Echoes of racist Boston

Last week, the Boston Bruins lost game 7 of the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs to the Washington Capitals. The defending Stanley Cup champs had their hinds handed to them by a team that wasn’t supposed to make any noise, let alone win.

But amazingly, that’s not what bothered some Bruins fans. Instead they were more upset that a black man scored the winning goal. On the same night that the B’s lost, some fans took to the Internet and tweeted racist rants about the Capital’s Joel Ward, who just happens to be black.

One message read, “I thought hockey was a white man’s sport,” and that tweet was mild compared to some of the others, which were made up of death threats and the N-word.

This incident has drudged up some ugly memories for me and a city that has worked feverishly to exorcise its racist past.

For those of you who can’t remember anything before Obama and our own African-American governor, Boston had a reputation for years as one of the most racist cities in America. The visions of white South Boston residents throwing rocks at school buses carrying black students to schools in the area are still fresh in some people’s minds.

Desegregation in Boston was not a pretty sight; it opened wounds and brought to bear a hatred that many say was there for years. Forget about the fact that many influential blacks went to school or grew up here, none of that really mattered.

The so-called birthplace of liberty was a fraud, and a racist one at that. Busing divided this city for many years; prominent black athletes didn’t want to play on Boston sports teams, let alone against them.

As for me, if I told you that when I moved here in 1979 you had to be careful where you walked, you wouldn’t believe me. Places like South Boston and Charlestown were off limits to blacks and other minorities, as Roxbury and parts of the South End were to whites — you would never know that today.

Even Boston Common was kind of segregated; going toward Downtown was white territory, the other end was for blacks and poor white trash. Parts of Copley Square and the Back Bay weren’t exactly kind to minorities after 10 at night.

I was nearly killed walking with a white girl near East Boston one night. I could keep going, but you get the picture. In order to escape the racism that was so prevalent throughout the entire city, you had to go across the bridge to Cambridge or out to the North Shore (the South Shore wasn’t all that welcoming, either).

Over the last few years (ever since the Charles Stuart incident, look it up) Boston has worked hard to shed its image as a city that is “even more racist as any in the south.”

Today blacks are able to walk and live in both South Boston and Charlestown.East Boston, Roxbury, and the South End are all multi-cultural. Black athletes not only play for our sports teams but thrive here. Black sports legends from the past (Bill Russell to name one) have been given their long overdue respect.

And now this. I sincerely hope that this incident doesn’t undo the hard work this city has done.

James Shearer

James Shearer is a writer and co-founder of Spare Change News.

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