LONSBERRY: Is it Time to Rename Rochester?

The City Council which has presided over the deadliest year in Rochester’s history, with a death toll approaching 80 amidst a wave of largely black-on-black homicide, has announced an offensive against city parks and properties named for slaveholders.

               Specifically, Nathaniel Square and Charles Carroll Park – named respectively for Nathaniel Rochester and Charles Carroll, two of the three founders of Rochester.

               The assertion of City Council is that these men and their names are part of America’s unbroken history of white supremacy and oppression of black and brown people. Their names depress and discourage people of color and offer comfort and encouragement to racists.

               And so, they must be canceled.

               In a city largely bereft of statues to pull down, this is the best alternative.

               The city school district has already scrubbed Nathaniel Rochester’s name from an elementary school, and presumably will do the same to Charles Carroll Elementary the next time it needs to hide its incompetence in woke indignation.

               This is all glorious news for the revolution.

               But, logically, it’s only the beginning. Because if the assertion is that places named for people who have owned slaves, or done other things offensive to ever-expanding progressive sensitivities, are to be purged and renamed, then the gazetteer of the Rochester region is ripe for revision.

               Starting with the name of the city.

               If “Nathaniel Square,” referencing the first name of Nathaniel Rochester, is offensive, then so too is the city of “Rochester,” referencing his last name. If the City Council can change the name of a park, it can change the name of the city itself. Or it can ask the Democrat-controlled state legislature to do so.

Take Nathaniel Rochester’s name off the city, and off all things which derive their name therefrom. Like the University of Rochester – which also honors a slaveholder. What could the student body and the Faculty Senate think about having a slaveholder’s name on their grand institution? When do the walkouts begin?

Also Rochester General Hospital. And the police department – the enforcers of white supremacy, a growing portion of City Council believes – which carries the slaveholder’s name on its cruisers, just like the bus authority does on its vehicles.

Stopping short of anything other than changing the name of the city is to leave a slaveholder’s name enshrined atop the region, triggering and oppressing nearly a million people across the area. Ditto for every entity that derives its name from the city or its founding slaveholder.

But “Rochester” is just the beginning.

The city also has a Washington Square Park, honoring the great oppressor himself. A slaveholder, George Washington even offered rewards to recover his runaway slaves while he was president of the United States, and brought slaves with him when he served as America’s chief executive.

So he’s got to go.

Sure, the park and its prominent statue honoring Abraham Lincoln and the Union soldiers and sailors of the Civil War was dedicated with the assistance of Frederick Douglass, but Douglass was a Republican and so is somewhat suspect himself.

There’s also the issue of the man for whom the county is named – James Monroe, another slaveholder. It’s hard to understand how a Democrat county executive can quietly labor under the name of such a racist.

And Thomas Jefferson, for whom an avenue, a road and a high school are named. The same Thomas Jefferson who slept with and impregnated but did not emancipate or marry a black woman who was herself the product of Jefferson’s father-in-law’s sexual misuse of another slave woman.

The nation honors Thomas Jefferson with a massive memorial in Washington, D.C., which was built at the insistence of Franklin Roosevelt, a one-percenter who ordered the internment of West Coast Japanese during World War II. In spite of that, Franklin Roosevelt is still honored with a monumental stone in Rochester’s Washington Square Park, bringing the whole racist mess full circle.

Though it gets worse.

The Franklin Roosevelt stone is directly across from Geva Theater, which is housed in the old Naval Armory, which was used by the American military to supports its colonialist oppressions of the people of Puerto Rico and the Philippines.

Somebody better atone for that.

But back to offensive area place names.

Suburban Gates is named for a slaveholding Revolutionary War general. Yes, he eventually freed them, but not until he didn’t need their labor anymore. Henrietta is named for the daughter of the then richest man in England, who had vast slave plantations in the Americas. Greece is named after a country that has been in mostly savage conflict with Muslims since Islam began. Webster is named for Daniel Webster, who supported slavery in the South and voted for the Fugitive Slave Act.

Rush, on the other hand, is named after Benjamin Rush, a Declaration of Independence signer and passionate abolitionist, who nonetheless owned a slave.

So, it’s all a mess.

None of it lives up to the woke standards of our day. Just as we will not live up to the arrogant cultural judgments of a future day. We are failures standing on the shoulders of failures.

Someday we will hold candles and sing The Internationale at Che Guevara Park in penance.

But until then we will count dead bodies in Rochester, and let the City Council pretend that it’s not an aggregation of idiots.

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