Is Boston a racist city?
If you’ve been watching Saturday Night Live lately, you probably caught “Weekend Update” co-host Michael Che give Boston that dubious title.
Prior to the Super Bowl clash between the Atlanta Falcons and the New England Patriots, Che dropped this line:
“I just want to relax, turn my brain off, and watch the blackest city in America beat the most racist city I’ve ever been to.”
Che’s comment roiled again when he was at Boston University last week and doubled down on his previous jab. In response to a social media frenzy about Che’s comments, he tweeted: “lol those boston university kids tattled on me to the media? yea, i said it. boston is racist.”
So, is Che right? Is our beloved Boston — with so much to offer by way of education, healthcare, culture, cuisine, and community — a more racist place than, say, Los Angeles?
If people of color say Boston is a racist city, then that’s enough for me; it’s a racist city.
But there’s certainly data — and recent history — that backs up this assertion as well.
In 2016, Attorney General Maura Healy had to set up a hotline to handle all the hate crimes being reported to her office — and about half of the alleged crimes stemmed from racial hate.
Since 2013, there have been 176 hate crimes recorded in Massachusetts, according to the Southern Law Poverty Center. For comparison, over that same time span the Center recorded 60 hate crimes in Alabama, 72 in Louisiana, and 128 in Texas.
Boston sports have had notorious problems with race: the Red Sox were the last team in the league to integrate in 1959, and while the Bruins hired the first black hockey player in the league, they let Willie O’Ree twist in the hateful hurricane that blew around his race instead of defending him.
Even though Brown v. Board of Education killed segregation and the “separate, but equal” lie in 1954, it wasn’t until the mid-1970s — and after passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act — that Boston actually integrated its schools. This was accomplished by busing children from traditionally all-white schools to all-black schools and vice versa. In the ’70s, during the case Morgan v. Hennigan (1974), filed by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) against the School Committee and district, it was revealed that school leaders had jumped through many hoops to ensure “de facto” segregation happened in their schools.
That was a little more than 30 years ago. If you’re working in Boston and your boss is a townie, she probably remembers what it was like when her school integrated. She may even remember the adults around her talking in racist code: using the term “neighborhood school” instead of “segregated school,” or “busing” instead of dropping n-bombs.
Racism like this doesn’t just evaporate into the clouds on its own with no effort or discussion. It just sits tight and boils.
I love Boston. It’s my favorite city. But I’m also a white woman who’s lived in Massachusetts most of her life and celebrated often in Boston. I don’t see the racism that people of color see because of my privilege.
So, is Che right? Is Boston a liberal and racist city?
Can a community heal racial divides in a generation?
Are we really more racist than Flint, Michigan?
The Advocate wants to hear from you. Tell us about your Boston experience at firstname.lastname@example.org, our Facebook page or Twitter @valleyadvocate. Mail is 115 Conz St. P.O. Box 477, Northampton, 01061.
Is Boston really a racist city?
Contact Kristin Palpini at email@example.com.