Racism exists on both sides of Dot Ave. Things have become better over the years but tensions do flare from time to time. The questions being raised by the recent Ups and Downs stabbings sparked my interest in writing about this. And I will try to be as candid and fair as possible.
Those white folks in the area tend to have a beef with minorities regarding their lack of pride in the neighborhood. From messy streets and condemned homes to the cowardly use of weapons. Crimes involving young kids are especially troubling and always at the top of gripe list.
To most of the older white crowd….even if you were poor and didn’t own the apartment within your triple decker, how it looked and how you looked after everyone on the block was always a source of pride. Your kid may come home with a black eye on occasion or get into trouble but it was always treated as a life lesson. As much as it might have broken the heart of every Dorchester mom. You were taught to pick yourself up, get tougher, right the wrong, move on and fight another day. I wouldn’t trade those lessons for anything and I’m a better man today because of them. Most of the kids you had once fought with became good friends down the road…..and the community bonds were strengthened.
I think on both sides many would agree, we do not see enough pride in black neighborhoods, it just seems like all out destruction. I can’t sugar coat this reality, it bothers the hell out me. White folks from these parts are also very aware that racism is a 2 way street. We tend to get very defensive when someone perpetuates a racist agenda against white people because of a perceived birth rite due to past suffering….nobody is entitled to a double standard. On a personal level I find it heartbreaking to hear of parents telling their children that the cards are stacked against them because of the color of their skin. Nobody should be told to feel ashamed or limited in any way because of their skin color. As parents we should be making our kids feel like the sky is the limit, we should not be giving them a built in excuse to fail.
Irish folks have had their fair share of issues since our mass migration to this country along with every other European ethnic group. From alcoholism and drug abuse, to single parent households and the rise of our own mafia factions. We have definitely not been angels…and the stories have made millionaires out of a few….while breaking the hearts of many.
Busing brought Southie and Charlestown into the crosshairs of the entire nation because of the striking contrast between white and black neighborhoods. It made for perfect television. The Dorchester riots were completely overshadowed. Here you had white kids and black kids on toeing a line yet living within blocks of each other. The fights continued in the streets long after the final bell was rung at Dorchester High. The irony was the combatants where neighbors. South Boston and Charlestown didn’t have that dynamic. In the end, the busing “experiment” could be summed up like this. Solid race relations cannot be forced by a court…it starts in the home.
My experience with race relations started when I entered Boston Public Schools at the tail end of the riots. Being 4 years old you don’t really give a rats ass who your playing with. So elementary school was a great experience. I was always the minority in my class so that was normal to me. My classmates where fun, smart and had all the same interests as I did. I have fond memories of being one of 4 white kids in the school yard and all the black girls laughing at my chubby ass trying to double dutch and getting tripped up….there was never tension.
All of this changed when I hit middle school, the Oliver Wendell Holmes for advanced classes. This Dot Rat did pretty good in school and I was looking forward making some new friends. The goal was eventually Latin but it didn’t quite turn out that way, it was as if someone hit a switch, for the first time in my life I was called a honky and a cracker. Nobody would talk to me and I was spit on my first day. I remember I came home and asked my pops what a honky was…I was oblivious. His face changed from curiosity to rage in less than a second. This started a period in my school career that bounced me all over the parochial and public school system in Boston. When my parents couldn’t afford a Catholic school I ended up back in public school. While some of the black kids in my classes accepted me, most didn’t…and that never changed. I wouldn’t say I grew hate in my heart because I could always draw on my good times in elementary school. But I was certainly growing bitter…I knew I was spending too much time looking over my shoulder as opposed to my books. My grades went downhill and I started retaliating on a regular basis. When you get sucker punched in the back of the head for being white then decide to return the favor with a desk….you can pretty much kiss Boston Latin goodbye.
I always wondered why they played Ebony and Ivory by Wonder & McCartney over the loudspeakers between classes. Some hippie teacher probably thought this would help matters….
The irony here is I know there’s a black man or woman here in Boston, at about the same age, that probably had an identical experience in an all white school. Given the history of the Irish experience here in Dot, and what I know of black experience, our list of problems and hardships we endure on both sides of Dot Ave are not always the same but do bear quite a resemblance. Many of these problems exist out of sheer lack of money and have nothing to do with skin color. If you dig further into our history and take into account redlining and blockbusting, it’s easy to see why resentment can bubble over at times. The lack of trust exists and old wounds have been passed to new generations but, it doesn’t have to stay that way.
With that in mind, there’s an open invite here. I want a black Dot Rat to write a piece about his or her experience and gripes.
I think an open dialogue would be way more constructive than sitting in some shitty bar under the Neponset Bridge shooting dirty looks back and forth. To me Dot is the best slice of Boston, why not make it a little better?