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Who’s Next? The Public Lynching of Black Leaders in Rochester

Letter to the editor from Jason Muhammad –

Watch out Malik Evans…

Be careful Vincent Felder…

We know you just got here, but don’t get too comfortable Fatimah Reid…

The recent trend of publicly lynching Black Elected Officials and Leaders is sweeping across Rochester, New York, and it could be at your door in just a few days.

There seems to be an invisible burden to bear that has been reserved for Black Elected Officials in Rochester, inevitably resulting in malicious scrutiny, maligning of character, and the destruction of careers and lives.

At a time of year when many are expressing Peace on Earth and Good Will towards men, maybe the one without sin should cast the first stone.

But instead, Mr. David Andreatta made it clear that he is a willing and active participant in these local picnics, and in a recent article in the Democrat and Chronicle Newspaper “David Andreatta: A carpetbagger is the new Rochester City Court judge” attacked newly appointed City Court Judge Melissa Barrett.

But again, Ms. Barrrett is just the latest in the trend.

Recent weeks and months have seen Councilman Adam McFadden, Rochester Housing Authority Chair George Moses, and even Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren the objects of scorn and rebuke as investigations and inquiries into their affairs have cast them in an unflattering light.

And this is not to speak to the innocence or guilt of alleged crimes or offences but it is to point out that it is more than coincidence or conspiracy theory; it is a matter of Cause and Effect, and an attacking narrative born of privilege that suggests that Black people are not qualified to lead.

The most famed of these attacks is the continuous berating of former Rochester City Court Judge Leticia Astacio, where a DWI conviction has been the catalyst for ongoing drama and public castigation. Even though, as Robert Gavin wrote in an article published in the Time Union in March of 2011, “DWI arrests don’t always end public careers.”

In his article, Mr. Gavin outlines a number of elected officials and public servants who were convicted of offences congruent with Ms. Astacio, including Rochester’s own Assemblywoman Susan John in 1997, a Rochester Democrat who at the time chaired the Assembly’s Alcohol and Drug Abuse Committee. She was charged with DWI, but was permitted to plead guilty to driving while ability impaired, a violation, and keep her seat.

Yes, certain things do have their privileges.

It is as the Kerner Report declared 50 years ago: “Our Nation is moving toward two societies, one black, one white—separate and unequal.”

But back to Mr. Andreatta.

His reference to Judge Barrett with the pejorative term “carpetbagger” is a lowly and offensive term that drips with racism.

Born in the days of Post-Civil War Reconstruction, and the “problem” of the newly “freed” Black people in the South, the term a carpetbagger was any person from the Northern United States who came to the Southern states and favored, among other policies, better treatment of the newly freed, former slaves. Southerners who supported them were considered “scalawags,” so it may be just a matter of time before someone sympathetic to Judge Barrett gets bludgeoned with that term.

What is interesting is that Republicans tried to label Hillary Clinton as a carpetbagger when she left the White House and looked to represent New York State in the United States Senate. Ms. Clinton was born in Illinois; went to college in Massachusetts; attended law school in Connecticut; and moved to Arkansas with her husband when he was governor of the state. She lived there until they moved to Pennsylvania Avenue.

But I do not recall her being referred to with disparaging terms by Mr. Andreatta or his colleagues, even if concern over her residency was raised as an issue.

But perhaps, Mr. Andreatta should seek out and investigate all kinds of so-called carpetbaggers that he can find in Rochester.

For example, perhaps he could investigate if there are “cultural carpetbaggers,” like Republican Senators who frequents Black-owned establishments and Black-owned radio stations because he knows what he must do in order to win the hearts and minds of the majority Black and democratic voters in his district.

But Mr. Andreatta will not do that, because that would be unfair and disrespectful.

Or perhaps he could investigate to see if there are “educational carpetbaggers,” like some in the RCSD who would live in and send their children to outlying school districts where they have voting power and the ability to control school taxes, yet enter into the city each day to do their jobs in an environment that they would not permit for their own children.

But Mr. Andreatta will not do that, because that would be unfair and disrespectful.

Besides, the privileged do not get publicly lynched at the picnic. That is reserved for Black Elected Officials and Leaders.

So then, Who’s Next?

Jason Muhammad

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(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.)