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The Boston Globe

Opinion

TOM KEANE

Missing the train

Study of rail commuters proves connectedness, not diversity, brings harmony

‘Can we all get along?” was Rodney King’s plaintive plea in the aftermath the 1992 LA riots, and the answer today is the same as it was then. As long as we’re not strangers, yes. Otherwise, no.

The question is being raised anew after the publication of a Harvard report that looked at the reactions of Boston-area workers toward intruders in their midst. The research kicked off by asking suburban rail commuters about their attitudes toward immigration. It then seeded some of the train stops with Mexican immigrants and again queried the commuters. Almost immediately, opinions changed. The commuters were now more likely to oppose increased immigration, to believe that kids of undocumented immigrants shouldn’t be allowed to stay in the United States, and to think English should be the nation’s official language. In other words, the commuters became less tolerant.

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