Her students were caught up in the murder investigation. In ways that still gnaw at her, so was she.
Thank you for the front-page series “Nightmare in Mission Hill: The untold story of the Charles and Carol Stuart shooting.” It brought me to tears several times. I was a teacher at the old Mission High School on Alleghany Street in 1989. The Boston police brought in a number of my male students as potential suspects.
It was shocking to me to learn later that so many people knew that an innocent man could possibly be executed for a crime he did not commit and yet chose to remain silent.
Carol Stuart’s murder caused a rupture between my mostly Black students and me that I’m not sure ever healed. As a white woman, I reflexively and uncritically embraced the narrative that Charles Stuart was a victim along with his wife and child. I accused my students of denial, and they, rightly, accused me of racism. I hope that I apologized to them afterward, but I doubt I had the maturity or self-assurance to do so. For that I am sorry.
Charles Stuart cynically exploited the racism that has long festered in this city. With a single utterance — “It was a black man” — he understood that any scrutiny of his involvement would be erased by our collective instinctive and unconscious eagerness to think the worst about Black men.
This is the insidious nature of racism. As your series has shown, it didn’t just distort institutions like the police and city government. It also corroded the essence of those of us who think of ourselves as good people but who nonetheless unwittingly bought into the Stuart narrative.
The city has moved on, but to heal, we must delve deep
I have been teaching about the Charles Stuart case for almost 20 years in an elective course I offer to high school seniors, “The Politics of Identity: Race, Class, and Gender in the 21st Century.” To grasp the historical context that forms the foundation for race relations in Boston, one must understand both busing and the Stuart case. While our city has certainly moved on, the legacy of both will always be a part of our identity.
The Stuart case defined race relations for a generation of Bostonians. The Globe’s series “Nightmare in Mission Hill” is a reflection of Boston’s past that we must confront. There were many victims, including the numerous Black men who still remember the trauma of the injustices committed by those in power, charged to protect the innocent, like themselves.
It has been moving to see many people taking to social media to share their reflections after reading the paper’s investigation. Part of confronting the sins of the past is to delve deep so people can heal. May that healing begin.
Julian Kenneth Braxton