It seems like time to time we white folks need to be reminded of this by some ugly, inescapable incident. Now it’s racial taunts (and thrown objects) aimed at the Orioles’ Adam Jones.
Michael Che called Boston the “most racist city” he’s ever been in. Renee Graham’s columns in response from a month ago [and today] merely say what any black person in Greater Boston will tell you: Yup.
The past isn’t past. Boston’s racism is not “someone else”. It’s not the Irish, or the working class, or the Brahmins, or Harvard, or Howie Carr readers, or whomever. It’s not “from another time”. It is both blatant and insidious. It cuts across class lines: It’s cops and sports fans and (that most genteel of professions) doctors.
The following examples do not erupt randomly, but emerge from a culture imbued with racist attitudes. Like air pollution, one can scarcely avoid breathing them in. They merely show us a very unflattering reflection of who we really are. These are not hard to find!
- State police accused of “racial slurs and racist jokes, homophobic taunts, sexual advances, and lewd remarks“
- Brookline cops fired for complaining of racist treatment.
- Boston Latin’s repeated violation of non-discrimination policies.
- The repeated vandalism of a Black Lives Matter sign in Arlington Center.
- Health disparities: Doctors treat people of color differently and worse than whites.
- Intense geographical segregation – the legacy of redlining.
- Snob zoning (liberalism ends at the driveway)
- Sentencing disparities in the criminal justice system.
So, aside from our cops, doctors, judges, neighbors, town councils, and sports fans, we’re totally not racist. There but for the grace of God go I.
Racism is not the other person. Let’s not deflect, look for the “real racist” or some other “more racist” city. We don’t, and have never lived up to our liberal ideals, and we continue to deprive people of the freedoms that they ought to be able to enjoy. The “drunk idiots”, the “rogue cops” … The bad apples grow from a poisoned tree.
Progress is not inevitable. Surely any open-eyed white person has been disabused of that notion by now. We have a raw-racist president with countless raw-racist advisors. Either you’re gaining or losing territory in this war of attitudes, and lately we’ve lost it. And Boston’s present looks a lot like its history.
So who’s doing it right? Is there someone — an individual or institution – who is “desegregating” physically, politically, mentally? Whom do you know that’s actually gaining ground versus racism in Boston?
And why do we keep doing this to our neighbors?
Charley on the MTA says
From the Graham column today:
The words came out of a few yahoos’ mouths at the game. But that’s not where they got their ideas.
Anywhere you draw the line, somebody will have to cross it to transgress, which is why racism is entertaining. We like people who take risks this way, why I don’t know, but it’s obvious we do.
There’s a lot of racism in Boston because there is more equality in Boston. Rivalry and hatred come from equality, not inequality. The white professional class has enforced equality between black people and the white working class, so creating more hatred between those groups.
The white professional class is not threatened by blacks. Why? Because they do not consider blacks equal! They have constructed barriers besides race, using money and education to keep away the people they want to keep away.
Who is the white professional class threatened by? That’s right, working class whites. White professionals now can use racism (which absolutely exists) to attack and exclude their competitors.
In cases where the white professionals are threatened by blacks, they are as ferocious in defending their territory as any white buy in a truck with a baseball cap.
Great comment and a a great post Charley. I’ve moved from my old defensiveness. Too many friends, my adopted niece and nephew, and my own wife have been subjected to these abuses in my hometown for this to be an aberration. And the “more racist” city argument is a deflection and a canard. That this is happening in our city should be enough. It’s time to put an end to this once and for all and it starts with being real.
This is a good post, but I think lumping in some Fenway drunks does a disservice to the other items you cite.
His point is it’s not just some Fenway drunks but a structural and systemic attitude that causes structural inequality, maintains segregation, and fosters the environment that gives those drunks license to engage in this behavior.
They aren’t outliers-good friends of mine got called the n word as soon as they stepped onto the platform at south station. Admitting we got a problem is the first step to solving it.
I admit we have a problem.
But facts matter, and this incident is a little suspicious.
Again, I believe Jones believes he heard what he heard. But why didn’t everyone hear it? Why weren’t the people shouted down? Why wasn’t there a major incident in the bleachers?
Civil rights and racial attitude curricula need to get beyond the 1960s and outside the South. I know better now, but for a long time I was ignorant of even the Boston busing crisis because the way this was taught basically implied that it WAS in fact another time and place. It came down to we passed the Civil and Voting Rights Acts in the 1960s, MLK died for our sins and voila – no more racism! Of course that doesn’t mean I like it. I’m not sure I’ll ever get over the fact that millions of voters just last fall were either actively cheering or turning a blind eye to the most openly bigoted presidential candidate in decades. We may not be over race, but we darn well should be!
I really mean no disrespect Christopher, but your comments on this subjects always come across as woefully naive. In many ways the narrative your criticize is the narrative you inadvertently adopt time and time again on this subject.
Racism is exclusively a white problem since we invented it and perpetuate it. It’s up to us to call it out when we see it and enact policies to prevent it.
I’ve never disagreed with the idea that we should call it out, though I have maybe expressed shock that we still have to, nor have I ever been less than fully supportive of anti-discrimination laws. We need to stop being racist NOW and while we are at it stop being conscious of race at all. The latter is the only way to get to the former.
We need to stop being racist NOW and cannot do that if we arent conscious of race. Color blindness is not a means to it’s own end-only color consciousness aware of racist reality can eventually achieve a color blind reality where race doesn’t matter. I still don’t think you get this, but I have hope you are getting there.
We need to stop being racist NOW and while we are at it stop being conscious of race at all. The latter is the only way to get to the former.
*I* am not now, nor ever have been, racist. I am very conscious of race and can be so without passing negative judgement or ordering society hierarchically . So, be careful in your use of the word *we*, please….
‘Color blindness’ is a form of ‘noblesse oblige,’ a magnanimous gesture that, ultimately, reinforces both the stratifcations of racism and the distance between strata: it is a pretense by which that which is perceived as a problem, color, is willfully overlooked…. when in fact the real problem is that we would see color as a problem in the first place.
Color is not a problem. Therefore I have no need to be color blind to wish the problem away.
that first paragraph should be commented out, it is a quote from Christopher and I did not, nor ever will, say it.
A fair distinction and appreciate your comment.
We was very generic and I don’t include myself either. I absolutely believe you are not and never been racist and would claim the same about myself. I continue to disagree that color consciousness is the way to go. For me you substitute skin color for eye or hair color and see if this discussion would make any sense. It certainly doesn’t for me. I also absolutely do not see skin color as a problem, but as long as any of us for either positive or negative reasons, insist on using it as a way to differentiate people it will give some people an excuse to look at people differently on that basis. I fully agree with John Marshall Harlan’s dissent in Plessy v. Ferguson in which he says that our constitution is color-blind, and neither knows nor tolerates classes among citizens. For me that is personal ethics as well and I will not be moved from it. Every major religion has a tenet similar to the Golden Rule in terms of how to treat others and none of them qualify that tenet on the basis of race or color. I also refuse to identify myself by race on most forms that ask for that information since it is almost never relevant. I agree with JConway when he says that white people invented racism in this country, which is all the more reason white people need to de-invent it stat. That is the we I was referring to above. I am convinced that we will ALL be better off a lot sooner if white people led the way to quit racism, and even race-consciousness, cold-turkey. To be clear, though, I am NOT suggesting we ignore or fail to appreciate the wide range of cultural diversity and tradition that follows from having such a melting pot as America is.
Boston and Chicago are both racist cities with racist legacies-but blacks in Chicago feel far more welcome and part of the social fabric of the wider Chicago community than they do in Boston.
There is a much stronger black social, religious and cultural presence here than there is in Boston. A lot of that is due to numbers and demographics, but a lot of that is due to more strict lines of demarcation.
Chicago has a vibrant black elite, a black upper middle class, and more blacks in positions of leadership in local cultural and business institutions. There’s more of a presence.
New York, Philly and Atlanta can claim that as well. Which is why all the black professionals I’m friends with would rather live there or even Detroit than move here. Why too many black professionals I know from Boston are eager to move somewhere else. This goes a lot deeper than drunks at Fenway.
Exactly (though I can’t claim to know Chicago). The drunks at Fenway are not representative, and focusing on them misses the point and sidesteps the real problem.
How does it sidestep the problem and miss the point? Not attacking your point-I’m just genuinely confused by that line of reasoning. Seems to be structural racism and overt racism are intricately linked together and reinforce one another.
In a word: Boston.
Boston has a surface level of not being racist (which makes me think people yelling slurs at Fenway is less likely), but at the next level down, there’s a giant problem here.
:Boston has a surface level of not being racist?
What do you base this on? This sort of thing happens every few years. 2014, when P.K,. Subban beat the Bruins in the playoffs. 2012, Joel Ward beat the Bruins in the playoffs. And each time, the reaction is the same:
You cant prove that happened! Why is he playing the race card? I didn’t hear anything, so he must be making it up. It isn’t fair to smear a whole city because of one bad apple. And some of my best friends are black, and they say ‘”n—-” all the time, and so why can’t I?
Boston has its reputation because it earned it. Neither the city nor the Red Sox, nor Red Sox fans in general are the victim in this instance.
With the exception of your first sentence, this completely misrepresents everything I said in this thread. I could reply to it, but I’ll pass thanks.
How do you know A) that they were drunk? and 2) that they are not representative?
It’s actually rather difficult, nowadays, to get drunk at Fenway: one is searched upon entry, there is a limit to the number of drinks you can get and they stop selling beer altogether after the 7th inning…
What I know about foul language I learned from sailors and from spending time in the bleachers at Fenway park in the 70’s and 80’s, where, at the time, getting drunk was almost compulsory…
But, drunk or no, I’m more interested in hearing what you do think is ‘representative’?
Bill Russel famously said he always, and only, played for Red Auerbach and the Celtics, never for Boston because was faced with some pretty harsh language in the 60’s. The Celtics were the first to play Blacks and African Americans. The Red Sox were the holdouts on hiring black and African American players. So Boston has a rep, and it was certainly, at one point, well deserved.
What I think is representative? The subway. You get a cross-section of the city.
Which you do at Fenway as well, f you consider the whole park, and probably the bleachers. I don’t know that he was drunk, but that’s how he’s been portrayed.
So all this is over one drunk.
I’m pretty certain this is not the case. One guy was ejected for throwing a bag of peanuts. The guy who threw the peanuts may, or may not, have been using racist epithets. There was, according to one article I read, overall twice the usual number of ejections for a game, though none were for racist language., in this one game.
On the other hand, Adam Jones, the Orioles player, got an ovation in support the first time he came up to bat in the very next game: an ovation which took him by surprise. So there are a lot of people who want to say no to this behavior. At that is a comforting thought.
Hitting nesting limits … I can’t reply to petr’s last comment.
Just for the record, of course it is encouraging to see widespread condemnation of racism. It just falls short for me, I admit I don’t know what would be better.
I agree with that surface level stuff is a painful byproduct of the structural stuff we all sweep under the rug and it absolutely shouldn’t take priority or be the main takeaway from this story.
I would only dispute this:
“Boston has a surface level of not being racist”
I think we are definitely known for surface level racism on top of the structural racism any American city has. Infamous within sports going back to Bill Russell, and the busing crisis really made us look like the deep south of the north. I can definitely say black people I know personally have only been called the n word in my hometown. And that appears to be the case for MLB players as well.
I was born in Detroit. My family was “redlined” there because of my ethnicity, but yes, I agree Jconway.
The only issue with that tack Christopher is they blacks are not being oppressed because of their eye color-hence the need to be conscious of how race affects our society.
I’m also reminded of John Roberts opinion overturning a racial balancing scheme in a Seattle saying “the way to stop discriminating on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race”. Applying a strict color blind principle to that law affirms his decision-race shouldn’t be a factor determining what schools kids go to. But the practical effect of that is to resegregate those schools which is exactly what ensures racism persists another generation.
Color blind doctrines have helped overturn affirmative action, integrated schools, busing, and many means of redressing racism in the false name of “ending racism” by not “seeing race”. I’m not saying you favor those policy outcomes at all-but the thinking behind color blindness as a form of neutrality belies the fact that the races are unequal at present by design and can only be made equal by drastic policy changes that have to take race into account.
That quote from John Roberts falls in the category of I couldn’t have said it better myself. If we are serious about achieving MLK’s dream of judging based on content of character rather than color of skin we just have to commit to start doing exactly that. We should certainly be aware of the legacy of racism, but when it comes to schools for example which is really more important – that schools are statistically balanced or proportional on the basis of something as superficial as pigment tone, or that ALL schools regardless of demographics provide all of their students with an excellent education and opportunity for advancement in the world? Is it more important that neighborhoods are deliberately integrated or that ALL neighborhoods are safe and foster a sense of community and well-being among their residents? In both cases I would take the latter in a heartbeat, but I sure hope you don’t think for a moment that I would have the slightest problem with a black family moving in next door or sending their children to an overwhelmingly white school if they happen to live in that school’s district! For the record, I view busing as at best a band-aid that if still in use proves we haven’t actually addressed the real issues yet and affirmative action for me depends greatly on degree and specific context. It was always wrong to consider race and it still is, and in my view two wrongs don’t make a right. I do not accept the premise that ignoring leads to resegregation and racism. The school districts with which I am most familiar use geographic districts, but have relatively level degrees of diversity anyway because that’s where people happen to live.
@ Christopher I was afraid you’d say that but I’ll use this as a teaching moment
Marshall’s argument in Brown was proving that so long as blacks and whites went to separate schools the education they received would always be unequal. Similarly, the Garrity order starting busing in Boston was meant to remedy structural inequality. It was not simply to get a balance in pigment but to ensure that black and white students went to equally quality schools.
Controlled choice districts on average outperform segregated districts by nearly 20-25%. The gaps are still there-minority students still perform worse than non-minority students, but the gap is dramatically reduced. Similarly looking at METCO students we see that they outperform black students in BPS.
Part of this is because white towns and white schools are wealthier and have access to better facilities. This is why funding schools via property taxes exacerbates racial disparities in education.
Simply put-you and Roberts are not racist-but you have a very naive view of public policy that allows structural racial inequality to persist into the next generation.
There is no policy that integrates schools for its own sake-it was always about ensuring that racial inequality would not persist by forcing schools to educate whites and blacks equally. So long as they still attend separate schools-those schools will be unequal. Even if the legal barriers to attending are dropped, it is highly unlikely a working family in the worst school in Roxbury could suddenly afford to buy a house in the Concord Carlisle district. This is why education funding has to be done at the federal level from federal taxes and not at the local level. It is also why controlled choice programs in urban districts and regionalizing and expanding programs like METCO for suburban and rural districts is essential.
Cambridge runs controlled choice via socio economics (free and reduced lunch) which ends up hewing closely to race without using race itself as a factor. And also has benefits as blue collar kids like me can attend schools with kids whose parents are professors. I definitely got exposed to a lot more than if I simply attended my neighborhood school. So it has the effect of integrating schools and closing the achievement gap without relying specifically on race.
But why can’t equality be achieved by something more direct like requiring the same per capita funding (or at least a base threshold, acknowledging for example that some special needs kids really will require additional money)? I am all for spreading the burden of funding this across community and maybe even state lines. There’s no reason in my mind we can’t get to the point where a Roxbury public school provides the same excellent education as Concord-Carlisle without moving students around. I just don’t see how the racial demographics per se have to have any connection to the quality of education. Shorter answer – Instead of “Similarly, the Garrity order starting busing in Boston was meant to remedy structural inequality. It was not simply to get a balance in pigment but to ensure that black and white students went to equally quality schools.” we just make the schools themselves equal quality?
I’m sorry, but it sounds very much like you are proposing “Separate but equal” $#8212; the precise target of Brown v. Board of Education.
It is segregated communities, and therefore segregated schools, that define racism in Massachusetts today.
Massachusetts is, in 2017, a segregated state. You seem to resist acknowledging that this means that Massachusetts is racist. You would apparently have us jump through funding gymnastics so that “a Roxbury public school provides the same excellent education as Concord-Carlisle without moving students around”.
I am not accusing you of harboring dislike or hostility towards blacks. I am, however, repeating my assertion that the policy you seem to have landed on was enshrined in — in Plessey v Ferguson in 1896, and enabled fifty years of Jim Crow segregation until being overturned in 1952.
Separate but equal IS racist.
Just want to remind everyone that Che’s remark is only controversial here. He was just stating a broad national consensus, especially among African Americans. So regardless of your opinion of what “progress” we’ve supposedly made, the perception in the rest of the country has not changed. And to be honest, I don’t really see much progress on racial issues in the city, mostly denial. They don’t even teach about the Busing Riots in local schools. Racism is presented as something that happens “down South”. Our role is solely to spread enlightenment to the rest of the country, not to do any critical self examination.
Charley on the MTA says
*Exactly*. If you want to talk about the possibility of racism in Boston — without defensiveness or pre-judgment — you’d want to listen to the testimony of black people, wouldn’t you?
Listening to WEEI (Dale and Holley, can’t deal w/ the morning reptiles), Michael Holley was struck by how much questioning/criticism was directed at Adam Jones. Like the guy who got harassed was the one who should have done something different!
Time to own up.
Charley I’m not sure who you’re talking to, but let me recap my skepticism (and one more time — I BELIEVE Jones). I just think it’s possible that he misheard.
I challenge anyone here to go to Fenway and yell something offensive. It doesn’t have to be an ethnic slur. Tell Pedroia he’s no Chuck Knoblauch or something. I guarantee you will be noticed, and if you yell it five times, you will get responses (at minimum, someone telling you to shut up).
This story has gone from several fans to one fan. There is one claim that the corroborating witness was pranking Mike Lupica.
It’s awkward to discuss, but because it’s so awkward, the facts are important. When an incendiary accusation is made, it’s important that it’s true.
Someone yelling THAT WORD five times at Fenway would be noticed, shouted at, and pointed out by others. His ejection would be on a cell phone video.
It’s notable that it’s these things aren’t there. It doesn’t disprove Jones, and my inclination is to believe him, but there are holes in this, and it’s not racist or denialist to point that out.
The official responses from the Red Sox (other than the ejection itself) prove nothing. For the Red Sox, this is pure PR. Skepticism is healthy, even when (especially when) the narrative fits our assumptions.
Sorry to belabor this, but …
The reverse of this is also true. If no one filmed the ejection, why not? Maybe they just wanted to move. on. The people who filmed the United thing were clearly muckraking in their way. Maybe people didn’t want to expose one guy who was probably six sheets to the wind.
But that’s a discussion worth having too.
It’s not. Especially after there is video of the fan the Red Sox ejected today for saying the same kind of stuff. He disparaged the anthem singer for being an African American-and it was caught by others.
If that doesn’t prove the onus is on white Bostonians to police our own behavior instead of Jones I don’t know what is.
Belaboring the point is denying reality. Jones didn’t mishear. My friends at South Station didn’t mishear. Michael Brown didn’t steal anything. Jet fuel can burn buildings. Full stop.
OK, so discussing the flipside of the reality (the silence of the fans) is now denying the reality? I give up,
I’m trying to discuss nuanced aspects of an awkward issue. My reward is being compared to a 9/11 conspiracy theorist.
Thanks jconway. Have a great weekend.
That’s not what you were doing upthread-you were doubting whether Jones heard what he heard and used the proof of no fans reacting to cast some doubt on his claim.
Now you are arguing this proof Boston has a problem if fans didn’t confront the bad ones and I completely agree.
It appears this controversy has been resolved-but I do hope we can all do a better job improving race relations for the region and the country and I never doubted we agreed there.
Raising the question does not equal “casting doubt.” As I’ve said throughout this thread, I believe Jones.
The absence of corroboration is notable, possibly for what it says about the silence.
And yes, we all agree race relations need to improve. That’s why I posted the Price story, which is really sad. Peace.
John Tomase is quite convincing here. http://www.weei.com/sports/boston/baseball/red-sox/john-tomase/2017/05/04/demanding-proof-adam-jones-slur-proves-how-far
I heard him on the radio yesterday, and he said “If you’re asking for proof, what you’re really asking for is a white person to confirm it.” (More or less that.) That gave me pause; I don’t think I was doing that, but I can’t rule it out entirely. He also said “There is a witness: Jones.” And he mentioned a black sportswriter from out of town who said “If you’ve been here for one minute, you’ve heard that word.”
I do stand by my point that it IS weird that there’s no video. But what’s weird is the silence that implies.
@SomervilleTom – you’ve apparently hit the nesting limit, something I’m starting not to like about this new platform, so this is in reply to your comment time stamped 5/7 at 7:31 PM.
Anyway, I very much adhere to the DISSENT of Plessy, “The Constitution is color blind; it neither knows nor tolerates classes among it’s citizens.” Separate but equal is only racist if enforced as such and if you sort people by race to begin with. Suppose we were to swap portions of the student population between Roxbury and Concord-Carlisle in order to achieve racial balance. Without actually solving the funding problem you STILL have presumably an inadequate school in the former and an excellent school in the latter. The students in Roxbury are STILL disadvantaged compared to Concord-Carlisle, but now maybe a few more of the former are white and a few more of the latter are black, but so what? You’re just reshuffling which students are advantaged or not. Remember, Linda Brown’s family did NOT want her to be bused across town to ensure segregation when there is a perfectly good school for white children around the corner. You and jconway ascribe to me positions that are precisely the OPPOSITE of what I really feel and am trying to achieve! In case there is any doubt, let me be very clear that I absolutely believe that Brown was rightly decided.
Why is there a funding disadvantage in the first place? Because restricted covenants were lifted and whites fled cities and education funds via property taxes followed them to the suburbs. Because there is still a 7 Times wealth disparity between whites and blacks. Because there is still a massive reading, college education gap and our drug policy has incarcerated 30% of the black males in this country at least once in their lifetimes totally limiting their job prospects and housing prospects.
You’re definition of equality is equivalent to the Republicans who argue that under their plan everyone will have “access” to insurance regardless of pre-existing conditions. But equality of “access” is totally different from equality of opportunity. People with pre-existing conditions will have to pay a lot more and jump through more hoops than they would’ve under ACA. Still better than pre-ACA, but it’s not genuinely equal.
Similarly, legal segregation hurt blacks and is gone. But the lingering effects of they hurt and the hurts thay still persist from structural racism which still exists severely limit real equality.
Black Americans are not equal to white Americans in 2017. The data demonstrate this and until the system changes there will not be real equality-which is far more important than philosophical equality.
Race neutral policies discriminate against black Americans since they are founded on a myth instead of the reality of the myriad ways their lives are worse than ours because be of their race. Until that fact changes-racism isn’t dead. And until racism is dead-I won’t be color blind. I’ll be color aware. As long as race matters in society I’ll be aware of that racism to attack it.
Haven’t we been round this before? I have long opposed localized property taxes, especially restrictions like prop 2.5, and the effect they have on the funding gaps of public education and other municipal services. An intelligent discussion should be based on us at least accurately remembering what the other’s argument is! If you want racism to be dead, practice color-blindness, and encourage others to do the same. We are in full agreement on your last sentence. There may have been a time I thought racism was mostly dead, but realizing it’s not makes me more motivated than ever to push for color-blindness. I know there is racism and I know there are racial disparities, and of course I’m willing to attack it wherever it rears its ugly head, but over-compensating based on skin color is not the way to go. You want to narrow the achievement gap? Make sure opportunities for learning, including extra-curriculars, are equitable from school to school. You want to bring the racial proportions of those affected by the criminal justice system more into balance? Reconsider various penalties and vet judges and prosecutors for racial bias. Again, if all you do is move kids around, you’ll just have a different set of kids with advantages and disadvantages.
I also flat-out reject the health care analogy. Public education is at least theoretically fully funded for everyone of all races and classes. We can’t even pretend to get there on health care yet:(