ROCHESTER — Juan Padilla said that the "Stand Against Racism" movement is good in theory but a grassroots effort — instead of one led by organizations — would produce more significant results.
"It should be a movement coming from the people … about how racism is reflected in (any) decision-making process and how it affects their lives," said the longtime Rochester resident who is originally from Puerto Rico.
Padilla attended an ACT Rochester presentation April 27 on racial and ethnic disparities found in a seven-county region that includes Monroe County. The presentation, which was held at the Rundel Memorial Library building, was part of the YWCA’s "Stand Against Racism," a weeklong initiative involving more than 160 groups throughout Rochester, explained Ann Johnson, ACT Rochester’s director.
"It’s an opportunity to have conversation on what’s really a tough topic," she noted.
This marks the fourth year the YWCA has played a leadership role in "Stand Against Racism," according to information at www.ywcarochester.org/site/c.4nIDIROnG4IOE/b.6401173/k.7422/Stand_Against_Racism.htm. The site offers opportunities to participate that range from signing a pledge against racism, to hosting a speaker, to just sitting down with a person of a different color or background.
This year’s theme was "Together. A stronger community."
By presenting information on what she called "life-cycle inequities" based on race or ethnicity, Johnson said that the hope is that community members will dissect that information and create solutions. She presented statistics on such issues as infant mortality, education and homeownership.
"There is no magic bullet," Johnson acknowledged in regard to ending racial or ethnic inequities. "But without mutual respect, which is what we’re working on … we are not going to get anywhere."
ACT Rochester released a regional "community report card" in March with grades for such topics as education, housing, financial self-sufficiency and public safety as compared to state and national statistics. The organization is a partnership of the Rochester Area Community Foundation and the United Way of Greater Rochester.
One area of concern highlighted by the report card is infant mortality, Johnson said. The statistics compiled by ACT Rochester show that these mortality rates for African-American and Hispanic infants are three times the rate for white infants. That disparity raises questions of quality of health care for the mother and child before and after delivery, she added.
"This is a community challenge that maybe someone should look at because it’s pretty alarming," Johnson said.
Similarly, Johnson pointed to the rates of child hunger as "jaw dropping." While 11 percent of white children live in poverty in the region, the rate for African-Americans is 44 percent and for Latinos it is 39 percent, she said. And while the rates of poverty for Rochester decreased, the rate increased for Monroe County, she added.
"These disparities are significantly higher in our region than in the nation as a whole," she said.
The findings also illustrate that Hispanics and African-Americans lag in homeownership even though this region is known for its affordable housing, Johnson explained.
"And it’s much more challenging in the city to find residences that are going to (cost) … less than 40 percent of your income," she added.
Padilla acknowledged that it’s good to be informed on these statistics, but the community needs to work at getting to the bottom of why such racism, as shown by the numbers, continues to persist, he said.
"We say look at all of the angles, not just our point of view," he said. "We’ve got a lot of challenges. You have to have the ability to discern one thing from another. … And when you’re talking about inequities, they are the consequence of racism, not the cause. We have to look at the cause."
EDITOR’S NOTE: To view the Race-Ethnicity Community Disparities report, visit www.actrochester.org.