By James Genovese
My brother Mike works in New Jersey. He works with all kinds of people. People of color, Hispanic, black, what have you. We are from Upstate NY — well, central New York, actually. There’s a difference if you’re from up this way.
The people here are white, most all of them. Although in recent years it has become more diverse, with Utica City Schools speaking over 42 languages. You can count the number of people of color you interact with on one hand. The Utica/Rome Metropolitan area (I use the term loosely) is 92% white. My brother (we are twins) and I have been lucky, we have been afforded the opportunities to live other places, Ohio, Virginia, New Jersey, Pittsburgh, Harrisburg and some other points on the map that you may not have heard about. We have seen more diversity than most of those who hail from Rome, New York.
All of this is a way to tell you that our perspective is different. Along the way our perspective has been altered to include many different ways of life, whether from the rough and tumble of North Jersey to the Southern Hospitality of Virginia. Now, back to New Jersey, which my brother and his wife currently call home. I love New Jersey. It’s not all Sopranos and Chris Christie though. Mike knows this better than most, because at work he regularly sees diversity that many people don’t. He sees diversity that almost no one from Central New York will ever see.
In New Jersey, recently, there has been national news about shootings in the Short Hills Mall. For anyone that has ever been to the Short Hills Mall, it isn’t a place where you pop in and stop at the JC Penney. Short Hills is for fancy folks who buy their jogging clothes at Nordstrom and visit the Short Hills Apple Store instead of buying their IPhone at the Best Buy like other people. That’s why when there was violence reported there it became a national story. When there was a shooting in Paramus at the mall it became national news. Pictures and video from that terrible incident showed so many cop cars that you couldn’t even tell it was night time there were so many lights. These are sacred New Jersey retail institutions. The fact that gunmen rolled into both places is national news. CNN flies over and Anderson Cooper shows up to report live from the scene. It begins national discussions on cable news. It’s a big deal. Why? Because it doesn’t happen every day, that’s why.
Mike has a friend at work — he has a bunch of them but this one in particular is an African American woman from Newark, New Jersey. I managed a Congressional race in nearby Paterson, New Jersey. I have spent time both places. It’s not the Short Hills Mall. Mike and his friend get along famously. It’s another example of how life can be so different from growing up in Rome and gaining different experiences when you move to a place that isn’t as white as a Bing Crosby movie. You learn things. You see things. You find out that the stories you hear about Paterson or Newark aren’t just for movies that Spike Lee directs or Ice Cube stars in. It’s a way of life.
Mike has heard about it and seen it but that isn’t the same as living it. Ameenah lived it. Her mother worked all the time to give her and her brother a better life. That meant leaving a lot of the raising of younger brother Reginald to Ameenah. Ameenah presumably must have been pretty good at it. Reggie, 18, was a star athlete and all around exemplary human being to all those who had the pleasure to know him. I’m didn’t know him. My brother did.
I’m not going to know him either. He was shot and killed in Newark early in the morning of December 21st. It was by all accounts a senseless atrocity that leaves a sister without her brother and parents without their son. In the report in the Star Ledger they shared something Reggie had written about sports and school and wanting to get out of Newark. He was on his way out and Newark wouldn’t let him leave.
In Rome this doesn’t happen. It doesn’t happen in the Short Hills Mall and it doesn’t happen in Paramus. Unfortunately it happens in places like Newark and Paterson and that’s why you didn’t hear about it. Regrettably it happens all the time. It’s a way of life. When my brother was driving to Rome for Christmas we spoke on the phone on his way up. He was shaken. He sounded as dejected as I had ever heard him. He felt bad for his friend. He felt bad for their family. He felt bad for Reggie. He also was searching for some news about what happened. He couldn’t find it. It took a little while for the Star Ledger to report it. He said to me, “guy goes into the mall with a gun and I can find a million stories about it in five seconds but this kid gets murdered and I can’t find one story about what happened.” He also told me a story about a boss at work who used to live in Newark and had since moved out. His boss told him that in Newark you would sit outside with your buddies and a group of people would come up and just take your stuff and you would sit and hope you didn’t get shot because at that moment it was completely up to the people stealing your stuff whether they wanted to kill you or not.
There are stories about what an MSNBC host said about a former Governor. There are stories about viral videos of kids punching people. There are stories about what the guy from Duck Dynasty said in an interview. There are stories about an idiot lineman from the Dolphins. Hundreds of them. Thousands of them. There are three about Reggie Terry, all local. Anderson Cooper didn’t balloon in to report about it. The talking heads on cable news aren’t using it as a jump off point for a national discussion. Nancy Grace isn’t having marathon arguments about it. They can’t. They are busy discussing whether Santa Claus is white or black.
Reginald Terry got murdered. That’s an unspeakable shame. The kid was, by all accounts, A-plus. A-plus at School, A-plus at sports and A-plus at life. The people that knew him are going to miss him and more people should know that this happened and continues to happen every single day.
Right now, the only way you would know if you were from Out-Of-The-Way, USA is if you moved to New Jersey, worked with some black people became friends with them and met this amazing kid.