An Open Letter to Ms. Lynette Adams
Dear Ms. Adams,
Thank you for continuing to utilize your television program (Rochester In Focus) to highlight the ongoing, rampant, worsening gun violence in particular, which has been occurring especially within Rochester’s Black community for many decades.
The 12/4/22 episode (see the first reference-link below), which featured Ms. Carrie Noble (Director of Monroe County Victim Witness Services), and Mr. Clay Harris (founder of Uniting and Healing through Hope of Monroe County) was interesting, but also problematic in some ways.
For example, some of us are sick-and-tired-of-being-sick-and-tired of the major responsibility for solving crime being dumped back onto folks in the neighborhoods where the crime is being committed, and where (in most cases) they must live.
Most do not have viable residency choices, which is a main reason why, in my humble, but unequivocally-staunch and informed view _ the idea must be categorically rejected that it’s appropriate to utilize what seems like a scripted narrative _ to tell tell residents who are witnesses to criminal activities things like: “I know you’re terrified; I understand; I appreciate it; I respect everything you’re telling me __ none-the-less, I still need you to do this” (that is, to be a witness to criminal activity, especially gun violence and murder, either in court, and/or via affidavit).
Again, the ludicrously-erroneous, unacceptable idea and narrative that: “it’s so critical for people to understand that if you aren’t willing to step forward, there will never be change; there will never be anything that we can do to try to help curb some of the violence” __ must be categorically rejected on its face.
If this is in fact the case, then RPD, Monroe County Sheriffs, New York State Police, the ATF, FBI, CIA, and probably other alphabet-soup, so-called law “enforcement” agencies certainly must owe us a great, big refund.
The ongoing, seemingly pervasive _ let’s hold-the-affected-community-responsible- drumbeat has numerous aspects. For example, it’s not difficult to tell who (specifically) statements such as the following are aimed at: “We must continue to be steadfast and committed to helping our community become a safer place again _ to live and work. Rochester has never been that way, and there are underlying reasons why it’s occurring, and we as a community have to step forward, and to undergird; build and patch up the foundation that is cracking; that is perpetuating the violence. A lot of it has to do with poverty. A lot of it has to do with education __ the breakdown of the family.”
Additionally, to be honest and frank, some of the rhetoric is so abstract and outlandish that it can’t be taken seriously. For example, what (exactly and specifically) does the following mean, and how realistic is it that: “We need to shock and awe these criminals, and would-be-criminals with a full court press _ with all of us coming together in unison, in the streets, and in our homes, and in our churches _ to say we’re not taking it anymore; you want help, we’ll help you, but if you don’t, we’re gonna have to lock you up until you want to change your ways.” Right. This sort of super-hyper-rhetoric always reminds me of the fact that many law “enforcement” personnel and other governmental officials are quick to exclaim: “We can’t arrest our way out of this.”
A vitally important question was raised during the show, e.g., what’s causing the “uptick” in violence. Although it was acknowledged that “a multitude of things come into play,” as is often the case, covid was at the top of the list. It seems that covid has become everyone’s favorite excuse to help explain nearly everything negative (as if rampant gun violence and many other life-threatening problems and issues didn’t exist for decades prior to even hearing the term covid).
Another “reason” that was noted is: “There’s been some changes in the law, which have made some things difficult.” Can we guess what the latter statement is in reference to? I bet we can. It’s most interesting _ if, as Mr. Harris contends _ 98% of people in Monroe County are NOT “actively engaged in trying to make a difference [,and if] we need all hands on deck to make a difference, and to transform, and come back to civility, and come back to normalcy __ about how many more centuries do we think it will take to get the 98%”on deck,” and when (exactly and specifically) was the time of “civility and normalcy” that we’re supposedly trying to get back to?
These are not rhetorical questions. On the contrary, if we can’t provide realistic answers, then it’s just not likely that we’ll arrive at viable solutions. The main point is that this is NOT a time for super-hyper, abstract rhetoric regarding potential solutions. That’s dangerous, especially and particularly if people are in positions of leadership.
The bottom line is that we agree with Mr. Harris regarding the idea that all of us who are really serious and committed to significantly reducing rampant gun violence, need to “come together in unison, in the streets __ to say we’re not taking it anymore.”
However, the folks that we need to direct our demands and pressure toward are those who control literally billions of so-called law “enforcement” dollars, e.g., Rochester Police Department, Monroe County Sheriff’s, NY State Police, FBI, ATF, CIA, etc… . In the final analysis, they need to respond in the exact same manner that they would if rampant, daily fratricidal slaughter was occurring in predominantly white neighborhoods and communities (from one end of this thoroughly racist, white-supremacist-based nation-state to the other) on a daily basis.
~ Howard Eagle is a longtime educator and local anti-racism advocate, known for his campaigns for the Rochester school board and prolific political and social commentary. Eagle taught social studies in the RCSD for 23 years, before retiring in 2010, and taught as an adjunct professor in the Department of African American Studies at SUNY Brockport for 20 years, before retiring in 2020.