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Open up about race and prejudice

Thanks to Jeremy Moule for his article, "RCSD students to lose role models with cutting of black, Latino teachers" (December 18).

As a teacher who is white in a school of mostly black students, I appreciate the idea that students of color benefit from having qualified teachers who look like them and have been raised in their culture. I also appreciate that many teachers who are not of color, nor of the students' culture, are capable and highly effective at their jobs.

We clearly have work to do, however. In the article, Moule states, among other things, that, "Several studies and policy briefs also found that teachers of color tend to have higher expectations for students of color [than teachers not of color]." That is highly concerning. Clearly there are some unconscious prejudices at play, and I'm willing to humbly admit that I am not immune.

What can we do? It is in everyone's best interest to examine the pitfalls in our own perceptions of other cultural groups. As Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere."

I challenge my community to make discussion of race and prejudice less taboo (I know this is already happening, but not enough). Let us not accuse each other, but question each other's ideas and examine our own thoughts and behaviors and in what ways they may be inaccurate or harmful. It is uncomfortable, but necessary.

Let us try to understand one another more deeply. Even if it hurts our pride; even we are afraid of initial disagreement, guilt, sorrow, regret and anger. Let's be willing to change if need be. Our shared future is at stake, and society cannot rise without everyone taking responsibility.


Kudos to the focus on local news

I was relieved and heartened by the explanation as to the intermittent absence of a Feedback page in recent months ("Is the art of letter writing dead?" Feedback, December 11). I'm an activist who has had many letters published in CITY and who has looked forward each week to CITY's latest edition. So, I've been concerned that this outlet for progressive opinion had disappeared with the departure of Mary Anna Towler and Tim Macaluso.

I recently submitted a letter to CITY suggesting that President Trump's phone call with Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, which led to the murderous abandonment of Syrian Kurds and outrage from Senate Republicans, might more likely lead to Trump's Senate conviction of impeachment than his Ukraine call. I never heard back from CITY and concluded that CITY had perhaps, quite reasonably, turned its focus to more local news.

Again, I thank CITY for the explanation about the Feedback page and look forward to a further confirmation of your new focus on local rather than national/global news and opinion.


Keep the columns coming

When I read that David Andreatta would be taking over as the editor of CITY, I was a little sad because I greatly enjoyed his insightful and cheeky columns in the Democrat and Chronicle.

However, I see that I had no reason to worry because his signature wit is still being published regularly in great columns like, "Wegnesia. Wegmentia. Discomwegmanated. It's a Rochester thing" (December 4) and "Let us have lettuce in Webster" (December 18). His columns always manage to share important local news, while also giving the reader reason to laugh out loud. I am very thankful that Mr. Andreatta has continued to share his perspective and sense of humor and I look forward to seeing more of the same in future editions of CITY.


Hydroponics is no substitute for soil

The world should not abandon soil agriculture in favor of hydroponics because healthy soil teems with microorganisms that build soil fertility and sequesters carbon, which helps to stop global warming while producing more nutritious food ("Let us have lettuce in Webster," December 3). Factory farming relies on genetically modified organisms that include pesticides and chemical fertilizer that destroy soil and produce unhealthy food. Hydroponics, dependent on liquid fertilizer in water, lack soil's health-producing properties.

Further, the amount of food grown worldwide is increasing faster than the rate of global population growth. The problem is not the lack of food but its distribution to those most in need. The amount of food grown is and will be enough to feed 10 billion people, the population expected by 2050.

The UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food has advocated structural reforms and a shift from monoculture to agroecology and locally-based food economies as the best way to combat poverty and hunger. Agroecology emphasizes crop diversity and rotation, which achieves the most sustainable results. It also increases productivity of soils degraded by conventional agriculture. The corporate entry into hydroponics is hurting, not helping, small farmers, the very people we should be encouraging.


IRS took a bite out of my "gig" work

The Editor's Notebook column, "Some gig workers are 'dependent' contractors" (December 11), brought back memories of my own experiences with what's now called "gig economy."

Back in the mid-1980s, we called it "independent contract work."  I took a gig at a company an hour's drive from Webster, and all went well until my tax preparer told me that I was eligible to deduct my commuting expenses, which were considerable. He pointed out that the deduction could offset a big chunk of the self-employment tax I had to pay. I filed my return, and a couple months later I received a letter from the IRS questioning the mileage deduction. Enclosed was a questionnaire that was to be filled out and returned. The questions pertained to my work arrangement, such as my hours, provided work space, etc.

A couple weeks after I mailed in the form, the IRS contacted me and said that I was considered an employee, not a contractor, and could not take the mileage deduction, and that my customer would have to pay my FICA.  This did not sit well with them, and my services were soon no longer required.

In the years since, I have occasionally taken similar work, but mostly through agencies that specialize in contract work.  I've been cautious about taking independent contracting jobs, where there's no temp services company involved. I tried to meet the criteria spelled out by the IRS, to keep my independent status and thus be allowed to deduct expenses.