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UMass Boston's independent, student-run newspaper

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Boston’s Racial Divide

Labor Day weeked is a day of transition in Boston as influxes of students move into their dorms and apartments, but every day is September first for the variety of people from diverse ethnic backgrounds move to Boston every day in hopes of creating a better life for themselves and for their families.

When one shifts their focus from the college orientations and campus centers there exists a current of immigrants in this city attempting to make Boston their new home. However, the welcome which these ethnic minorities receive is vastly different than students enrolled in university classes. Regardless of their ethnic background, many immigrants share similar stories regarding their salutation from Boston. Their narratives paint a picture of racism, prejudice and the difficulty of succeeding in an American culture in which Whites make up the majority.

In the spring of 2008 Henry Mubiru, then a sophomore at UMass Boston, published an article entitled The Snail’s Pace of Racial Progress in America: Sociological Insights from a Participant Observer in which he described his experience immigrating to the United States from Uganda as well as the defined racial barriers he ran into while looking for housing, obtaining employment, and achieving assimilation into a predominantly White society. Although Mr. Mubiru expresses optimism as “the prospects for improved racial relations are there….[and] the more people enlightened of each others contribution to the whole, the more we are likely to accept our differences and forge ahead,” his emotional upswing is possibly negated by the practice of some housing agents in the city.

The Boston Herald has reported that there exists a “racial climate” in Boston in which “landlords give preferential treatment to single, white and affluent apartment-seekers and routinely discriminate against families, blacks and the poor.” The newspaper also describes the specific discrimination minorities face when dealing with real estate agents, including the following tactic: “When dealing with blacks and subsidized renters, [some] agents [use] more underhanded tactics, such as quoting exorbitant rents or telling unwanted applicants that there is a long waiting list.” Unfortunately, when looking into Boston’s history one can find other instances in which a racial climate has spurred discrimination.

Although public schools were officially desegregated in 1954, “many were still de facto segregated due to inequality in housing and racial segregation in neighborhoods.” Therefore in the 1970’s, the United States Supreme Court upheld “the constitutionality of busing to end school segregation and dual school systems.” However, many cities protested this ruling and in Boston a brief, although intense, mass movement developed in which some residents worked to “to protect the ‘vanishing rights’ of white citizens.” The violent busing riots of 1974 revealed the cracks within Boston’s communities as national attention was drawn to the overt racism that was occurring. In addition, the riots brought attention to the phenomenon kown as “White flight” which was the “the movement of large numbers of European American (‘white’) families to suburbs of large cities where their children would not be ‘subjected’ to forced busing into increasingly minority dominated urban districts.”

Keeping in mind the history of the racial divide between Whites and minorities living in Boston, as well as the difficulties minorities and immigrants face when integrating into their communities, one has to wonder why Boston opens itself up so willingly to a diverse population of students every September. One cannot help but think that there exists two “Bostons”; One Boston is exhibited in campus welcome packets as culturally driven and accepting of diversity while the other Boston toils with a deeply entrenched racial divide that adversely affects minorities and immigrants. Ironically, newcomers and residents alike all live in this city for the same reason: the hope of improving one’s own existence through opportunity, education, and community.