You Want To Know About A “Racist City”? I Can Tell You.

Funny, it wasn’t so long ago that the whole country was saluting “Boston Strong”.

Now, it seems, the place where I spent my first 25 years has been deemed a “racist city”.

The other night, when the Boston Red Sox were hosting their A.L. East rivals, the Baltimore Orioles, a few fans taunted O’s outfielder Adam Jones with racist epithets. Some idiot even threw a bag of peanuts.

(Now, I could point out that back in the ’70s, Yankee Stadium fans threw D-batteries at Jim Rice, and we didn’t have a national conversation, but I’ll just leave it right there.)

The Jones incident was followed by the sternest responses possible from the Red Sox, the American League, the commissioner of baseball, and, for all I know, the King of Siam. Boston’s Democratic mayor was apoplectic, and not to be outmatched, Massachusetts’ Republican governor also declared war on these reprobates.

I hate what happened to Adam Jones, who’s a class act all the way,  but it does not make Boston a “racist city”, as an ESPN commentator dubbed it.

It means Boston is a city with some racists. Every city has some. Even yours.

Let me tell you a story.

Boston’s history with racism is complicated. In the 1970s, when I was in a very, very white suburban elementary school, the city was hit with federal court-ordered busing. School integration by force. People forget this now, but the busing order was a like a Civil War moment. It tore us apart, scared people of all races, and made them furious.

One day, our fourth-grade teacher announced it was our turn.

We would be getting a new student from the busing program, the next day.

I remember we watched out the classroom window as that bus chugged up to the curb. It was ferrying inner-city kids to several different schools. One student was for us.

His solitary walk up to the schoolhouse door was one of the gutsiest things I’ve ever seen.

Then, this.

Without being told to do so, one of the fourth-graders shook his hand.

Shook. His. Hand. Fourth grade.

Someone else voluntarily took him where we hung up our coats. I think I showed him the pencil drawer. A kid I always thought was shy offered the new boy the seat next to him.

No one told us to do any of this. We just did it. 

He arrived without a friend. By the end of the day, there was hardly a stranger.

All in my racist city.




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