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Levine Center surveys residents on the ‘State of Hate’ in Rochester

A skyline view of Rochester
Max Schulte
Downtown Rochester skyline view.

In the last year, Karen Elam and her colleagues at the Levine Center to End Hate have been surveying people across the nine-county region on discrimination.

Elam said what stands out so far is this: Most Black people surveyed (62%) are feeling the brunt of discrimination, and most people surveyed who are not Black (31%) don’t see it here.

“What we understand is that what the Black community is experiencing is not what (other) people are believing to be the case,” said Elam, director of the center, which is part of the Jewish Federation of Greater Rochester.

“And it's big. That's twice the percentage (of people who) say, ‘we feel more discriminated against in the past couple of years than other people believe us to be.’”

The “State of Hate” survey also found that Black residents are more likely to have personally experienced discrimination and felt unsafe in public spaces than members of any other ethnic or racial group.

According to the Anti-Defamation League, there have been nearly 1,300 extremist incidents in New York state since 2020. The Rochester area has seen more than 30 in that time. Most were tied to a white supremacist group, Patriot Front.

"These patterns are emerging all across the country,” Elam said. “And unfortunately, I don't think we're unusual. We are seeing a rise in, you know, racist behavior and rhetoric, antisemitic, Islamophobic, all of that, but we wanted to have a baseline.”

Elam expects there will be more findings from the “State of Hate” survey in the coming months.

Nearly 850 people filled out the survey, but few of the participants were Hispanic or Muslim, Elam said, adding that the Levine Center is working on better outreach.

Meanwhile, the survey -- which was done in partnership with Causewave Community Partners -- is still accepting responses.

Corrected: August 9, 2022 at 2:04 PM EDT
An earlier version of this article incorrectly identified the Anti-Defamation League.
Noelle E. C. Evans is WXXI's Murrow Award-winning Education reporter/producer.