An article was recently released by Democrat and Chronicle that articulated the issues that Rochester is facing. It defines exactly what’s wrong with this city in a simple and supposedly innocuous comment that probably shouldn’t have made the cut in the story. It’s a line that does nothing for the story itself, yet was left in, as if on accident. It was something I’m positive that most people read and passed over without a second thought, or simply accepted as a truth. It is, in my opinion, the perfect quote to highlight why Rochester, NY has deeply rooted problems that will probably never go away. These problems are not talked about, and are seldom brought up in public forums as far as I know. If they are being talked about candidly and openly I would love for the residents of Rochester to write me and tell me I’m wrong.
The article was written by a group of staff writers at the Democrat and Chronicle; Victoria E. Freile, Patti Singer, and Todd Clausen. Democrat and Chronicle’s Executive Editor and Vice President of News is Karen Magnusun. The article is mostly concerned with the terrible tragedy of two burned bodies that were recently discovered. The newest body was found near La Grange Park, which is nestled almost in the middle of a triangle with Ridgeway Ave, Mount Read Blvd, and Driving Park Ave. The article was hard enough to get through due to the violent nature of the deaths, but a simple comment made by a local resident illuminates the odd segregation and tension that is simply accepted in this city.
The comment was made by Michael Bell. It was the only comment in the article. The entire quote read as follows:
“You don’t expect for activity like that to be around here. It is normally pretty safe around here. I am not saying this is like Mendon, Pittsford, or whatever, but it’s a secluded area here. It’s quiet. You don’t expect for activity like that to be around here. God didn’t put us here to hurt and harm each other. He put us here to love each other and we have to grasp that. If there is something going on, there are people to talk to. There is nothing that bad. “
What Mr. Bell said is direct and honest. I especially like the part where he says we were not put here to harm each other. I have always believed in tolerance, acceptance, peace, love, and understanding, but what bothers me about Mr. Bell’s comment was that he assumes Pittsford and Mendon are the safest areas. That might actually be true. The misconception that crime is only happening in certain parts of a city seems to be a common thread in news across the nation. I don’t take umbrage with what Mr. Bell said, although the fact that he felt the need to say it at all made me cringe, but I am thoroughly disgusted that Democrat and Chronicle would print that part of the comment. It is not part of the story. It does not need to be part of the story, but it was left in as some sort of gauge, a bright orange cone that will remind the citizens of Mendon and Pittsford that they are somehow safer.
I wonder if the residents of Mendon and Pittsford read that line and somehow held their heads a little higher knowing that they don’t have to worry about such violence in their “part of town.” I wonder if Karen Magnusun lives in Pittsford or Mendon, or if any of the staff writers do, and this was their strange way of making themselves feel a little safer, a little more at ease, subconsciously rationalizing their higher taxes. I wonder if they still lock their doors at night, setting their security alarms and praying that the disgruntled riffraff that lives only a few miles away doesn’t figure out how to get in. I wonder if they still fear the boogey man.
I moved to Rochester about a decade ago, chasing a girl and a dream of being a college graduate. I stayed for this reason or that, getting wrapped up in jobs and life, but leaving has never left my mind. I was only here for a month or so when I realized that this is a massively segregated city filled with elitists, extreme xenophobes, racists, and an overall unrelenting attitude that none of this is happening. Rochester has some amazing people in it. I’ve had the opportunity to meet a lot of them. The food in this city is amazing. There is an amazing blend of culture and people that live just under the radar on these streets, but there is an odd and noticeable wall that separates all things East and the rest of the God forsaken city. It’s why the city is crumbling. The hate is felt and is passed around so freely that it creates more hate. The separatists are unapologetic and operate openly; so openly that a comment that was supposed to be innocuous splayed open the bubbling green bile of separation and hatred in a city that seems damned.
I’m embarrassed for Democrat and Chronicle. They obviously don’t see the larger picture that Rochester and much of America are suffering from; poor brotherhood. The comment was left in the article, a subconscious slip that tells a larger story, one that the news isn’t telling, but obviously selling.
Anthony N. White is a writer currently living in Rochester, NY.
He can be heckled on Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat @Ruthieshusband