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Reader feedback - 3.1.06



While "Acting White" addressed a legitimate challenge for students' educational achievement in this country, it skipped a critical point for me. It was assumed that the very constructs of black and white, though flawed, are sufficient and even acceptable as sole identifiers of a person. However, the terms black and white do not constitute any real characteristics of a person. They do not even accurately describe skin color.

These terribly lacking adjectives appeared only after the introduction of slavery; then, black and white became simple identification tools for slave owners to set themselves apart from the enslaved. In reality, both groups came from extremely diverse backgrounds --- various countries, ancestries, tribes, and families --- yet each was reduced to a single descriptor. It set up a dichotomy --- a clear division of privilege defined by the color-line distinction of "us" and "them."

These social constructs of race contained various stereotypical attributes and characteristics which have grown and changed with this troubled nation; yet the continued contextual use of black and white is as troublesome today as it was at their origin. We need to change the very definition of race, as well as how we use it to define ourselves.

As a bi-racial woman, I deeply resent the phrases "acting white" and "acting black." Growing up, I was never "black enough" for my black friends or "white enough" for my white friends. Somehow I didn't fit in, because I was not easily defined by the American dichotomy of race. Even before I understood the basis of racial constructions, I abhorred the limiting situation I was continuously boxed into. Why did I have to choose? As defined by stereotypical and false characteristics, neither race was appealing to me. In theory, I was both. In common social perception, I wasn't truly either.

I despise the way race is defined in America, because dichotomies leave no room for creativity, free expression, or growth. We need to challenge what it means to be black, what it means to be white, and what it means to use a color to describe our state of being. We need to see beyond the limited views of race which originated in oppression. When we focus only on difference and not commonality, we perpetuate this oppression.

Noel France, St. Paul Boulevard, Irondequoit


"Acting White" hit a nerve with me, because I also suffered from a similar syndrome while attending a local all-white high school in the 1950's. I also am white; the syndrome appears to be color-blind.

My thing was that I liked school: I liked the books, I liked to study. I liked algebra and social studies. I especially liked geography. I liked to get up in front of the class and read. A lot of the other kids didn't like these things, so I was somewhat ostracized and was not popular. I was referred to as "the brain."

But the education served me well later, as I think it will that young man on your cover. I would say to him: don't follow the herd; make your own path, don't worry what others think.

Harry Van Beurden, Rochester


I was very disturbed by Willa Powell's comments about New York's Open Meetings Law and the people who enforce it, the Committee on Open Government ("Board Seat on Hold," February 1). The very experienced executive director of the Committee determined that the School Board would violate the law if it closed to the public its deliberations over choosing a new member. Not liking the opinion, Ms. Powell flouted the law by word and by deed. Ironically, we are hearing the same noise out of Washington from our president about his power to circumvent the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and Congress.

To both Ms. Powell and the president, I say one thing: no person is above the law. If you do not like a law, work to change it. Until you are successful, please follow it. Rochester (and the nation) will be the better for it.

Scott Forsyth, Douglas Road, Rochester


Perhaps it's appropriate that I'm reading Brandon Heffernan's "New Daddy Diary" just two days before the first birthday of my son (Family Valued, January 25). While I certainly appreciate that no two births are alike, I'm saddened to read about the woman in the next room screaming, and how that led to the decision to get an epidural.

I'm no hippie birth-woman, and I have nothing against the medical establishment. But since my son was born, I've been so much more aware of how birth is portrayed in the media. It doesn't have to be "legs first into a wood chipper." There are many, many things women can do to prepare themselves, to prepare their partners, for the challenges of birth.

What made my son's natural birth possible was the presence of our wonderful doula, Mary Anne Locke. Our doula --- Greek for "attendant" --- supported us in our decision to have a natural birth, and when the going got tough, suggested the changes (in position and in mindset) that supported me and helped my husband support me, and allowed me to labor on through for almost 12 hours, to the amazing moment when my son was born.

I urge all women to consider hiring a doula --- a woman who's there to help you through the very natural process of labor with minimal interventions. Labor doesn't have to be the excruciating pain it's often presented as. It's hard work, but that's why they call it labor.

Jennifer Caleshu, Meigs Street, Rochester


In reply to Mitchell Kaidy's recommendation that "the state should rescue the ferry" ("We Gave Up Too Soon," February 15): Don't we have enough state-sponsored public entities spilling red ink, deficits, and multi-generational bonded debt, all beyond the grasp of voters? Do we really need one more albatross around our state government's neck?

We can't compete in maintaining business, industry, or jobs. Our brain drain is depleting our communities' vigor. State-government expenditures consistently outpace the annual rate of inflation. Our highways, bridges, and public infrastructure are at risk. Nevertheless, we are urged to take on another capital-intensive and open-ended operational expense because the writer's sky is blue?

Gimme a break!

Melvyn R. Diamond, Woodland Road, Pittsford


Mitchell Kaidy's idea of creating a New York State Ferry Authority to operate the ferry seems to ignore recent reports that far too many of these bodies have placed the state in serious financial deficit with little oversight or legislative control. The Thruway Authority, Canal Corporation, and Racing Authority are hardly good examples of sound management.

Mr. Kaidy mentions the potential of ferry truck traffic that could "access the entire American interstate system by I-390" from the Port of Rochester. Unfortunately, trucks are banned from using the Lake Ontario State Parkway, which does indeed access I-390. And the approximately 2 miles of Parkway from Lake Avenue to I-390 passes under bridges at Greenleaf Road, Island Cottage Road, and a railroad crossing. These overpasses would limit the size of any truck making the interstate highway connection.

Are there other road options for trucks leaving the port area? Beach Avenue? No! Latta Road? No! The O'Rourke Bridge to Thomas Avenue to St. Paul Street ? No!

Lake Avenue itself was not designed for, nor could it safely accommodate, frequent large truck traffic. Perhaps improved truck transfer facilities and rail service from the port area would facilitate this type of cross-lake service, but this option has never been seriously studied.

If Rochester and Monroe County seriously consider supporting future ferry service to Toronto, let us hope that the creation of another government bureaucracy with questionable management skills, no real business plan, and a lack of public transparency is not part of the operation.

William P. Condo, DeMeter Drive, Greece


No, Mr. Kaidy, do NOT wish for the state to "rescue" the ferry. Let some other state spend its citizens' tax dollars trying to fumble around with the boat. If a business such as this could be run profitably at all, it would have to be by someone with a bit of business smarts. Governments can do certain things well; making a profit is not one of them. Imagine saying: "Wegmans isn't doing such a hot job, so let's bring in the Civil Service to straighten them out."

It sounds like the point of the op-ed is that the ferry ought to be a good thing, so it should be a required thing, so we have to fund it with our taxes. No thanks. And pul-eeze, no lectures about the virtue of government pump-priming or leading the way. You've seen how that works so far. Besides, we'd save some cash for the other 17,324 other "crucial" items our legislators think we just gotta' have.

George Stelzenmuller, Wilmington Street, Rochester


We welcome and encourage readers' letters for publication. Send them to: or The Mail, City Newspaper, 250 North Goodman Street, Rochester 14607.

Our guidelines: We don't publish anonymous letters --- and we ask that you include your street name and city/town/village. We don't publish letters that have been sent to other media --- and we don't publish form letters generated by activist groups. While we don't restrict length, letters of under 350 words have a greater chance of being published. We do edit letters for clarity and brevity. And in general we don't publish letters (or longer "op-ed" pieces) from the same writer more often than about once every two months.

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