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The New ‘Commission on Racial and Structural Equity’ is Already Flawed

Howard Eagle

I really hope we’re paying close attention. In the midst of ongoing, post-George-Floyd-murder-rhetoric about confronting racism, and so-called racial “equity,” the tripartite beast and illness of Individual, Institutional, and Structural Racism rages on, and is as prevalent today as it was on May 25, 2020, the day Floyd was murdered.

On June 18, about a month after Mr. Floyd’s gruesome murder, (following local incidents that were reminiscent of July 24 – 26, 1964 race riots), Rochester’s Mayor Lovely Warren and Monroe County Executive Adam Bello stood before the press, and announced that they were launching an “unprecedented, joint, Commission on Racial and Structural Equity.” Mayor Warren asserted that the Commission would “develop policies and legislation to overcome racism in Rochester and Monroe County,” and Mr. Bello declared: “We must be a unified voice for real and lasting change, and root out structural racism and institutional bias.” He noted that he “commits to taking action, building Monroe County as an anti-racist government.”

Roughly a month later, we discovered that, according to local newspaper reports, “a volatile exchange between Monroe County Legislators Sabrina Lamar [a Black woman] and Joe Morelle Jr.” (a white man), led to Ms. Lamar calling Mr. Morelle out for engaging in “racist behavior,” which in turn led to his father, U.S. Congressman Joe Morelle Sr. intervening, and contacting Ms. Lamar’s supervisor at Rochester Institute of Technology, where she works in a violence prevention program. Ms. Lamar maintains that Congressman Morelle attempted to get her fired, as retribution for pointing out his son’s racist behavior. Morelle Sr. denies the charges, which brings us full-circle to the County Executive’s TALK about “building Monroe County as an anti-racist government, not just because it’s the right thing to do, but because it’s (his) responsibility and (he does) not take it lightly.”

Mayor Warren has spoken out publicly about the above referenced situation via a tearful press conference, in which she noted that she is tired of witnessing people use their privilege and power to attack Black women, and in which she was so distraught that she didn’t even entertain questions from the press afterwards.

Yet, County Executive Bello has NOT said one, single word (publicly) about this situation. Naturally, as it relates to addressing racism, as with any other deep-seated, deadly-serious, pervasive, historic socioeconomic, sociopolitical, and/or sociocultural issue and problem, deafening-silence is problematic. In fact, whether intentional or not, silence is frequently indicative of complicity. I’m mentioning this because, as it relates to the so-called “Commission on Racial and Structural Equity,” and specifically the task of choosing folks who will serve on the Commission, which is the joint responsibility of the Mayor and County Executive — more than likely, Mr. Bello is not adequately equipped to participate legitimately in such decision-making. How does he know what he’s looking for regarding knowledge, commitment, sincerity, and most importantly, people’s lack of both race-based cognitive dissonance and fragility, which represents prerequisites relative to holistically facing all of the realities of individual, institutional and structural racism, including one’s own complicity?

Our unequivocal belief that Mr. Bello has never even considered thinking seriously or deeply, if at all about racism (until now), is based on several extended meetings and conversations that our Coalition ( ) members had with him. If there is any doubt about the validity of our claim — just take away the script that he was reading from at the above referenced press event, and ask him to have (to quote one of the Chairpersons of the Commission)— a “hard, difficult discussion”regarding racism, and see how that goes. Yet, he sits in judgment of who will and/or won’t serve on the Commission — simply because he is the County Executive (though he knows less about the historic and ongoing development and manifestation of racism than many young children). In order to avoid becoming anti-racist-mess-makers, there really is a serious need for those who are orchestrating the process to think very carefully about the specifics of what they are doing

Since the Commission’s three chairpersons (former mayor William Johnson, Dr. Muhammad Shafiq, Ms. Arline Santiago, and their assistants—at least two of the latter referenced group who also hold doctorate degrees and all of whom are, more than likely, being paid big bucks.) are supposedly the experts in the process, why are they not making the selections? Clearly, rather than some decisions being based on deep and/or broad anti-racist knowledge, they are political in nature, which are frequently the worst kind because the only results that they focus on are those that occur at the voting booth. It is highly possible, in fact it seems likely that this is merely another one of those infamous, numerous, political charades that are so well known here in modern-day-slave-town-U.S.A.(in which literally millions of dollars are allocated with the promise that change and improvement is right around the corner, yet it never arrives.)

The indisputable fact that the process is rigged and fundamentally flawed is clearly evidenced by the reality that some of slave-town’s most knowledgeable, authentic, anti-racist experts, including, yes, yours truly, have been screened out (under the guise of so-called “diversity,” as opposed to necessary expertise), while others who are as racist as the days are long, have been accepted as anti-racist, so-called “commissioners.” GO FIGURE!

We already know (with a high degree of predictability and certainty), based on numerous past initiatives that were led, and/or influenced in some cases by the very same people who are leading and/or influencing the current, bogus process, what the likely, ultimate outcome will be. It is for this reason that the Take It Down Planning Committee; Faith Community Alliance Coalition is calling on the tax-paying community, especially those who are most directly and most devastatingly impacted by ongoing individual, institutional, and structural racism, to join with us in not allowing this expensive, phony process to proceed (without massive resistance). It’s way past time to move beyond sitting idly by (like knots on a log), and allowing folks who really do resemble poverty pimps, to suck up public resources, and produce nothing significant, measurable, and/or substantive in return.

The worst part is that they always rig the manner in which they operate, to ensure that we do NOT have a watchdog who will keep them honest in the process, and who will report back to us regarding misuse, squandering, and possibly embezzling of OUR MONEY!!!

Let’s demand an authentic watchdog at minimum.

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 is now an adjunct professor in the Department of African American Studies at SUNY Brockport.

(The views expressed on our opinion pages are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the position or viewpoint of the Minority Reporter.)

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