Onus is on all of us to find way toward inclusion
Re “Boston. Racism. Image. Reality.” (Spotlight, Page A1, Dec. 10): Boston is one of the oldest and largest cities in America, and yet it is absurdly white-dominant. Foreign nationals may flock here for school or work, but permanent American residents of color are noticeably missing from the city proper. That such a line of ethnic demarcation exists, 53 years after President Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act, is alarming. It indicates that the Cradle of Liberty is still splintered into two Americas.
There are complex factors driving the black shutout, and not all are found in real estate fundamentals or anemic municipal programs, which are insufficiently designed and managed to help integrate neighborhoods like Back Bay and the Seaport. This is not so much a finger-pointing as it is a broad sweeping of the arm toward nearly all the institutional underpinnings that constitute the city’s social structure: lenders and other financial services, academia, public services, religious organizations, hospitals, and finally, current residents themselves.
The onus is on every Bostonian to find a way toward meaningful inclusion and out of the unacceptable conditions for nonwhites that we have collectively fostered.
A story of two Bostons, a story we’re still writing
There are two Bostons in the eyes of many African-Americans.
For those who grew up here prior to 1990, Boston will forever be synonymous with such things at the intense racial climate surrounding busing and the profiling and harassment black people experienced during the Charles Stuart case in 1989.
I, on the other hand, am a transplant to the city, and my Boston is bright and filled with hope. I came here in 1999 for graduate school and remained to pursue my career in education in this city. I was well aware of Boston’s racist history, but I soon discovered that, just like every other city in America, Boston was dealing with its past while trying to forge a new identity of tolerance and acceptance for the present and future.
I grew up New York in the 1980s. At that time, the city was intensely divided by race, and several high-profile incidents belied the multicultural mecca we think of today. Somehow New York has been able to do something that Boston has been unable to do: redefine itself.
The Boston Globe series is the first substantive discussion on race and Boston I’ve seen. It is my hope that the series will lead to a reckoning of sorts, helping Boston confront its past and evaluate its present condition. This is the only path forward to defining a new Boston for future generations.
In a few weeks, I will begin teaching a course to high school seniors on Boston’s history and culture. Your series will be my first text.
Julian Kenneth Braxton
Seeing diversity as an embrace of our commonality
I have spent more than 60 years as a civil rights advocate. I integrated the morning, evening, and Sunday carrier force at the Fort Smith, Ark., newspaper where I worked in the 1950s. I marched in Selma, Ala. I facilitated the first hiring of a black state manager for the Dukakis presidential campaign. I have served on countless diversity committees.
More important, I have developed a number of black friends over the years. Some of them are brighter than I, better athletes than I, better politicians than I. And, yes, in each case, we are both fully aware that our skin color is different.
True, I live in a mostly white suburb, but I think there are many of us in the Boston area who, while not colorblind, nonetheless consider our black neighbors and friends as belonging to our same geographical and political neighborhood.
Of course, that does not come close to making up for the lack of their representation in our Greater Boston communities, which your Spotlight series has so dramatically pointed out. But much of the smallness of the black community arises from economic causes — we had no major migration from the South — and it was not completely a deliberate effort to keep blacks out.
So, while fully grasping the need for much more purposeful behavior to open up the avenues of equality in Boston, I hope it is fair to say that the black couple among the otherwise white clientele in any Boston restaurant, or any other venue, belongs there as much as anybody does and that many of us white Bostonians fully understand that that is the case.