Rochester's continued struggle with segregation

Three Rochester teens were arrested on Nov. 27 while waiting for a school bus to bring them to a basketball game at a nearby school. Rochester Police charged the students, all of whom are black, with disorderly conduct on the grounds that they were obstructing the sidewalk.

Though it seems fairly obvious that this is another instance of racial profiling, it becomes even more apparent when one considers the city of Rochester’s deep-seated racial issues.

In 2011, city councilman Adam McFadden was part of a 15-person commission to address racial profiling by the Rochester Police Department. Rochester, which is 41.7 percent black according to the 2010 United States Census, maintains huge disparities in arrests for petty crimes between black and white males.

According to CNN, 104 black males between the ages of 16 and 30 were arrested for petty crimes in 2000, as opposed to 26 white males in the same age range. In 2010, the disparity widened, with 171 blacks and 20 whites.

When Emily Good tried to film three white officers abrasively interrogating a black man in front of her house in May 2011, she was arrested herself. Her charges were later dropped.

This recent incident is a reminder that Rochester is still struggling to redress its many racial issues, which extend far beyond racial profiling.

According to the Democrat and Chronicle, an as-of-yet unreleased report by the Civil Rights Project at the University of California, Los Angeles found that Rochester’s public schools are among the most segregated in the nation. In order for Rochester schools to reach ideal integration, 70 percent of the area’s black or white students would have to move schools.

These divisions between Rochester’s black and white populations are dangerous. Beyond promoting the type of economic isolation that can precipitate crime, the city’s racial segregation must be taken into account when considering the rash of racially motivated crimes that have occurred throughout the city.

In 2012, vandals spray-painted swastikas and “KKK” onto the house of a Somali family in Rochester. It was the second such occurrence to have occurred in one year.

Racial segregation drives a wedge between the groups it affects. Familiarity breeds understanding and compassion. It is imperative that the city of Rochester takes steps to correct the fundamental inequalities that exist at present within its schools and beyond.

Unfortunately, as of right now, Rochester seems headed in the opposite direction. Monroe County Executive Maggie Brooks’ proposed county budget for 2014 contains cuts to vital social services, such as childcare, that would help Rochester’s black and Latino population, 32 percent of which lives below the poverty line.

Segregation persists largely due to the economic inequality that pervades Rochester. With segregation comes a host of other problems. The incident involving the teens waiting for the bus is just a glimpse into the city of Rochester’s extreme race problem.

Fixing that problem involves reform at virtually all levels. The city’s police department must thoroughly reexamine its rampant profiling, while local and state governments must support initiatives to sustain Rochester’s most vulnerable populations.