coming anytime soon, regardless of what happens on Nov. 3.