HGervais wrote:I still maintain the most racist place I have ever lived or seen was Boston. I saw shit there, especially from the police towards black people, that I simply can't imagine ever happening here without major riots going down afterwards.
Boston definitely has a history of hardcore racism, although it is more of an isolated period that stretches from the early 1900's to around the mid-90's, since back in the day it used to be an abolitionist stronghold and compared to the rest of the country a very welcoming place for black people. The most famous examples are the Red Sox being the last major league time to sign a black player, and they were DEAD last, they waited till like 59 or something, Bill Russell's comments in his books about Boston in the 60's, and the riots over bussing to integrate the schools in 68 where that photo of the black guy getting beaten up with the american flag was taken and also where the footage from the beginning of The Departed is from. The thing is, it's really important to understand that a significant portion of the city wasn't really that racist and racism wasn't that prevalent in many of the surrounding towns, it was just incredibly virulent in the Irish neighborhoods in the city itself like Southie and Charlestown and the shore towns like Revere and Quincy. Like, if you went to Cambridge or Brookline or Brighton, no one really cared about bussing, but the working class whites from downtown went nuts. Racism flourished in Boston in ways that it didn't in other northeastern cities for 2 reasons- Boston probably has the most corrupt and entrenched city government in the country excepting New Orleans, and the political machine that controlled the city and all the civil servants, including the police, as Harold mentioned, was controlled by these Irish neighborhoods. So every cop, whether he was walking a beat in Mattapan or Dorchester or the Back Bay, was from Southie or Charlestown, and on the off chance he wasn't, he still came from a department whose culture was dominated by the attitudes from those neighborhoods. So even as racial attitudes started to improve during the 70's and 80's as the working class whites were pushed out of the urban centers by yuppie college kids, the cops were still old school bastards who would beat the bag out of blacks and step all over their constitutional rights without blinking. The other thing that makes Boston different from similar cities is the reason this continued so long without any action being taken- Boston has a far smaller percentage of black people than most other cities of similar size. Even though blacks are a minority nationwide, they make up the majority of many major city populations, and even if they don't, they at least have very large powerful voting blocs that must be reckoned with. The relatively small size of Boston's black population meant that they didn't have the legislative power to bring the police under control. Boston is also probably one of the most ethnically segregated cities in the country, all the black people are concentrated in Mattapan, Roxbury, parts of East Boston,and Dorchester, so even as the city's white people became more tolerant, they really had no idea what was going on in those neighborhoods because they never went there. And the Irish political machine was still there. Boston may be one of the most liberal cities in the country with all these great universities, but there has always been this radically different parallel culture of working class whites who worked very hard to create neighborhoods they controlled and could not abide seeing their kids bussed off to different schools in different parts of the city while other kids from black neighborhoods were bussed in. People in Southie are STILL pissed about this. White working class populations from Chicago to Baltimore to Philly were similarly racist, but they didn't have the power that the Southie Irish did.
All of this can basically be traced back to when the Irish first came to Boston and they were violently oppressed and discriminated against by the old school New England puritans. It's hard to believe now, but during the first wave of Irish immigration, it was incredibly dangerous to be an Irishman in Boston. This led to them banding together and forming incredibly strong political organizations, and it worked, they took control of every facet of the city, but they never abandoned that us against the world ethos. They hated blacks before busing became an issue because they reflexively hated everyone who wasn't Irish, but they saw the busing program as an attempt to break up their neighborhoods by taking their kids all over the city, and their fear of losing their grip turned into hatred of the blacks, and it never really went away.
It really is completely different now, though. Racists are uneducated and poor people who are all variations in the characters in Mystic River, and they can't afford to live in the city anymore so they are moving out and being replaced by tons of liberal yuppies. We have a black governor, and sports tickets are too expensive for the racists to come now either, everyone drives in from Newton and Wellesley and Weston and Brookline now. Of course, no black people can afford to go to sporting events either, so our crowds are incredibly homogeneous, but hey, what can you do?
pointing out that the simple generalities being forwarded by those who usually are accusing the same thing of some other group was merely that, a point made