Monday, November 14, 2016

No Excuses

Prior to moving to Rochester from the New York City vicinity, I was asked if Rochester is diverse.  On the surface, the diversity of Rochester does not compare to New York City, which is seemingly home to residents from nearly every country across the globe.  However, upon further review, Rochester brings a different kind of diversity to the table.  Existing side-by-side are the Northeast with the Rust Belt, the densely urban with the classically rural, and the die-hard environmentalism linked to fresh water with the vehement conservatism linked to overregulation.  As such, Rochester is immensely diverse.  And given the ease of navigating the metro area (for most of us), we have very few, if any, excuses for not trying to appreciate and understand citizens that may not look exactly like, think exactly like, and/or live exactly like us.  In the current divisive post-election times, our ability in Rochester to understand all angles arguably surpasses that of less balanced regions.  Here is one person's take:

  • As a brown guy, I can't say that I'm particularly excited about the sudden appearance of swastikas.  On the other hand, attributing Donald Trump's victory to racism is ludicrous.  Several of my brown family members (myself excluded) eagerly voted for Trump.  Similarly, many predominantly white working-class and/or rural counties that voted for Trump actually voted for Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012.  Not far from Rochester, Seneca County, Cayuga County, Oswego County, Madison County, Cortland County, Broome County, and Ostego County all voted for Obama in 2012.  In 2016, all seven counties voted for Trump.  Did the residents of these counties suddenly become racist? Highly doubtful.
  • To divide America into rural and urban America may be equally simplistic.  As above, many regional rural counties gladly voted for Obama in 2012.  Furthermore, America's most densely populated state, New Jersey, saw nine of its twenty-one counties vote for Trump.
  • Finally, explaining this outcome as a vote of the college educated versus the high school educated is just as condensed a version as any.  Some of the staunchest conservatives this country knows have been educated at the country's most elite institutions of higher learning.  A few examples include:
  1. Laura Ingraham.  The conservative radio show host is a graduate of Dartmouth College.  Interestingly, she hails from Connecticut, which is generally a dark blue state.
  2. Ted Cruz.  The ultraconservative senator from Texas is a graduate of Princeton University and Harvard Law School. 
  3. Clarence Thomas.  The conservative Supreme Court justice is a graduate of Yale Law School.  He also happens to be African-American.
  4. Ann Coulter.  The conservative political commentator is a graduate of nearby Cornell University.  Neither Ithaca nor Coulter's native New York City are known for conservatism.

America is complicated, and simple answers do not exist.  As Rochesterians, we are perfectly situated to have this realization.  As history has shown, we will rise to the challenge.


  1. Thank you for your always insightful blog. I brought a few NYC friends to the Public Market one day last summer and they were amazed at how diverse it was -- they said it compared with any place they'd been in the City. It's sad that as Rochesterians we can come together at the Market, but still rush back to our highly segregated neighborhoods!

    1. Thank you. I totally agree - Rochester has tremendous diversity. Sometimes all it takes to learn a little something is for us to leave our comfort zones.

  2. Rochester is collared by counties that have bleak economic prospects, where many people cling to antiquated visions of America. Not all are racist, but those choosing Trump have decided racism wasn't a deal-breaker. The prevailing sentiments in this region are about returning to a lost past, not about acquiring the kinds of skills that are needed to develop and grow. Poverty in Rochester gets plenty of attention, but the intellectual poverty in these counties has enabled Trump to flourish and consequently this ring of Red detracts from the prospects for this region.

    1. I think the redness in surrounding counties is based in firm beliefs about small government, lower taxes, and the Second Amendment (i.e. guns). That said, I wish I could disagree with you about intellectual poverty and antiquated visions. A culture that occasionally ridicules critical thought and labels higher education as a pastime for the "elite" does no favors for anyone.