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Misinformation About Racism: An Open Letter to Rochester City Council V. P., Mary Lupien

Editorial by Howard Eagle

Howard Eagle

Dear Ms. Lupien,

As I listened to you and Rochester City Council President Miguel Melendez discuss the Council’s 2022 “priorities” during the 01/28/22 edition of Evan Dawson’s radio talk show, I was somewhat baffled, and at some points, in complete disbelief.

It became crystal-clear that either you do not really understand critical aspects concerning some of the urgent issues that were discussed, or hopefully you were not being intentionally disingenuous. It seems that you should know better than some of the things you uttered.

For example, as you know, much of the program focused heavily on provision of mental health services for Rochester police. Related to that particular issue, you claimed that “back when 10-year-old Na’ilah was handcuffed [by Rochester police, which became a national issue, you] saw very clearly trauma on the police — the police did not recognize the trauma in the community and they did not recognize it in themselves.”


What in the heck is that supposed to mean?

What I saw was racist police who did not acknowledge that they were dealing with a Black baby, but instead envisioned her, and in fact treated her as if she was an adult criminal.

That’s not so much about police trauma, as it is about police RACISM and brutality. So-called “training” people to recognize trauma is NOT a prescription for deep-seated, entrenched, racist attitudes, belief-systems and behaviors, and it’s vitally important not to confuse, nor conflate the two.

You almost made a good point regarding your assertion relative to “problems” with the police mental-health-care Legislation, which the majority of City Council members voted to approve at your 01/18/22 meeting. You noted that “the money that [this particular expenditure was] pulled from [to pay for so-called “training” regarding police trauma] was for the RASE [Racial And Structural Equity Commission] recommendations,” which you erroneously stated “really originated — the very genesis of it was to set funds aside to study how we reallocate resources from the Police Department”.

Wrong, wrong, wrong!

From the very beginning, the genesis and charge of RASE “was to review local city and county laws, policies, and ordinances to identify areas of structural inequity and recommend ways to change those laws to achieve fair application for all citizens.”

So, you were right about the fact that “it wasn’t the right money to be pulling from, and [that] it really should have come out of the Police Department budget,” not for the reason you stated, but instead because the half-million-dollar expenditure is NOT remotely related in any form or fashion to the RASE Commission’s charge outlined above.

So, it appears that the Council and Administration collaborated with representatives of the Rochester Police Department to use RASE resources as a very expensive, personal piggy-bank (probably to solicit political favor and help calm the highly agitated troops).

When the focus of the discussion turned to the issue of what’s driving the increase of rampant violence, you literally spewed unintelligible rhetoric. For example, how in the world is it possible that “a lot of the people who are victims of homicide, are also the ones committing the homicides (because there’s just a cycle of retaliatory violence in Rochester)?”


How can that possibly be?

Are we talking about raising the dead, so that they will live another day to kill again? If not, then the latter quote is necessarily pure gibberish. It sounds like you may be trying to regurgitate something that you’ve been told, or sold (perhaps by folks from “Advanced Peace”), but clearly you have not understood, nor internalized its essence, and therefore are literally spewing half-baked rhetoric.

At one point you declared that police need “training” to help them “understand internalized racism.” Then, you quickly noted that was not what you meant to say, but that instead, you meant to say “implicit bias,” which President Melendez quickly provided an ‘amen’ by saying “there you go.”

Well (other than being more palatable for many, because it’s soft language), I would challenge you, Mr. Melendez and all others, to explain to us the difference between so-called “implicit bias” and “internalized racism.” They are in fact, essentially one in the same. This represents just one more example, regarding the ends to which leaders and others will go to skirt, evade, avoid, redirect critical dialogue away from the historical and ongoing, underlying, fundamental pervasive issue, problem, and impact of individual, institutional, and structural racism.

If folks are reluctant (to say the very least), to even call the issue out clearly and unambiguously, then common sense alone necessarily dictates that they will not do much to seriously address it.

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.