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'Redneck' was the wrong word

In "Martin Luther King and Donald Trump," Mary Anna Towler bemoaned the "utterances and policies of the rednecks of the red states." She should have selected a better word than "redneck."

The term has a long, evolving history. According to historian David Roediger, "By 1900, red-neck had come into use as 'a name applied by the better class of people to the poorer [white] inhabitants of the rural districts of the South.'" Indeed, elite Southerners often looked down on poor whites as genetically inferior and "of a different color."

That to some extent explains why scholars have written books titled, "How the Irish Became White," "How America's Immigrants Became White," or "Are Italians White?"

Roediger points out that the word is still used predominantly as a derogatory term, but "misses the extent to which 'rednecks' created their own identities" for good or ill shortly after emancipation and at various times since. By the 1930's, the term referred to "any honest working man," specifically "one who belongs to a labor union or sympathizes with union men in a strike."

By then the term had "reflected the practice of union miners who tied red bandannas over their necks to develop nonracial 'redneck' identity and who sang during strikes, 'Red Necks, keep them scabs away.'" In fact, striking miners tied red bandannas around their necks as they marched on Blair Mountain in 1921 during the famous coal mining strikes of West Virginia. Those white and black men were part of a unique, although not singular, effort to guarantee equal pay for all miners.

That is the nonracial "redneck" legacy that we should embrace, memorialize, and use in the present.

In fact, if you watch the December 4, 2017, press conference in Washington DC to launch the new Poor People's Campaign, you will notice one of the early speakers embracing the term "redneck." Mashyla Buckmaster of Westport, Washington, proclaimed: "Hell yes, we're rednecks. We're hillbillies for the liberation of all people," after which all of the diverse people in the room laughed and smiled, recognizing the symbolic nature of the term, acknowledging its current laudable usage in the unfinished fight against poverty, and embracing its use against self-defeating white working-class racism.


Two standards about speech?

Mister President was out of line with his – supposed – comments about Haiti. But where was this "outrage" when Attorney General Eric Holder made his statements about whites being a nation of cowards?

Suppose Jeff Sessions said something along these lines. A double standard here?


Mass, scale are important in Cobbs Hill

As early as March, Rochester's Planning Commission will make its decision about Rochester Management's proposal for the Cobbs Hill Village affordable housing development. On January 11, Commission members drafted a letter asking for consideration of 14 concerns, and they will look for positive responses to these concerns before approving a resubmission.

The mass and scale of the proposed buildings viewed from Norris Drive is a critical and important issue. These are large, three-story buildings. They may be appropriate for other urban and suburban surroundings, but they would dramatically and negatively intrude on Cobbs Hill Park, in my opinion.

The other characteristic of these proposed buildings is that they are designed as affordable housing, and thus there is typically not enough money in the budget for aesthetic enhancement, giving them a less desirable appearance. Even if richer materials and detailing could be employed, those factors alone would not mitigate the dominant three-story mass and form, however. The structures might look better, but still they would not be appropriate in scale for this site.

The land upon which the current and proposed affordable housing lies was donated for a park (Cobbs Hill Park). In the 1940's, that land was given over for temporary POW structures, and then later those structures became adapted for temporary affordable housing.

In both cases, the land was intended to be eventually returned to its original park use. Politics and practical issues have made the switch back to the original intended park land difficult. To intensify the current affordable housing density on this site would inappropriately change its present compatible, park-like character to that of an urban, multi-family character. The site is enveloped by park land, and intense development will be visually intrusive on the surrounding park.

I am the design architect for many award-winning residential, multi-family projects and buildings in the Rochester area, both affordable and market-rate, two to four stories in height, in urban and suburban settings, and I understand the issues of housing design. I would strongly recommend that the Planning Commission members look at (in person, in the field) these two buildings: Daisy House, 550 Clarissa Street, and South Cove Point, Empire Boulevard. They are very similar in mass and scale to the buildings that Rochester Management is proposing. Upon a close viewing, Commission members will be able to truly observe and consider their physical mass and what impact the proposed buildings would have on this site in Cobbs Hill Park setting.


Correcting ourselves

The January 24 article on Rochester's climate adaptation plan incorrectly stated the status of the city's potential Community Choice Aggregation energy program. City officials are pursuing such a program, but one isn't in place yet.

The Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra's "Winter Sing" was included in our Winter Guide story "18 for 2018." The event is not open to the public. Deadline to apply for participation passed in November, and the Winter Sing event is for performers only.

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