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« The All-New – I know I never write about work... | Main | Off to the orgasm capital of the world! »

June 24, 2008




I think almost everybody has those thoughts. That's just the way people are made. We try to make sense out of chaos. So, when we encounter some behavior we don't like, we try to box it in by ascribing it to the racial or ethnic group of the person we just saw do it. It's how we deal with it as a follow-up that makes us truly racist or not.

If, when you have such a thought, you almost immediately say to yourself, "Oh, man, what's up with that? I know all (fill in the blank) people aren't like that", then you're OK. It's the folks who think stuff like that, and then don't have an internal dialogue, who keep everybody else in fear.

My two cents, of course.

Adam Gaffin

You might want to check out some of Boston's quieter neighborhoods, like Hyde Park or Roslindale. More specifically, my street :-).


hey ryan, my sentiments exactly...when i moved here in 1980 from ohio i asked myself the same question: where are all the black people? hasn't changed much since then...

cincinnati, where i'm from originally, has it's problems, but at least it's integrated...i went to a junior high and high school where i as a caucasian was in the minority...

don't worry about those much as we'd like to be the same in the us, we are different: asians do cut in line, but they do it quietly versus the indians who talk loudly on their cells...let's celebrate the differences...that's why i love the city so much...


I like your outlook. Whenever I have those thoughts, I get really angry with myself and have this crazy little argument in my head. Kinda comical, actually.
The problem I have with Boston is that there is a severe lack of diversity in downtown Boston. I thought the South End would serve as an integrated semi-downtown neighborhood... but it's proven to be the epitome of gentrification.
That's why I love the city too! And that's also why I get so peeved here in Boston...


I think Adam G. is really from Long Island, NY and now lives in a very white section of Roslindale. Read Universal Hub for more information. Suldog has the right idea. Dorchester, St. Mark's Parish, Dorchester Avenue, Fields Corner, River Street, Old Morton Street, Lower Mills, all are fully integrated and for the most part, peaceful.

Ron Newman

This festival arrives in your neighborhood a few weeks from now. Perhaps the various South Enders will rub elbows there?

The Southender

The new South Enders are a bunch of entitled yupsters who have no interest in mixing with anyone who isn't just like them or didn't have mummy and daddy buy them a luxury condo at the age of 22. You are so spot-on with the term overlapping. 10 years ago, people in the neighborhood were much more likely to mix, even if only to chat with their neighbors on the sidewalk, it didn't matter so much about color, sexuality, ethnicity. You don't see that so much with the new uber-entitled onslaught. You really notice it when you go to one of the hip and trendy (ok, bridge and tunnel is more like it) S.E. restaurants and notice that there are virtually no black people present (although there are plenty walking by). I think Foodie's and CVS are the only two places left where the races even bump elbows under the same roof. And that's sad. I loved the diversity when I first lived there, now it seems there is a huge divide. Great blog, btw.


I think you've got a good observation there with "the races aren’t mixing. They’re just overlapping." In Boston, that's about the best you get unless you go a bit further from the center (say, to Rozzie or Dot). And if you really want to see overlapping, check out Charlestown. Boston has a history of racial segregation that many of us are still trying to get over (and others seem to be trying to revive).

That said, Boston is really not the most segregated city out there. Try the midwest. When I lived in Kalamazoo, races didn't even overlap. Whites stayed, literally, on one side of the train tracks (south), and blacks on the other (north). If you saw a black person on campus, it was a sure bet s/he worked in the dining hall, and was about to walk straight back over the tracks. If you saw a white person on the north side, he was a probably a junkie and/or donating blood plasma.

Another thing that feeds into segregation in Boston is black flight. I've spoken to middle class blacks who left Boston for the burbs because they didn't want their kids hanging out with 'those kids.' This is a real trend. In Boston, black flight has lead to a decrease in black population since 2000, and whites became a majority again here in 2006.

The thing is, you're not just looking for black people, you're looking for middle-class black people. And you might be unlikely to find them in newly gentrified city neighborhoods.

Kyle R.

Ryan: your post is tremendously accurate. Over the past two years I worked in the South End and Lower Roxbury with mixed results trying to create more opportunities for people to interact both socially and civically. Everyone says that they love the SE for its diversity but very few people actually participate in it. Take IBA's Betances Festival (which is an amazing event) that someone mentioned above. It is centrally located in the n'hood and an opportunity for everyone to come together to celebrate the Latino heritage and community. But unfortunately this doesn't happen. You see very few folks from the surrounding neighborhood associations, which are comprised mostly of white homeowners, or folks from abutting housing developments. I know the folks at IBA put a tremendous amount of effort into this but it is tough.. The same is true for most of the SE restaurants

I also think class plays out as much as race, especially among those who are active in the community. Lower-income folks tend to have very complicated lives (complicated is much different than busy) and don't have the time to go to two or three community meetings every week. Class also plays out among priorities. Some folks think the free news boxes and trash are the biggest issue in the n'hood while others think quality public education and affordable housing are the most important. It is very challenging to bring folks together when their priorities are so different.

Part of the issue is also the divide between homeownership and rental housing. Although the SE has a ton of affordable housing, most of it is rental housing. I once asked a friend who has lived in the SE for 40 plus years how many people of color she knows who own their own home in the SE. She began to count them on one hand. Although a bit extreme, I bet there are less than 300 people of color (including Methunion Manor which is a co-op), who own their own home (I think there is some BRA report that has this stat). This is a huge barrier in trying to create a healthy and vibrant community and provides very few opportunities for people to build/create wealth.

With this said, the SE/LR n'hood is a great place to live and there are some wonderful people and organizations who are working tirelessly to bring folks together to challenge some of these issues. I’d love to continue this conversation with you and others who are interested to see how we can make some positive change. [email protected]

Adam Gaffin

To someonewhothinksheknows: When we moved to Roslindale, our street was mostly (entirely?) Irish- and Italian-American. Not anymore. Now there are African-Americans, Haitians, Dominicans, Filipinos and Cape Verdeans (heck, I'm not even the only Jew on the block anymore). We're not a block-party kind of street but we all get along just fine. Just because you're unaware of the demographic changes happening along the Hyde Park line (because the Globe hasn't written about it?) doesn't mean they're not happening.

Also, Brooklyn is NOT Lawn Guyland :-).


Ok, I have been in the South End, going on 2.5 years. When I first moved to the South End, I was renting a room on a quiet, tree lined street off Columbus Avenue. I loved this street, but I quickly noticed the street was made up of those entitled property owners who looked down on those who only rented via subsidized housing.

I am now living on Massachusetts Avenue and find that that perception still remains. Those of us who rent are merely tolerated by those who own Property. The South End is not a traditional melting pot per se. There are pockets where people of colour primarily live due to manageable rents.

There are those who feel that because they own property within the South End, that they are entitled to more than those who do not. There are no invitations forthcoming to those of us who are people of colour and renters by those who are not people of colour and own property.

We will never be invited to a 'garden party' or a book club meeting in someone's condo. We barely get a hello when passing on the street. But this is the South End, be it as it may, I love living here, it is convenient for me,and I realize, people are going to be who they are.


All this "I don't SEE people of different races/classes playing, dining, drinking, and acknowledging each other" How about doing something about it?

I've been in the SE for 7 years now, so I've been part of this 'hood for just the recent history. In the two places I've lived in here (one owned, one rented), I've been flanked by neighbors of all types at all times. Rich, middle class, white, black, latino, renters, owners, etc. Yet I always had a first name relationship with those that were willing to hold up their part of the relationship.

I do think Gareth has a good point about the middle class black flight. But that doesn't mean people can't be neighbors with those who stay.

Head down to Peter's Park some day. You'll find tons of people young and old leaving their race/class at the door and just being neighbors. Just last month I (a ~30 white middle class dude) played in an impromptu 2 on 2 hoops tourney against a team of early 20 y/o skateboarders and a 12 y/o who was waiting for his brother's baseball game to end.

Eat where you want, smile, talk to the people you see every day. Only the collective US can make the neighborhood the way we want it to be.


Ron, thanks for the link! I'll be sure to check out the event - looks like a lot of fun.

After reading all of your comments, I've been thinking a lot about the real source of my frustration. It's this: on the whole, I feel that other races are not truly integrated into "mainstream" Boston culture - which is truly unique for a major American city. But perhaps this is a subject for another post :)


Come to JP. My neighbors (even just in my apartment complex) are all colors, ages, ethnicities, and backgrounds.
On my last visit to JP Licks on Centre St. I saw black people, white people, Asian people, and people of unknown ethnic/racial origin waiting in line.


Ok, Long Guy Land is not part of "Cincinnati, 'where i'm from originally'" but I did not know it was part of "Also, Brooklyn is NOT Lawn Guyland". "Just because you're unaware of the demographic changes happening along the Hyde Park line (because the Globe hasn't written about it?)". Um, try again. I was born in Dorchester and grew up on a little street off Evans, near a famous BBQ place. I remember when it was a gas station. I'm more "aware" than you will ever be. In fact I have a house I'm trying to sell before it's broken into for the copper pipes if you're interested... I'm also not interested in messing up this nice person's blog anymore. But if she wants a nice 11 room Victorian, 5 bedrooms.... :)

gorgeous black women

Oh goodness. THANK YOU. Thank you for this post because every time I raise this issue, it's brushed aside or trivialized. Boston does have a bad reputation in this area and it is certainly deserved. This is the most segregated town I've ever been to. I felt more comfortable window shopping in absurdly nice boutiques around Cos Cob than I do actually shopping in Prudential Center.

Boston is VERY diverse which makes the segregation that much more obvious. The college students are no better than the "locals"


Equating North End with Italians already reveals your ignorance. Despite the drastic demographic changes that neighborhood has undergone in the past few decades, it's funny that all of your "observations" are based off outdated stereotypes. You don't really have much credibility.


Alex - have you ever been to the North End? If yes, are you blind?

There's no derogatory connotation in this article, so no need to slant it that way.


I just stumbled upon your blog when doing a search on Massachusetts and diversity. I had to laugh at your post because I, too am biracial but actually grew up in the Boston suburbs. Mine was one of those middle class families that moved out in search of better schools and to get away from "those" kids.

If you think Boston is bad, the suburbs are about as white as Scandinavia. I was one of like 5 non-white kids in my high school class of 230. Pretty, peaceful New England towns, but zero diversity. The area is still home and I love it and always will, but when I moved to NY last year it was like being able to breathe for the first time. It's vastly more integrated here than Boston. There is just something really provincial and parochial about MA and Boston that keeps people apart. After a lifetime in MA, it was pretty profound to see that things are different elsewhere.

For example, I remember the one time when I was walking about Boston with my girlfriend at the time (who was also biracial, but Thai and Irish rather than African American/White) and the constant stares and dirty looks that old white men gave us. It made us REALLY uncomfortable. It was like something you'd imagine would happen in Alabama, not progressive, liberal MA. Our fellow twentysomethings didn't care, it was all completely normal to them... as it should be. It was the older folks who had a problem. Massachusetts is a weird state in that it's politically progressive but yet culturally conservative to the point of being backward. People here don't like change and it's never been a terribly dynamic place. It is what it is.


Your post is spot on. Good luck to ya.

- A Latino Yuppie Living in Southie.


Spot on indeed. I am an African American male who I lived in the South End back in the early-mid 1990's and I have had this same discussion about the overrated "diversity" of the South End. I loved living there, but it was not truly diverse then, although relatively friendly. Of course it is certainly the most diverse of the downtown neighborhoods, but then the others are 97% white. It's really more economic than racial. There simply are not enough 20-30 something minorities in Boston who can afford and want to live in a $500,000 800 sq. ft. apartment in a somewhat "gritty" neighborhood. Sorry to say it, but that's a young white folks "thing." Still I'm a bit nostalgic and miss that old days. I find this whole "SOWA" and now "SOHA" business quite amusing! You want to find diversity in Boston? Start your search underground, on the T. There are a handful of stops on the Red, Orange and Green E lines where Boston looks like the world, diverse by ethnicity, age, wealth, national origin, language, profession, where the hip and not so hip, all come together for a few minutes of peaceful coexistence...

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