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New 'State of Hate' report highlights discrimination, fear and hope in Rochester region

A copy of the report by the Jewish Federation of Greater Rochester's Levine Center.

The Jewish Federation of Greater Rochester's Levine Center to End Hate has released the findings of its first community survey measuring people's attitudes toward and experiences of discrimination.

The "State of Hate" survey reinforces the idea that people from different racial and ethnic backgrounds appear to live in different worlds.

Karen Elam, director of the Levine Center, says the online survey of 843 adults in our nine-county region shows discrimination is just a theoretical concept for some but a daily experience for others.

"Whites are unlikely to personally know or have witnessed someone who has experienced discrimination, yet a majority of Blacks have witnessed acts of discrimination, most often while at work or shopping," she said.

According to the survey, more than two thirds of Black respondents say discrimination based on race or ethnicity is a big problem in Greater Rochester. Only 18% of white respondents agreed.

Many survey respondents said they felt unsafe because of their race or ethnicity.

62% of Black people, 65% of Jewish people, and 33% of LGBTQ-plus people said discrimination against their group has increased over the last couple of years.

The Levine Center to End Hate conducted the survey from September 2021 through March 2022, months before a white gunman killed 10 Black people in a Buffalo grocery store on May 14.

Online posts attributed to the suspect indicate that he was motivated by a racist conspiracy theory called the Great Replacement, which falsely claims that white people are being replaced with Black and brown immigrants.

Elam said her staff reviewed the survey responses following the mass shooting to see if there was a sense among white people in Greater Rochester that they were the victims of discrimination.

She said that feeling does not appear to be widespread.

"The incidence of whites who do feel discriminated against cut evenly across demographics - age, gender, sexual orientation, education level," Elam said. "And whites who feel discriminated against or disadvantaged recognized that discrimination is on the rise for all groups."

Elam said the survey findings will inform the center's efforts to end discrimination and hate.

The center's mission is to unite the community through dialogue, education and positive action. Its annual Summit to End Hate was held virtually in 2020 and 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but this year, an in-person event is being planned for October.

"We really hope that starts to bring people together to have the kinds of conversations that we need to have about things like implicit bias, about racism, about anti-Semitism," Elam said.

She and other community leaders, such as Simeon Banister, executive vice president of the Rochester Area Community Foundation, see reason for hope.

A majority of respondents in the State of Hate survey said Rochester was a welcoming community and that people are more alike than different.

They also showed support for affirmative action policies and new housing and jobs programs.

"It's challenging today," Banister said. "We're struggling, certainly, but if we can get beyond some of the old tribalism, we actually have shared commitments to our community that's the foundation upon which we can build a more equitable and just Rochester."

Beth Adams joined WXXI as host of Morning Edition in 2012 after a more than two-decade radio career. She was the longtime host of the WHAM Morning News in Rochester. Her career also took her from radio stations in Elmira, New York, to Miami, Florida.